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America was the first comic that Gabby Rivera ever wrote.
The main problem is that Rivera values inspirational pep talks and individual cool moments above a plot that makes sense.
Basic premise: America goes to Sonya Sotomayor U—a college in the space between dimensions. Sotomayor Us is very poorly introduced to us. The writing treats it as if it were already an established part of the Marvel Universe, a part that the rest of the people living in the Marvel Universe just never ever happened to mention. I finished the entire six-issue collection, and I still have no clue if it's a college that's famous among Earth's regular population, or only super-types, or whatever.
I said that Rivera focuses too much on individual meme-able moments. One example is when America goes back in time to WWII. She’s face to face with Hitler, and punches him. "I just saved everyone from Hitler," she brags. She doesn't even finish him off—one punch, and then after a brief, pointless talk with Peggy Carter, she returns to her own time. That multi-page sequence was only there for the one Hitler-panel.
Later, America goes back in time to meet Storm, who shares some deep, mystical knowledge with America. That's not really Storm's forte—Doctor Strange would have made more sense. So while that time-travel trip does have a purpose plot-wise, it’s still wonky.
Inconsistencies abound. In one panel, a sorority beats up a bunch of cyborgs by dancing. On the previous page, one of these cyborgs hit America Chavez with a lamppost that he was holding in his bare hands. The sorority fighters have no superpowers. Them defeating cyborgs makes no sense.
Rivera doesn't explain enough. At the end of the book, we still have no clue about what the relationship is between Sotomayor Uni and the regular world. Or why, when an energy being attacks, it's possible for side character Zu to stop it with destabilized radio waves, or how Zu knew to do that. Deus ex machina.
America has inner monologues that are supposed to be Powerful And Inspirational but aren’t relevant to the scene they’re in. They're too general and vague. If you said these pep talks were originally written for a different project, and re-used in this series unaltered, I'd believe you.
Also: America isn't actually Latina. She's from another dimension. To call her "Latina" is to call Lando Calrissian "African-American." It's awkward, the way Rivera tries to imply that America’s Latina just because she's brown-skinned. Sure, she hung out with lots of Latin people once she came to Earth, but you can't be "Latina in general." You can be Cuban, Puerto Rican, etc. America Chavez isn't.
The dialogue has so much youth slang in it that it feels like it's trying too hard; the characters keep switching between calling America by her first name and by her last for no reason...
So there you have it. Meaningless side plots, bad representation, poor world-building, and lots of out-of-character moments. Enjoy.
Marvel has put out a lot of trash, especially in recent years, but there are none worse than this story time of pain. From the setting to the dialogue to the self inserts, there is nothing to redeem this. Even the art sucked due to the rotating cast of fill in artists stuck with this resume staining series. Horrifyingly, America somehow got a twelve issue run despite its final issue shipping only 6,482 floppies according to Comichron. To put that into perspective, 15k is the typical cancellation point for the big 2 nowadays and that is taking into account comics are selling at historical lows. The sad thing is that it was also a net loss in terms of PR since whatever good will they were looking for from the LGBT community was negated by the disgust from the Hispanic community due to the google translated Spanish they used making it obvious this was a bald faced act of cultural appropriation.
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 Joe Quinones'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.
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