How the bread is made:
I spent around three and a half to four hours last night writing up my review of Mighty Avengers #1 for Thor's Comic Column, which is far longer than any review should really ever take. Usually a full-scale, pro-style review takes about an hour to write up and a few scattered moments beforehand thinking about the material and finding a direction or angle.
For Mighty Avengers, I really wanted to focus on the book itself, the surprising fun stuff that Al Ewing does, and the annoying interference of the Infinity event on it. I wanted to talk about the cast choices, and my own issues with Superio Spiderman. I wanted to dig into the +/- of Greg Land as artist and the multitude of decisions made here that will invariably sink the title rather than bolster it as intended. But at the same time, I couldn't avoid the exterior cultural elements to it, like how the editorial mandate of a predominantly African-American cast reflects how far the comics mainstream still has to go before they get it. Beyond that, there's the dismissive internet reaction to a "black Avengers", and the larger implication of such a book.
Bleeding Cool just reported about how underordered the book was and it took me right back to the 90's and the general comic fan and retailer reactions towards Milestone comics, which were, and remain, favourites of mine. But those books were explicitly created and designed to fill an identifiable void in mainstream comics, not just in terms of characters but creator voices. The intention was never exclusivity, though that's the perception that stuck with Milestone through to the end. Kids these don't see race quite the same way anymore, but comic makers, moreover the editors and publishers still think that "Affirmative Action Avengers" is somehow worthy of a pat on the back (and a spraypainted logo on the front). For all the shitting I do on DC for their editorially mandated comics and stories, I can't ignore that Marvel is complicit in this department as well.
But touching on race is always a delicate issue. It makes me uncomfortable, same with religion and politics (to a lesser extent) because l really wish it wasn't still such an issue, that we could all just be a big happy planet of people who can accept each other regardless of what we look like, treating and accepting each other as individuals and not as crude stereotypes. But that's not this world and it seems that race never stops being an issue so long as disparity and prejudices exist. And ignoring it doesn't make it go away.
It took me so long to write my review because mainly it's a topic l don't focus on very often. I live in one of (if not the) the most multicultural cities in the world. I am arm-to-arm with all different people every day, l have a day job which has me dealing with hundreds of people internationally. The thought of "racial tension" seems archaic to me and counterproductive to daily living. But I know it's not gone away. Toronto is a lovely microcosm of cultural commingling but it's not the norm. And even it's not immune to prejudice and hate. I know racists and homophobes and misogynists are still out there, far too many in positions of power and that there are still so many issues to be dealt with to get us to a world or a country or a comics community of acceptance. I'm a comic reviewer, I saw an issue and l commented on it, as is my station.
But in doing so I had to spend so much time making sure that my points, both about the book and about the larger context of "black-focused comics" wasn't lost. I wrote at least a dozen paragraphs and I didn't even touch upon the overzealous $3.99 price point. Marvel should be all too aware, rather than oblivious to the uphill battle this book would have in the market. Even if $3.99 is more the norm than the exception to the rule at this point, the milking of the Avengers franchise (which has gotten pretty ridiculous) and the tie-in shenanigans are less incentives and not so deserving of "bonus pricing" (which also includes digital download). A $2.99 price point may have been all it took to put more eyes on the book.
As a fan of the medium, I want it to not just appear inclusive, but actually be such. I want the Mighty Avengers to succeed so that there is a prominent predominantly not-white guy superhero team book on the stands that eventually transcends its predominantly non-white guys image and delivers great stories and characters and shows DC and Marvel that anything can be successful. I just want it to succeed on the backs of its creators who have actual stories to tell and not on the misguided pushes of the publisher and editorial.
I probably wont stick with it in the short term, but I will come back in a few months, post Infinity, when She-Hulk and Blue Marvel are on board, and see how it's going.