Review: America #5
America takes a break from time and portal jumping to give us the Amerikate team-up that many fans have wanted since Ms. America first called Kate Bishop aka Hawkeye “princess” in Kieron Gillen and Jamie McKelvie’s Young Avengers. It’s spring break and America is visiting Kate in Venice Beach to catch some sun, drive fast cars, and also get some moral support when she meets her childhood friend, Magdalena, outside of Las Vegas. Their Gabby Rivera and Kelly Thompson penned banter is quick witted, and Kate’s P.I. skills start connecting some of the dots in the larger plot. But the main event of America #5 (America and Magdalena use to be sparring partners as pre-teens.) is the art of Ramon Villalobos and the colors of Tamra Bonvillain with Brittany Peer.
Villalobos uses texture and body language to create the rapport between Kate and America, which is like two old friends instantly picking up where they left off. They spend an entire page chatting hilarious about comfy pillows, and Kate is definitely there to empathize and accommodate with pizza and a pull-up bar that helps America think and process. Villalobos draws them in a variety of relaxed poses in the early going because it’s basically a big sleepover complete with Bonvillain’s welcoming, orange Southern California twilight. Re-establishing this bond definitely makes the tight and close car chases, punching, explosions, and killer final page more urgent and riveting.
America #5 is awesome because it’s an action romantic comedy starring two queer and one questioning woman. Rivera, Thompson, Villalobos, and Bonvillain aren’t afraid to surrender to melodrama a little bit in sepia toned flashbacks that show the deep bond between America and Magdalena. These scenes are intense like any teenage crush, and it’s seriously relatable to see Kate “translate” Magdalena’s current day texts to America. America definitely has that feeling in the pit of her stomach about someone she cares about deeply and romantically even her words about Magdalena seem guarded. But she has always been more of an action and reflection person, and a close-up of her holding Magdalena’s flowers tells us everything we need to know about her feelings. Bonvillain’s colors for them is pretty too.
The conflict in America #5 is definitely driven by the metaphorical bandages of America and Magdalena’s long simmering romance being torn off, but Rivera, Thompson, and Villalobos keep the comic centered in the friendship between America and Kate. It’s honestly one of the best ones in the Marvel Universe. Who needs complex space/ex-girlfriend/boxing plots when you could have a “Just A Girl” car karaoke complete with Kate and America’s smiling faces and hair blowing in the wind. This scene is a moment of pure exuberance and relief in the midst of traffic and drama and is immediately undercut by a biker in the rearview mirror. This image nicely transitions America #5 from the chilling to the action portion of the story though instead of going for a cheap page turn reveal. Villalobos builds suspense and then lets Kate and America cut loose. He fills the page with plenty of helicopters, bikers, and cyborgs for them to punch until they ‘splode.
Action, romance, opening up, friendship, and quips on quips on quips, America #5 is the team-up comic that we deserve. Gabby Rivera and Kelly Thompson’s writing for America and Kate is so entertaining that I could read an entire comic of them eating pizza and chatting, and their bond also allows America to open up and be vulnerable just a little bit in the quiet moments where she thinks no one is watching. Ramon Villalobos continues to be the master of body language and non-verbal cues to craft characters, and his car chases are a thing of a beauty. Tamra Bonvillain and Brittany Peer go both hot and desolate with their color palette like America’s feelings and the Nevada desert respectively.
To quote the comic itself, if you like “slaying monsters, the patriarchy, and extra large pizzas” plus heart wounding feelings and art that is the polar opposite of house style, America #5 is the book for you.
Story: Gabby Rivera and Kelly Thompson Art: Ramon Villalobos
Colors: Tamra Bonvillain with Brittany Peer
Story: 8.5 Art: 9.5 Overall: 9.0 Recommendation: Buy