Review: AMERICA #1

Written by Gabby Rivera
Art by Joe Quinones, Joe Rivera, Paolo Rivera, Jose Villarrubia, & Travis Lanham
Published by Marvel Comics
Release Date: March 1, 2017

America is hope and America’s got you.

Interdimensional travel is no big for America Chavez, but her relationship and education are. With an unsuspected shake-up, she feels the remnants of tender loss while still resolute about her own future. She finds Prodigy, aka David Alleyne, and figures she might as well play with one of his new gadgets, inadvertently hurtling herself toward a jaw breaking journey.

Where do I begin?

I feel like I cannot fully tell you all the things that are right about America #1. Kudos to Gabby Rivera because hot damn is this one hell of a story. Let’s begin with the myriad cultural nuances throughout the issue. They bring a completely different side to America beyond convenient Spanish catchphrases. Two, America’s relationship with Lisa is explored with a depth that has been starkly absent in pretty much every other comic featuring our protagonist. Three, the name-dropping is absolute yes. Both Bayard Rustin and Justice Sonia Sotomayor anchor the series to the reality of real queer and people of color who did and do their best to improve this country. Rivera’s handle of the story and these cultural influences shows us a reality often spoken of by marginalized people, yet often ignored: the fact that they are more likely to infuse politics, implicitly or explicitly, without losing sight of a story or its characters.

Rivera creates a world for America that is tender and bittersweet, one dotted by loss but held in place by love and friendship. We get to see intimacy between women via romantic relationships and close friendships, again without relegating these women to base tropes or ideas. I’m truly floored by the inaugural issue of the series and it creates a wealth of feelings within me that are not easily spoken. Rivera makes it clear that this is a story that will address America, each of her identities, their intersections, and interdimensional badassery. Queer people of all types are present, from America herself to her mothers, Lisa, and the bisexual David. Also, that Mariah reference? Priceless.

Joe Quinones is great in the issue regardless, but my biggest takeaway is in the character design. I wasn’t completely sold on America’s new costume, but I loved it in this issue from her first appearance. Monica shows up with a new costume, too, which looks like an improvement of her current style. Beyond design of costumes, character presentation is on point. There’s so many characters in the story, but few of them look the same. I appreciate Quinones’ care in showing people with a wider range of body types.

Joe Rivera and Paolo Rivera use different types of inking to distinguish characters and panels. Some are in the classic black outline, while others move to softer reds and blues to convey feelings and memories, or to create a difference between people of focus and their environment. I like this style because it can direct reader attention through subtle changes. Jose Villarrubia takes cues from the rest of the team to create the various shades of brown people. I liked seeing so many skin tones, and this aspect of the story reminded me it’s not hard to use more than two shades to color characters. Beyond the people, Villarrubia creates idyllic surroundings, some mired in sadness, while others reflect nostalgia and change. These schemes evoke the right mood in all the right places, enhancing the depth of the overall narrative.

If we’re being real, America #1 nearly brings me to tears. The story is constructed in such an intimate, real, and human way, something which is heartbreakingly rare in comics. There’s so much that I can see in the everyday life of queer people of color, but the entire team takes it even further by looking at the wonderful details of a young lesbian Latina’s life. I can’t speak to the totality of America’s of experiences as a queer Latina, but I imagine there’s something in this story that many people, especially those who rarely if ever see themselves in comics, have been aching for, and moreover that they deserve. This first issue is everything I wanted and more, and it speaks to the optimism in me regarding representation and the hope that maybe, just maybe, the House of Ideas will listen to what the readers of this story will say, are saying, and have been saying for years.

The Verdict: 10/10


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