I write comic book reviews that NOBODY has ever asked for!
Let's get this out of the way right off the top. . .I am NOT the target audience for this comic series.
I am a 50 year old married straight male surrounded by the kind of opulent lower middle class white privilege that only being the night manager of a mid-range priced hotel can provide.
This comic series is LASER-FOCUSED at what I'm pretty sure is an extremely tiny slice of the overall mainstream comic readership: Young (college age), LGBTQ Female Hispanics.
IN OTHER WORDS. . .
FAIR WARNING: IF YOU ARE THE KIND OF PERSON WHOSE BLOOD BEGINS TO BOIL AT THE THOUGHT OF "FORCED DIVERSITY" IN COMICS OR ANYTHING HAVING TO DO WITH THE CONCEPT OF "SJW" , DO NOT . . .I REPEAT. . .DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW.
FAIR WARNING: IF YOU ARE THE KIND OF PERSON WHOSE BLOOD BEGINS TO BOIL AT THE THOUGHT OF A MEMBER OF THE WHITE PRIVILEGE PATRIARCHY CRITICIZING THE SOCIALLY-RELEVANT WORK OF AN LGBTQ CREATOR, DO NOT. . .I REPEAT. . .DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW.
Okay. In or out. Everyone settled?
So. . .Why the hell am I reviewing a series that was definitely not written with my readership in mind, you ask? Because I was curious as to what was actually IN these comics when I spotted the full run in my daughter's collection while digging through it a while back for comic book movie adaptations.
I had heard about this series and knew from frequenting comic sites that this is a pretty heavily-reviewed (at least the first few issues, anyway) and commented on run. From what I've read, it seems to be a position of extreme division among comic readers. . .with a HUGE divide between critic reviews and user reviews on Comic Book Roundup (7.8 avg. for critics VS. 2.6 for users. What?)
With a divide THAT big between critics and regular readers I couldn't help but wonder if the backlash is knee-jerk bandwagoneering or if this series is really THAT bad. I just HAD to find out. You're going to find out along with me as I take an honest look at a series I was never even meant to read.
LET'S DO THIS!
MARVEL (2017 - 2018)
PA' FUERA, PA' LA CALLE
SCRIPTS: Gabby Rivera
PENCILS: Joe Quinones
COVER: Joe Quinones
America Chavez gets tired of leading The Ultimates, so after saving the planet Maltixa and breaking up with her girlfriend, she heads to college at the interdimensional Sotomayor University. Her first day doesn't go well, so she enlists the aid of her friend Prodigy to use his experimental time machine to cheat her way through class. . .but she somehow ends up in World War II, punching Hitler.
OKAY. . .
Right off the bat, the cover sends mixed messages. This is supposed to be a "Girl Power" comic, but there's America on the front sporting a full cleavage shot. It's not a bad cover at all. . .pretty damn good to tell the truth. But still. . .radical feminism combined with sexual marketing for males is an interesting start. Moving along!
Once past the strange mixed message of the cover, I can tell I'm in for a bit of a grind getting through 12 issues of this series as I come to one of the most uncomfortably-written opening pages I've ever seen:
Not only do we have some utterly cringeworthy dialogue, but the writer has decided she needs to insert herself into the story and inform us that America is worthy of our adoration BEFORE THE FRIGGIN' STORY EVEN BEGINS! Somewhere, M. Night Shyamalan slowly claps in appreciation from one crappy cameo "artist" to another. She also inserts herself as a full supporting character later on through the series, so she earns an official Quentin Tarantino "LOOK AT ME IN MY OWN THING!!" award as well.
BUT I DIGRESS!
So the issue starts bad and gets worse. The dialogue looks like it was written by a 14 year old girl on a Harry Potter fan fiction site. It's overly-wordy and filled with exposition, with the writer feeling she has to constantly remind us that America is an awesome superhero that EVERYONE knows about.
The writer can't even decide on what point of view this story is being told from. It goes from an outside omniscient narrator (that seems to be the writer herself speaking directly to the reader) to an internal monologue of America's thoughts at random.
