“Welcome to the Utopian Parallel(?)” – America Chavez: Made in the U.S.A. #3 Review
“Made in the U.S.A. #3”
Writer: Kalinda Vazquez
Artist: Carlos Gómez
Color Artist: Jesus Aburtov
Letterer: VC/s Travis Lanham
Cover Artist: Sara Pichelli & Tamra Bonvillain
Variant Cover Artist: Betsy Cola
What You Need to Know: Last time we left America she had been ambushed. Drawn back to her home in Washington Heights in New York City by an emergency, America discovered that she had been intentionally lured in by a mysterious stranger with unknown powers. After a bittersweet reunion with her family where both remorse and embitterment towards her were on full display, America managed to track down her mysterious foe. Following them to an island off the coast, America was blindsided by a blast of electrical energy and left at the mercy of the faceless figure. Last we saw, this figure, with stars on their wrists just like America’s, had taken America captive, welcoming her “back” to the “Utopian Parallel”.
In This Issue: Whereas the last two issues of this series saw the impetus placed on America to move the plot forward, here America is trapped as answers are revealed and as old questions are answered, more, newer questions arise. Her assailant, a woman younger than America herself named Catalina, claims to be a figure from America’s past, and tells her that a lot of what she thought she knew about her past was a lie.
It’s hard to breakdown the events of this issue any further than that without breaking into some serious spoiler territory, but what is important to know is that if what is presented in this issue is true—America as a character will have certainly been changed forever.
The Breakdown: The word of the day is “retcon”. Retcon, retcon, retcon. Some books do it quietly, subtly, others go hard and fast and this book went hard and fast.
For anyone who might not know, “retcon” is shorthand for “Retroactive Continuity” and it is a very common occurrence within the comics industry. A “retcon” happens whenever a writer uses a story to retroactively go back inside a character’s personal history, their “canon, and change something about it. Either it’s them saying that something never happened, or it happened differently than we remember, and that this new way is the way it’s always been. Often times this is done as a dramatic tool to bring readers in, other times its done to “fix” glaring gaps in continuity or within characterizations, sometimes offering an easy “course correct” for characters who may have been written in a poor way previously. Somehow this issue manages to use it for both.
Now, without spoiling it, I will say that I am very much torn on this retcon. I am, very notoriously, a lot more forgiving of retcons than a lot of other hardcore readers; I think they can have their benefits, I think they can help keep characters fresh, and I think they can open up new doorways to explore new stories and themes. It all comes down to execution, and whether or not I think the retcon actually manages to offer us something new.
And that’s the problem here. This retcon seemingly doesn’t offer us something new.
I actually feel that what has been retconned here actually feels like a bit of a loss. Without going into it, this retcon specifically affects America Chavez’s origin which, I thought, was already one of the more original in the Marvel Universe. She was a character who hailed from a dimension called the Utopian Parallel and gained powers to hop through dimensions. I already thought that was great, but the new changes to her origin, if they prove to be true in the next two issues, actually seem to almost dull this aspect of her down. It’s exchanging something that feels fun and otherworldly for something very grounded and something we have definitely seen a few times before. I fear a loss of originality and grandeur, and it’s a change that I will need to see play out before I can say for sure that this has taken more than it’s given.
And I think it has given something. There were previous parts of America’s origin, specifically from her 2017 maxi-series, that garnered controversy from different parts of the Hispanic and Latino communities for it’s depictions of their culture and the seeming appropriation of them by America herself. Now, if this retcon is set in stone then it would seem that a lot of that could be easily forgotten. How fans will respond to this remains to be seen, but I think that if it makes her origins less controversial then this could potentially have some pretty big benefits for the character.
It also is going to play really heavily into America’s relationship with this new character: Catalina. The retcon here explains their relationship, and it explains what Catalina’s interest in America is. I think there’s room here for an interesting and dynamic relationship. Yet, it’s a bit sad that it was as predictable as it was. To me, anyways. I feel that it was twist that I clearly saw coming by the end of the second issue, and I think that goes back to speak a bit on the disappointment of this reveal as a whole and how little originality it seems to contain. There are two issues left in this mini, and questions still unanswered, so it’s possible that this could be deeper than we know right now, and I truly hope it is.
Retcons aside, how was the rest of the issue? It was—alright. It’s a weird jump, that almost feels like a big step backwards, to go from two really solid issues to one that feels like it was only half as substantial as the others. The main problem I have here is that this is the exposition issue, clearly. America is captured, and a good majority of the plot is either explanations of the new retcon delivered by this new character, Catalina, and flashbacks to the retcon. The pacing built up by the last two issues is stopped almost dead cold as we have to wait for the explanations to be given.
The setting doesn’t really change for the whole story and although a lot of interesting aspects are hinted at, there’s a lot in this book that feels primarily like set-up for the next two issues. America doesn’t get a whole lot to do in this issue, and even though the dialogue is well-written and engaging you still feel like the story is giving you a history lesson rather than actively engaging you in its action, even with the flashbacks.
The only good part about the story being a bit lackluster is it let’s the art take center-stage, and, wow, it’s still really, really great. I think this team of Gómez and Aburtov is so solid. There’s a few splash pages here that are breathtaking, and the action still feels weighty and thrilling. Dynamic is the best word to describe it. There’s some really fun work with perspective that happens here that just amplifies different movements or different settings and I really appreciate that.
The Bottom Line: After two stunning and solid issues, America Chavez stumbles a bit in this third chapter. A stumble, however, does not mean that she has fallen. With the exposition out of the way, and the twist at least partially revealed, a lot of weight falls onto the last parts of this saga to pick up the slack and carry this story over the finish line. Although the fear of banality now lingers in the air, I’m still looking forward to the next two issues. If they can contain the same heart and depth as the first two issues, I see no reason why this change can’t be made to work in America’s favor. Depending on the remaining answers yet to be given, there’s a chance that this issue could retroactively become a bit better in my mind as well. Only time will tell.
The Bottom Line
Summary Stumbling a bit in it's second act, America Chavez takes a turn for the--surprisingly normal, and although the long-lasting implications remain to be seen the short-term ramifications are disappointing and a tad underwhelming. Here's hoping the next chapter can pick us back up to the heights of the first two issues.