By Arturo R. García
While Marvel Comics seems intent on doubling down on racefail within the X-Men titles, the new writer guiding portions of the company’s Avengers line has been promising a more diverse line-up.
As Kendra noted in her New York Comic-Con preview, Jonathan Hickman has gone on record as saying he wants half of his eventual 24-member cast to be comprised of PoC or women.
“One of the first things we all agreed on is that the roster should look more like the world,” he told Comic Book Movie.com. Looking at the line-up thus far, that “or” is a troubling distinction on what would otherwise be an admirable effort to follow through on his pledge.
Let’s start with the three covers shown above, which can be seen in more detail here. From left to right, the PoCs shown on the roster are:
- The shadowy figure in the back of the left-hand cover has been confirmed to be Eden Fesi, an Aboriginal hero who appeared in Hickman’s Secret Warriors book.
- Moving to the cover in the middle, not only has team stalwart The Falcon been added to the mix, but Sunspot, a core member of the New Mutants, has been promoted, along with Cannonball (seen in flight on the left-hand cover).
- There do not appear to be any POC on the cover on the right-hand side, even though Iron Man’s armor there looks a lot like War Machine’s.
- It has also been confirmed that Shang-Chi will eventually be added to the cast.
Notice any group not represented?
That’s right. There’s as many white women as there are PoC in that triple cover. But no characters who are PoC and women, a wound that rubs deeper when you see Carol Danvers continue to get fast-tracked to the company’s movie platform, Monica Rambeau be damned. So counting Shang-Chi, Hickman’s math currently stands up–barely. Here’s to hoping things turn for the better for women of color–not to mention LGBT characters–under Hickman’s pen, because the situation seems bleak in at least two more Avengers books.
Right now T’Challa, now established once again as The Black Panther, appears to be the only PoC character in Hickman’s New Avengers series, which will focus on the latest iteration of the secret super-cabal known as the Illuminati.
Joining him as diversity stand-ins will be both The Beast and The Sub-Mariner, the latter of whom most recently seen drowning a third of the population of T’Challa’s home, Wakanda, in the critically-panned AvX cross-over, which pitted the Avengers against the X-Men for the purposes of…well, who the hell knows at this point. So, that will probably be awkward.
That said, it’s still a better representation than Rick Remender and John Cassaday’s Uncanny Avengers, a title spawned directly from AvX:
Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s upcoming take on Young Avengers seems to get back on the right side of things:
That’s former teen villain America Chavez, a.k.a. Miss America, at the top of the cover above, joined by same-sex couple Wiccan and Hulkling. So far so good, other than this interview with the creative team where Chavez is continually called “Miss America Chavez” and described as having “a temper.” Well, of course. One more reason to worry: should one of these characters need to become cannon fodder, how secure is Chavez’s position compared to Hulkling/Wiccan, Noh-Varr and the reincarnated Kid!Loki? (Although there is the possibility that Loki will be returned to his adult persona in order to maintain corporate synergy with his movie counterpart.)
In a bit of sad irony, though, Hickman’s public embracing of diversity suggests a wider field of awareness than the company’s recent handling of the X-Men, which doesn’t appear to be letting up soon, seeing as how the company’s big move on that front is doting on a version of the five original X-Men…the ones from 1963.
It’s either cynical or hopelessly optimistic that they’re being featured in a book called All-New X-Men, but writer Brian Michael Bendis is playing the “Because You Demanded It!” card.
“That’s the thing X-Men fans always say they want,” he has said. “You go anywhere–‘Bring back Jean Grey!’ But they don’t want a reincarnated Jean Grey, and they don’t want a dug-up Jean Grey. They want Jean.”
I’m willing to bet a fair number of fans also want Storm–and not just chained up on the cover of Wolverine’s latest series. Luckily, Sam Humphries and Ron Garney seem to have picked up on that, based on the cover to the relaunched Uncanny X-Force:
Here we see Ororo at the center of a cast that’s almost entirely comprised of cisgender women, with the male members being Puck, who is a dwarf, and Bishop, the time-bending PoC and former X-Man. (Psylocke, of course, is problematic in her own right.)
So while it’s still early, and there’s definitely gaps in his Avengers roster, Hickman’s statements at least represent a potential change of pace from the company’s past takes on diversity as “contrived.” But the key question moving forward then becomes: how many of these PoC characters will Hickman and the company be prepared to promote on multimedia platforms?