The plot is all over the place. Literally all over the place. We start on an alien planet and end up in WWII. It jumps from plot point to plot point with a whole new situation and location coming at the reader every few pages. It somehow feels overstuffed and empty at the same time. The story bounces from here to there, but there's not really much happening before it shifts again.
The art is extremely inconsistent. Generally, it's pretty good and there are places here and there that are very well done. . .especially the boob-tastic cover. But then there are a lot of places where the art looks rushed and unfinished, and a few places that are downright bad. In reading reviews of this series (and there are a LOT of them for this first issue) the general opinion is that the art is worth the price of admission even if you don't like the story. I disagree. It's incredibly uneven.
Overall, this first issue has amateurish writing with forced dialogue, a shifting viewpoint, undeveloped characters, and a plot that bounces from place to place. The art is extremely uneven, not just from page to page, but often from panel to panel.
The panel below is a fine example of everything wrong with this comic book in a nutshell:
I haven't even gone into the REAL problem of this series that's just sort of sitting there like a giant gorilla in the corner. . .but there's still 11 more issues to get into THAT mess. Even leaving the real problems out of the mix and judging this issue on story and art ALONE, I have to wonder just how in the hell Marvel let this series go on for 12 issues. It looks like it was written as a high school Creative Writing project. I give it a D+.
So. . .first issue. Pretty bad, even without discussing the more controversial aspects of it.
THE GIRLS WANNA BE HER
SCRIPTS: Gabby Rivera
PENCILS: Joe Quinones & Ming Doyle
COVER: Joe Quinones
After accidentally finding herself in WWII Germany, America returns home with the help of some advice from Peggy Carter. At Sotomayor University, she is given a class assignment from Moon Girl to try and find a way to control her time travel destinations. Later, the University is attacked by cyborgs disguised as new students. After defeating them, America finds out her former girlfriend has been kidnapped by a gang of girls from the Planet Maltixa that are mad because America isn't following them on social media.
ALL RIGHTY THEN. . .
As you can see from the brief description above, this issue suffers from the same "jumping from place to place" problem as the first. . .following 4 completely different plots in a single issue. And also like the first issue, the problems begin from THE VERY FIRST PAGE:
Overly-wordy, stilted dialogue, with an amateurish political jab and a ridiculous situation where Peggy Carter is talking calmly to America after popping up from a trapdoor in the middle of a raging battle. . .all of which make it look like this comic was written by a high school creative writing student just discovering politics.
To make it worse, the art takes a noticeable downward turn in this issue. Starting on the first page above and continuing through the issue, with many panels looking sketchy or even unfinished:
Well, I guess as long as America gets to punch white guys
the art doesn't really matter that much, right?
Once again, I'm trying to give this series a fair shot without going too deeply into anything not having to do with the actual art and writing. There's some definite problems with this series that some people might not necessarily see as problems at all. I'll discuss my opinion of those things as they get worse and completely dominate the series a bit further on. For now, I'm just talking writing and art.
Unfortunately, the writing is sloppy and amateurish and the art looks like neither the artist OR the editor gave a crap. And I've got 10 more issues to go. God help me. . .
HIGHWAY TO THE DANGER ROOM
SCRIPTS: Gabby Rivera
PENCILS: Joe Quinones & Stacey Lee
COVER: Joe Quinones
As America rushes to the rescue of her kidnapped ex-girlfriend, she somehow finds herself in the 1980's and fighting alongside the X-Men in the Danger Room. After Storm gives her some advice on how to control her teleporting through time and dimensions, America arrives on Planet Maltixa only to discover that her ex-girlfriend allowed herself to be taken willingly in order to make America return to Maltixa. The enemy that America fought and thought she had defeated (In Issue #1) has returned, more powerful than before. America's friends from Sotomayor University arrive just in time to help during the battle.
Thankfully, the writing is tightening up a bit, as we really only hop between 3 plots in this issue. Unfortunately, America ending up in the 1980's seems like a little self (fan) service to the writer wanting to put her favorite version of Storm (mohawk Storm) into the comic. Other than that and some exposition on America's new Mary Sue power, there seems to be little other purpose to the side trip.
