Reviews: America 2017

Comes from a genuine place, but a little too eager for its own good

America's biggest strength is her unflagging bravery, and biggest weakness her impulsive stubbornness. These traits that should only describe her end up describing the comic itself.

I enjoy comics with a lighthearted tone that revel in ridiculous settings, so America's boisterousness fits well with my tastes. The "social justice" jokes I didn't mind, since they're atypical to most Marvel comics so the change in tone feels fresh, but I suppose in a few years it'll read like what reading Y: The Last Man feels like now.

But the pacing is too fast, and the exposition hurried and vague. Within two pages, America has had a sweet bonding moment with her girlfriend on one page and then had a crashing breakup with her on the very next. Her powers and their origin aren't easily understood, and I still have no idea what she learned from her various teachers about controlling her powers beyond vague "feel the universe" speak. Many of the situations she gets placed in are also under-explained (why was Hitler standing in a random battlefield? Then how did he escape so fast?) Superhero comics already have problems with accessibility, but this is doubled for a new hero meant to draw in new Latinx readers. It's for these reasons that the road trip issue is probably the best one (though Jen Bartel's artwork in earlier issues is better), because it gives America the chance to sit back with friends and talk about things at length for a while.

Speaking as a Hispanic-American myself, America herself doesn't come off as "token bait". She sounds like an engaging classmate or relative, and her references to Latinx culture feel genuine. I sense a few decades worth of argument among the author and their friends stemming from America's debate on "is it 'chancleta or chanclecta'?" (FYI, I use "chancla".) But what hurts her as being the Latinx-American icon is that her backstory is very far removed from Earth. By contrast, Kamala Khan's stories, even read by me as a non-Muslim, feel relatable because they often concern her family and growing up. And family is just as important among Hispanic cultures (Just ask my 40 cousins.) But we don't see America among her family & are just told a distant background of being the daughter of lesbian multiverse moms who turned into...something spacey? Maybe it's comparable to Superman & his alien origins, but we've had much stories about Superman's growth as a 'human' on Earth and what life as Clark Kent is like. This series skips much of that to get to space punching with Latinx references, which is cool but not much for cultural substance.

America Chavez is a character and series with a lot of potential. But because it is so eager to show off all that potential, it ends up firing in lots of wild directions and not committing to a solid path. Hopefully future writers can really explore her doubts, her coming of age, and humanity.