Written by Joe Casey, Art by Dustin Nguyen, Colours by Brad Simpson, Letters by Rus Wooton.
This week sees the release of a number 1 by Image comics of a new ongoing series. The character portrayed seems very familiar to many comic fans: America Vasquez, a teen with superhuman strength, the ability to fly, and to create portals to travel into other dimensions. For Marvel fans this is incredibly similar to the character of America Chavez. However, when pressed on the matter, writer Joe Casey's answer when asked if this is a reclaiming a character of sorts: “first of all, I don’t know what you mean” (read the Hollywood Reporter interview here).
During the read of this book, it became obvious to me that there’s a better story behind the book than what’s being told in the pages. Is this a point in favour of a creative team owning rights to characters they created? How far does a character need to change before it becomes a copyright violation? These are questions that could create big discussions within the comic book world, however I’m not sure that’s the intended purpose of this book.
The first two pages of the book are dedicated to the words “Her time has come”; this always worries me from any medium standpoint. When there’s a push of a gender or sexuality it makes me question the motives. As we saw with Captain Marvel's marketing, it can be quite divisive. There’s nothing wrong with having these characters, but those characteristics don’t define them. We then get an Instagram post giving us America's details, she’s not sure she’s a hero but she wants to make a difference. We see that she’s hot-headed when asked if she wants to join a team very similar to the Avengers. Equally hasty when dealing with a Dr. Doom type character. She’s young and naïve and it shows, but she’s stumbled onto a big, beyond earth-shattering secret...a reality-shattering one that will have profound effects on the entire universe.
Starting with the concept of the character. I like the idea of a coming of age story when the character needs to overcome her arrogance, and become mature enough to understand the consequences of her actions and decisions. This book has the foundations for that, which could make it a truly great book. However the dialogue and the way story is, feels very surface level at the moment, with good and bad characters, all very black and white and with no real definition or depth to anything but Vasquez as it stands.
I find the artwork a little hit and miss. Even at its best, I’d say that it was average, and there are some panels that are rather poor. This confuses me, for Dustin is a previous Eisner award winner. So I’m assuming it was an off few days with the panels in question.
Having said that, Brad Simpson’s colours are fantastic throughout, which heighten a fantastic climax of art within the final few pages. Both Nguyen and Simpson deliver what I think is one of the best panels in recent comics. As it’s not something I want to spoil, I shall just say, you’ll know it when you see it.
Overall I’d say the book is very strange; trying to establish a “new” character is never easy. I’m hoping the shallow start to this was all for a reason, to show how much Vasquez will have matured by the end of the arc or the run. As I said before, I do think there’s more interesting topics to come out of this. Should creators retain the rights to the characters they create, even when they go to a different publisher? Also, how much should characters be changed before there is a lawsuit for copyright violation?
I do hope things can get better as we progress. Although I have issues with this book, I still found it enjoyable. I’m adding Vengeance and the Young Avengers to the Recommended Reading found below, not to try and cause a rift between publishers, but so people can see the basis for this character, and get a feel for where she has come from, and hopefully where she will be able to go.
All-America Comix from Image Comics will be released on 1st July. You can find it at your local comic shop, or online at comixology
Vengeance (2011) Marvel miniseries
Young Avengers by Kieron Gillen and Jamie Mackelvie