We also get a retconned origin for America crammed in sort of sideways. It's not bad and actually is a pretty decent explanation as for why America is an interdimensional alien being that speaks Spanglish. It's a basic derivation of Superman's origin: Alien comes to Earth and assimilates the culture they are surrounded by. It's also nicely summed up on a single page and is probably the best part of the issue:
Okay, this is a pretty good explanation of how an alien being from another dimension speaks Spanglish. . .BUT!
Did THIS interdimensional alien being from the planet Maltixa ALSO spend a decade immersing herself in the culture of Earth's Latin American countries?
Unfortunately, America's origin is oddly irrelevant because there seems to be an entire planet of Spanglish-speaking interdimensional aliens just around the corner from where she's originally from. It COULD be explained by the Maltixan's almost worshiping America, but it just seems strange to establish an origin and make it irrelevant in the very same issue.
At least the art improves a bit, managing to lift itself up and somehow hurdle the high bar of "Pretty Good". Unfortunately, it seems that's about as high as this artist can reach.
Overall, this issue was an improvement over the previous two. Unfortunately, there are still big problems with shifting viewpoint, stilted dialogue, and art that's better suited for black and white small press comics than a mainstream release from a major publisher.
All that and, as you can probably see. . .the REAL problems with this series are starting to move up to the front of things. They aren't quite completely overwhelming everything like they do later on, but it won't be long. . .
AN ARMY OF ME
SCRIPTS: Gabby Rivera
PENCILS: Joe Quinones & Ming Doyle
COVER: Joe Quinones
In order to win the battle against the strange entity attacking Planet Maltixa, America travels back in time to her earlier battle with it (in the first issue) and teams up with her past self to use strategy to defeat the entity instead of brute strength. After the battle, a mysterious being arrives and informs America that she was the person who guided America to WWII and the 1980's. America leaves without learning more. . .
This issue confuses me.
The plot itself is quite a bit tighter than in previous issues, and focuses mostly on America learning from the lessons she gained travelling to different times about not defeating every enemy with force. It also establishes that America now has control over her time travel powers.
But. . .
In the first issue, it's shown that America can travel through time because of Prodigy's experimental time machine. Now there's no machine needed. I guess it doesn't really matter, though. America doesn't use her new time travel powers again for the rest of the series.
Also. . .
Last issue, we got America's origin story. She's an interdimensional alien being that identifies with Latin culture because when she came to Earth, she had a similar appearance and was able to assimilate and learn the language of Latin people as she wandered from place to place. And that's fine. It's a pretty worn comic origin trope, but still a solid one.
But. . .
In THIS issue, it's revealed that America's two mothers (of course) ALSO speak Spanish (as does the apparently all female population of Planet Maltixa). What seemed like a bit of a plot hole in the previous issue (that could be explained by the inhabitants of Maltixa practically worshiping America) now seems to be the norm. . .rendering America's "assimilation" origin meaningless.
I REALLY want to review this series based on art and writing alone, but each issue makes it a bit harder to do so as the contradictions necessary for the writer's world-building efforts pile up toward the eventual destination of a wish-fulfillment universe populated entirely by Spanish speaking LGBTQ females that somehow is unknown to the rest of the Marvel Universe.
Overall, this issue is an improvement as the story simplifies and condenses around one plot at a time. There are still problems with stilted, wordy dialogue and the writer not understanding the concept of viewpoint. The art remains at a level that can best be described as "pretty good". Unfortunately, this series is relentlessly marching toward an ideological end game. It's not QUITE there yet, but at this point the foundation is firm and the walls are starting to go up.
BEST FRIEND, WON'T YOU?
SCRIPTS: Gabby Rivera & Kelly Thompson
PENCILS: Ramon Villalobos
COVER: Jen Bartel
After receiving a mysterious message from an old friend, America and her best friend, Kate Bishop (AKA Hawkeye) go on a road trip to meet with her. Things get out of control quickly as the road trip turns into a superhero team-up against robot helicopters and cyborgs. After the battle, America is betrayed by her childhood friend and captured, leaving it up to Kate to come to the rescue. . .
