Sometimes in order to move forward, we have to go back. In comics, that idea is taken literally at least as often as it is figuratively. And for former teen hero America Chavez, the latter is very much the case (at least so far) when a shadow from the past comes back to haunt her. As with most stories of this nature, we get to accompany our hero down memory lane, visiting areas of her past never before seen.
As the title would suggest, America Chaves: Made in the USA acts as a secret origin-style tale: It reveals new truths about her adoptive family and her time before she joined the Young Avengers, juxtaposed with her present escapades as a member of the West Coast Avengers. Writer Kalinda Vazquez delivers a solid first issue, deftly navigating between pre-adolescent America’s arrival to the 616 universe, fighting giant mole creatures with bestie Kate Bishop (aka the best Hawkeye), and spending time with fellow Avenger and girlfriend Ramone Watts. Vazquez has a firm grasp on what makes these relationships work, delivering earnest dialogue in every scene.
The art by Carlos Gómez is nothing short of kinetic. Every panel is electrifying, with the action scenes being every bit as engaging as the quieter, more intimate moments. Not only are his designs just gorgeous; every pose, every stance, informs the characters in ways that a script sometimes can’t. He especially nails the subtle expressions and body language, conveying exactly what America is thinking or feeling, without relying on speech balloons. Gómez’s work is all the better thanks to Jesus Aburtov’s colors. Together they give the book an energetic quality that is just as powerful as one of America’s plane-shattering punches, which looks just as cool as you’d imagine.
If there is anywhere that the book falters, it’s in the writing of America herself. Typically portrayed as a badass ne’er-do-well, she mostly just coasts through the proceedings, displaying little of her trademark personality. It may be more of an introspective portrayal, but it seems an odd choice considering how much the story focuses on her. There are moments where her personality comes out, particularly during an interaction with special guest star Spider-Man. Vazquez also dispenses with any real exposition, making no mention of the Young Avengers and only hinting at America’s power-set. Despite the lack of accessibility, it’s a refreshing change that puts trust in the reader to have at least a rudimentary knowledge of the characters.