America Chavez, a breakout character in team books like Young Avengers and Ultimates, has struggled with singles success in the past. Now newcomer Kalinda Vazquez and artist Carlos Gomez will take a swing with America Chavez: Made in the USA #1, but will make a shift towards a more street-level story. Here, readers will find the secret origins of one of Marvel’s most enigmatic characters.
This is America Chavez?
There are two stories being told here: an extended flashback of Chavez’s arrival in Washington Heights, and the modern story of heroics and a mysterious new antagonist. Immediately it’s somewhat odd to see Chavez’s usual backstory supplanted with a much less colorful and down to Earth story.
She’s discovered by a family readers will learn became her adopted family, which isn’t an outright retcon, but it feels somewhat disingenuous to the way her story has been told up until this point. The implication seems to have always been that Chavez traveled through dimensions and became a hero once she left the Utopian Parallel. This isn’t what immediately comes to mind when that’s conveyed, but still, it’s technically not outright disputing it.
This is just one of the first in a series of seeming misunderstandings of Chavez’s character by Vazquez, which can make the book frustrating to read at points for fans of the character. The foremost issue is that Chavez’s typically tough, but playful bilingual way of speaking is gone, replaced by a generic, teenage hero voice. It’s a harsh mischaracterization of Chavez which is hard to get past, but it isn’t just a problem with her. Vazquez seems to write every character in this generic, teenage hero voice, so much so that Spider-Man’s dialogue feels no different than Chavez’s or Hawkeye’s.
Next there are several scenes where characters act completely illogically. In one scene, a high schooler tries to interview Chavez in the middle of a giant battle, and Chavez does the interview for a second. Also, somehow this random interview is played off like the inciting incident for this whole issue and it doesn’t work at all. Secondly, there’s a point at which Chavez must save five people, and instead of just punching open a portal, one of her most basic powers, she starts punching her way through the ceiling. It doesn’t make sense.
Lastly, in the flashback, America’s foster family just straight up kidnap her. It doesn’t seem as if that’s how Vazquez is intending it, but it does seem as if that’s what happens.
This all isn’t to say Vazquez doesn’t do anything right. She sets up a rather interesting mystery going into the future, and there is one cute moment in America’s first interaction with her foster brother. These moments just aren’t enough to outway the rest of the issues with the writing here.
Gomez, thus, contributes the better part of the issue. Throughout the book the art is lively and energetic, even if at times it can get slightly too lively and energetic. Most of the time the characters are exciting to look at, and everything’s conveyed really clearly.
Jesus Aburtov’s colors actually really stand out throughout the issue. He plays with lighting in a way that makes a lot of the scenes seem a good bit more dynamic. Then in other scenes, like when Chavez is first in her new house, the colors help contribute to the tone in a really helpful way.
Design wise, Gomez had a lot to keep up with. Jamie McKelvie’s work in Young Avengers casts a big shadow, and it’s hard not to miss the constantly rotating, and pristinely designed outfits of Chavez’s. It’s something which also contributes to her feeling mischaracterized in this issue, though not to nearly to the same extent as earlier issues.
Vazquez and Gomez struggle throughout to create an accurate portrait of the America Chavez that readers have fallen in love with. The dialogue in the issue is bad, but Gomez keeps the book somewhat interesting with lively and energetic pencils. Readers should hope America Chavez: Made in the USA gets much better from here.
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