It's pretty plain to see that Marvel was taking a closer look at the steeply-declining sales figures for America at this point and instead of admitting to themselves that they had a dud on their hands due to hiring an inexperienced writer based solely on her race and sexual identity (more on that later), Marvel decided (as they tend to do) that what was needed to boost sales was a team-up. And so we get a team-up.
To tell the truth, it's not as bad as previous issues. Probably due to some story assistance by Kelly Thompson, an ACTUAL comic writer. Unfortunately, it looks like she didn't provide a LOT of assistance. Although this is probably the tightest and most focused issue yet as far as story goes, the actual scripting is still extremely wordy and stilted.
In addition to Thompson coming on board, there's also an artist change for this 2 issue story. Unfortunately, as mediocre as this title's regular artist was, the guest artist makes him look like a superstar. This artist has an EXTREMELY hard time with faces in particular, and generally has a style that one would expect to find in small press romance comics. It's just bad. Check it out:
Kate Bishop is now Asian. And for God's sake, what's going on in the 2nd panel down?
A VERY "SPECIAL" BONUS!
Between the amateurish writing and crappy art, this issue of America has the dubious honor of providing me with one of my top 10 all-time WORST single panels I've ever seen in any mainstream comic book. And when I say top 10, what I mean is top 5 of the top 10. Here it is in all its glory, folks!
What. The. FU*K?
Overall, this issue has a tighter story focus than any preceding it. Unfortunately, that's about all the good I can say about it. Well. . .other than that hidden in its pages I managed to find a top 10 low bar single panel. And this is coming from a guy who has the entire 13 issue run of Captain America Vol. 2: Heroes Reborn. . .featuring some rather infamous artwork by Rob Liefeld (Coming soon to a Longbox Junk Blog near you). I can't decide if that makes this issue a winner or a loser. Naw. . .who am I kidding? It's still a loser.
AND FINALLY. . .
YOUR HEART IS TRUE
SCRIPTS: Gabby Rivera
PENCILS: Ramon Villalobos
COVER: Jen Bartel
After being drugged and captured, America wakes up in an arena and is forced by the villain Arcade to fight her childhood friend (Magdalena) that lured her into the trap. Magdalena reveals that she was blackmailed into betraying America by her father being held hostage. In the meantime, Kate Bishop (Hawkeye) and the mysterious being known as Madrimar rush to America's rescue. America turns the tables on Arcade, destroying his arena and defeating a crowd of villains after Madrimar and Hawkeye rescue Magdelana's father. At the end of it all, Madrimar tells America that she is her grandmother and it's revealed that the villain behind everything is Exterminatrix.
AND SO. . .
America stumbles over the obligatory 6 issue trade finish line with this issue. Unfortunately, about all I can say that's good about it is that (like the previous issue) it's more tightly focused on a single storyline, so it IS an improvement over earlier issues. That said, the dialogue is still wordy, stilted, and full of exposition as the next storyline is set up in a sort of crammed, messy way.
All that, and once again the writer shows her true intentions for this series as it's revealed that America's grandmother ALSO speaks Spanglish, even though she's an alien from a completely different dimension from Earth. It's so forced and contrived that I'm actually surprised that the writer didn't also reveal that Kate Bishop is actually a Spanglish-Speaking interdimensional alien being. I have the feeling that she would have, if Marvel cared just a bit less about Hawkeye.
And then there's the art. My God. . .THE ART! Except for the Ass-Tastic Love & Rockets homage cover (which is probably the best part of this entire issue), the art on this issue remains just as awful as on the first part of this team-up story. It's some of the worst art I've seen in a mainstream comic book. Truthfully, between the crappy art and amateurish writing, one has to wonder if this comic series had ANY editorial oversight. I mean. . .just LOOK at the interior of Kate Bishop's Firebird:
HAS THIS ARTIST NEVER SEEN THE INSIDE OF A FRIGGIN' CAR?
