America #11

by Charles Martin on January 17, 2018

America #11
Writer: Gabby Rivera
Artists: Stacey Lee with Flaviano
Colourists: Jordan Gibson with Chris O'Halloran
Letterer: Travis Lanham
Publisher: Marvel Comics

For her title's final arc and penultimate issue, America starts by saying goodbye to Sotomayor University. Whether that parting fills you with regret or relief, what comes next is a deeper dive into the America-centric cosmology introduced in #7. Maybe, just maybe, next month's issue will wrap it all up in a satisfying way.

Planeta Fuertona is a great place to polish this series off. This issue introduces an 11th-hour battle-buddy / potential love interest in the form of Salgado. Like most of this series' new characters, Salgado has super-strong protagonist-vision and instantly addresses America by name when they (along with Madrimar) get stuck into a battle with the "Legion" bugs threatening PF.

This recognition makes sense for a change. Madrimar's dropped some hints about America playing a messianic role on Planeta Fuertona. Salgado bucks the trend by recognizing America without offering up any cloying hero worship; it's refreshing to meet somebody who's actually too tough and too busy to melt into a puddle of squee when she sees the great America Chavez. But this is issue #11, and that reality check has been needed since about issue #3.

This big, brave, cosmology-rewriting, backstory-retconning "Planeta Fuertona" myth-arc is the brass ring Gabby Rivera should have been chasing from square one. There were reasons to dodge it and concentrate instead on the safe, self-indulgent wish-fulfillment of Sotomayor U and a Hawkeye roadtrip, of course. For one thing, installing PF into the Marvel universe properly calls for building a world more compelling than the glimpses of the Utopian Parallel that other writers (chiefly Kieron Gillen) have offered up.

I don't think Ms. Rivera has cleared that hurdle, and there doesn't look to be much time left. The author has at least singled out her most compelling innovations: the Fuertona mythology and the fascinating, complex America-Madrimar relationship. These appear to be the keystones of this final arc, and the story will be all the better for it. 

But the clock is ticking and this issue burns a lot of pages on new concepts (an "Uzam crystal" that is the source of America's punchy portal powers) and new characters (Salgado AKA "America's Insty-Crush"). And devoting quite so many pages to the Sotomayor U farewell at the start (movingly illustrated by Flaviano though they might be) also feels unwise.

There may be unfinished business on the antagonist front, too. There were some delicious hints throughout the series (and even in this issue's solicit) that La Legion, the Exterminatrix, and just about everybody else America fought in this title were connected. If that's the case, the big revelation is being left until the last possible second - and that might be another pacing misstep.

Stacey Lee provides some clean, expressive, and cartoony (good cartoony) characters for this last lap. Her world-building powers, sadly, don't do much to flesh out Planeta Fuertona as a place: seaside cliffs, palm trees, some floating rocks in the sky. There are frogs. Ms. Lee doesn't provide much more than a Looney Tunes background for bug-fighting, but perhaps Ms. Rivera didn't think to ask for anything more.

America's weird, wild ride as the star of her own solo bends towards its conclusion. While some concepts worth exploring have filtered down into this final arc, the odds of cementing them into a memorable legacy seem slim. This chapter in America's story is unlikely to be the most beloved, but we can still hope it's not the last.

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Charles Martin's picture
The next writer who wants to use Prodigy is gonna have to burn at least a few sentences on busting him out of Wish-Fulfillment U and getting him back to the 616.