This review contains spoilers.
Who is America Chavez? That’s the question that starts off the issue, as we’re treated to a nine-panel spread of established Marvel characters giving us our opinions of America. It’s also a question that I’m certain a lot of readers have. After all, America is hardly an A-List superhero. To give a bit of backstory, America Chavez is a queer Latina superhero from a different universe with super strength, flight, and the ability to travel between dimensions, space, and time. She first showed up in the Joe Casey and Nick Dragotta miniseries Vengeance but gained prominence through the Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie series Young Avengers and the Al Ewing and Kenneth Rocafort series The Ultimates. She’s perpetually been a fan favorite due to her effortless sense of style, no nonsense attitude, and decision strategy that mostly boils down to “punch everything.” Giving a fan favorite her own comic series seems like a natural choice.
America is written by author Gabby Rivera and drawn by artist Joe Quinones. An important thing to note is that the creative team for America is mostly Latinx: aside from River and Quinones, the book features Joe Rivera and Paulo Rivera on inks (brothers with no relation to Gabby), Jose Villarrubia on colors, and Travis Lanham on letters. In an industry that still holds traces of being a white male boy’s club, it’s so refreshing that a book about a Latina superhero has a mostly Latinx creative team. It’s also important to note that this is Rivera’s first comics series. The author is best known for the critically acclaimed young adult novel, Juliet Takes a Breath. And like most first attempts at everything, there is a learning curve. Thankfully, Rivera stays away from the common novelist-turned-comics writer problem of telling, not showing. Comics are a synergy between art and text and in America, Rivera gives moments where the art can shine, whether in comedic beat panels or moments where she restrains her narration.
But as I said, there’s a learning curve. Some of the dialogue is a bit too on the nose in a “holy rusted metal, Batman!” sort of way. Likewise, Rivera crams so much into one issue: America punches out a weird energy being, breaks up with her girlfriend, goes to college, meets back up with fellow teammate Prodigy, and impulsively shoots herself across time and space, all in the space of twenty-two pages. While I understand Rivera wanting to get to the amazing final panel homage as fast as possible (which I won’t spoil because it is downright WONDERFUL) and the first issue of any series is going to feel awkwardly paced due to the fact that everything needs to be set up, it feels like there’s barely any time to breathe. When we get those quiet moments, such as America remembering her moms, they’re only relegated to a brief panel or two in between talking with friends and fun college hijinks.
Speaking of college, despite the fact that it only shows up in the second half of the issue, America’s time at college is easily the high point of the book. Rivera and Quinones are obviously having fun with the concept of Sotomayor University aka MULTIDIMENSIONAL UNIVERSITY IN SPACE. The university is a bright and fun interstellar hub, where sororities are named after Fifth Element characters and America attends classes like “International Revolutionaries And You.” Rivera and Quinones run wild, cramming in charming details about Sotomayor University whenever they get the chance. There’s such a sense of fun and delight in these pages, immensely helped by Quinones’s bright and poppy art and Villarrubia’s lush coloring. Though the university only shows up in the second half of the issue, every panel it’s featured in is an unbridled delight.
America definitely has some first issue problems as well as some new writer problems, but I don’t think that’s enough to crucify it after one issue–especially considering said first issue is a delight. No matter what, the creative team’s hit the nail on the head with regards to the most important thing about comics: they’re supposed to be fun. And America #1 has fun in spades. Rivera and Quinones have crafted such a spell-binding and entertaining first issue that I honestly have no idea where it will turn next and cannot wait to find out.
Odds and Ends
- Storm shows up in the nine panel page of people talking about America Chavez…which is odd, because to the best of my knowledge, the two haven’t interacted. I desperately hope someone in the comments will prove me wrong because a Storm & America team-up is something I’d enjoy.
- It’s so wonderful to see Prodigy again. Teenage characters are often relegated to the sidelines or stuck in comic book limbo after their teen book finishes (ex: Eli Bradley, Komodo, practically the entire cast of Generation Hope) so it’s nice to see Rivera and Quinones use a character that A: has history with America and B: would be one of those characters in danger of falling into obscurity if not constantly used.