And that's not even the worst of it. This artist really struggles with faces. HOW THE FLYING F*CK DO YOU GET A JOB ILLUSTRATING COMICS PUT OUT BY A MAJOR PUBLISHER IF YOU CAN'T DRAW A MOTHERF*CKING FACE RIGHT?
There's got to be THOUSANDS of talented artists who would chew off their own big toe to draw comics for Marvel, and we get THIS crap? Why?
Seriously, though. . .how does this even happen?
ANOTHER "SPECIAL" BONUS!
In a bit of hilarity I wasn't aware of until I was reading a little deeper into this dumpster fire of a comic series, it seems that a troll from 4 Chan managed to get a letter onto this issue's letter page, where he basically told the writer that he was laughing at her and then compared America to the infamously horrible movie The Room. . .
And Gabby Rivera's sadly oblivious response . . .
After this, no more letter column in America.
Take from that what you will. I'll take a chuckle, myself.
And so we come to the end of the first part of this two-part review of Marvel's America.
If I had to describe the series so far in one word, that word would be: Misguided.
This comic has problems that extend beyond the amateurish writing and extremely uneven art. But it may surprise some of you who have read the review above and have witnessed me lightly smacking around Gabby Rivera and company for their poor work on this series that I'm not going to blame them for the ultimate failure of this project.
I'm going to lay the blame right where it belongs. . .on whatever genius at Marvel Comics decided it would be a great idea to hire a woman who is not a comic writer and who has one single novel it took her 10 years to write to her name.
I've read interviews with Gabby Rivera while trying to make sense of the mess I was reviewing and why it even existed. It turns out that Marvel came to Rivera. She claims she was blindsided by the offer to write comics because she wasn't interested in comics. As a matter of fact, she claims she'd NEVER EVEN READ A COMIC BOOK before Marvel offered her a job.
In other words, it's painfully obvious that Gabby Rivera was hired because she is a Hispanic, queer writer. She was hired based on her identity alone, and not because of ANY other qualifications.
If I had to describe THAT in one word, it would be: Bullsh*t.
I can see that Gabby Rivera was writing this comic from her heart, and she was putting her soul into it. I'm not going to come down on her for doing her best, even lacking as it is. I'm not even going to come down on her for the extreme racism and anti-male leaning in this series.
Rivera is full of hate and rage, but this is America and she has the right to be full of hate and rage. The problem here is that Marvel didn't care about her racist, sexist views. They were RIGHT THERE for them to see. Look. . .here's just ONE of many hateful, racist tweets off of her extremely interesting Twitter feed:
anyone else feeling triggered af at the mere sight/presence of white dudes, solo, but esp in groups? the panic & threat level is too real
— Queen Dyke Papi of the Babe Universe (@QuirkyRican) December 5, 2016
If you click the link onto her feed, you'll get MANY, more of the same and worse. There's NO way Marvel wasn't aware of this, or were made aware later on. But SOMEONE at Marvel wanted a queer Latina author to write their queer Latina superhero, and Gabby Rivera was (and still is) basically the only game in town.
No. . .Gabby Rivera was just doing what she does. Marvel was the one who gave an inexperienced writer with extreme racial supremacist and anti-male views a platform to write propaganda from.
So overall, America is a pretty Sh*tty comic series in just about every way. From the basic concept of a hero defined only by her sexual and racial identity, to hiring a blatantly racist and hateful writer who had never even read a comic book just to match that sexual and racial identity, to the poor art.
This series had a writer that focused it on such an extremely narrow portion of the comic book readership that it was doomed to fail before the first issue even hit the stands. Writing comics for underrepresented groups in an attempt to expand readership IS an admirable goal I can definitely get behind. . .BUT. . .
All the representation in the world won’t make up for a poorly written story. Leaving everything else aside and judging ONLY on writing and art, this is one of the worst comic series I've ever read.
Somehow, I'm sure this is Trump’s fault.
Up Next. . .
Part 2 of America. Heading into the back half with issues 7 -12.
Does it get worse? Oh hell yes, it gets worse.
Be there or be square!
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