Representation Roll Call: The Black List

Welcome back, gentle readers! My cute little roll call format and I have missed you so. Lady Saika and I wrote a post about the new Mighty Avengers (2013) #1, which features a great cast of characters, many of whom are black and/or Hispanic. Since you might not know who some of them are, I figured I’d give you a little rundown on the crew.

Let’s jump into it, shall we? According to Wikipedia, the Infinity Event Mighty Avengers includes the following characters: Luke Cage, Victor Alvarez, Ava Ayala, Monica Rambeau, Otto Octavius/Peter Parker, Adam Brashear, Samuel Wilson, and Jennifer Walters. You’ll recognize some of those names right off the bat, but I think it’s telling just to look at the names of the cast laid out. I’m not going to address all of them, just my relevant favorites (sorry Otto/Jennifer/Sam/Adam)!

#1: Luke Cage

404px-Luke_CageWhat is there to say about the original Power Man? Plenty. Luke Cage has a 40-year history in comics, first appearing in the 1972 Luke Cage, Hero for HireIntroduced toward the end of the Black Power movement, Cage (originally Carl Lucas) was raised in Harlem. He ran with a gang called the Rivals and committed acts of petty crime and thuggery with the original Diamondback. After being captured and used in an experiment based on the Super Soldier process, Cage gained superhuman strength and unbreakable skin and subsequently used his newfound powers to escape. With these abilities, Cage made a name for himself as a mercenary hero, befriending the Fantastic Four, chasing down Spider-Man, and allying with the Iron Fist. That partnership would eventually lead to the first iteration of Heroes for Hire in 1997.

Following that release, Luke Cage has been active in every major Marvel storyline in the early 2000s, including Siege, Secret War, Heroic Age and AVX (Avengers vs X-Men). He’s been an Avenger, a Defender, and a Thunderbolt. He’s gone toe-to-toe with Skrulls, Daredevil, and Elektra, as well as members of A.I.M. and Hydra. Some of his best appearances are in the Secret Invasion and Civil War storylines, so check those out if you want to know more this absolute BAMF. You’ll not only get to see him kick lots of butt, but also watch him reorient toward his family, which is instrumental in his choice to form the Mighty Avengers after leaving the Avengers team.

#2 Victor Alvarez

new powerman_ironfistAfro-Dominican Victor Alvarez (Power Man) is much like Cage. He was born in New York City—Hell’s Kitchen, to be specific. He has super strength and toughness, although he gets it by absorbing the chi of those around him, an ability gained during a terrible childhood accident where he survived by absorbing the energy of those around him that had been killed…. He has a serious attitude and a problem with authority, entirely besides the fact that his costume is a reference to that of Cage’s Power Man. That’s not to say that he isn’t his own character. In addition to distinguishing himself as a hero during the Fear Itself (2010) storyline, he becomes part of the Avengers Academy.

While there haven’t been many pages yet devoted to him because of his relatively recent introduction, he’s filling out his own shoes pretty well. On the subject of shoes, it’s made pretty clear in the first issue of Mighty Avengers that he’d like to put his boot right in the “posterior Spider-Hole.” That’s enough for me, so keep an eye on him in the future.

#3 Ava Ayala

Ava Ayala is the White Tiger, and the third such Ayala to hold that title. Hector Ayala (her brother) and Angela del Toro (her niece) both held the mantle and the Amulets of Power before eventually passing them to Ava. Her amulets give her superhuman strength, speed, and agility, as well as access to the strength and experiences of a career warrior. Her determination and devotion to her family and her Hispanic heritage move her character forward, and it’s relevant to her appearance in the first issue of Mighty Avengers (2013). You should read it and find out what I’m talking about (subtlety!). Ava’s first appearance is in Avenger’s Academy (2011), where she, to my point, calls out Reptil for not sufficiently engaging with his own Hispanic heritage.

She also appears on the Ultimate Spider-Man television show. Feel free to watch 9 minutes of her being a laugh riot:

4. Monica Rambeau

Photon_Monica_Rambeau_by_Dante_PicassoMonica Rambeau, aka Captain Marvel aka Photon aka Pulsar, currently known as Spectrum, has the stunning ability to convert any part of her body into electromagnetic energy of any sort, allowing her to manipulate those energies, travel at the speed of light, and run things as Beyoncé might suggest. Former leader of both The Avengers and Nextwave, she has proven herself unafraid to challenge the Olympians, the X-Men, and the Leviathan, and is one my personal favorites, as much for her attitude as her compelling character. Rambeau is a leader and giver, in both superpowered and civilian life, having served as a beat cop and a Harbor Patrol officer in New Orleans. In any case, as she is arguably the most powerful member of the new team, I’d imagine that her role in fighting Proxima is going to be significant.

Monica_Rambeau_(Earth-616)_Mighty-Avengers_1In Mighty Avengers, it is her detour into Luc’s superhero costume shop, (why is this not a real thing?!) that brings in our mystery character (who is probably Ronin). While we’re talking about the costume, Monica’s new one, designed by Luc, it’s pretty different from her former threads, something that is mentioned in the comic itself. She’s had about a 30 year history in comics, originally designed to be a send-up of Pam Grier, who was an icon and major sex symbol in the 70s and 80s. This looks like a fresh take on her, at least appearance-wise, but not one that ignores her rich character history. Thumbs up!

The whole history of the Avengers, with countless offshoots like Dark, Mighty, Secret, and New, holds the stories of only 19 black characters. I’m going to be watching this book to see what it does with five black primary characters in a single comic. As far as I know, that’s unheard of in a mainstream title, so you can expect to hear more from me about the Mighty Avengers. In the meantime, go out and buy some issues that feature one of these characters. Many of them are already in trade hardcovers or paperbacks, and I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed.