As a Latina, I always feel the warm and fuzzies whenever I see a Latina protagonist in pop culture. The trouble is, that’s a rarity in comics. The last time I felt those warm and fuzzies was when Marvel gave us Anya Corazon as Spider-Girl. And while the Marvel U continues to Latin-ize the Spider Family with Miles Morales as the current Spider-Man in the Ultimate Universe, they’ve sort of dropped the ball on Anya Corazon, her solo title having petered out, and her last appearance having been during the Spider Island event last year.
Thankfully, Vertigo has picked up the Latina slack with their title, Saucer Country, created by writer Paul Cornell and artist Ryan Kelly.
Arcadia Alvarado is the Governor of New Mexico, and the Democratic Party’s main candidate to run for President of the United States. She is a politically ambitious woman who is nonetheless genuinely concerned with people’s well-being. She has a complicated relationship with her ex-husband, Michael, and she suffers from strange dreams. However, she soon realizes that these dreams might not be dreams at all, but memories – memories of the time she was abducted and violated by aliens. Are aliens real? Or are these dreams her way of processing a more mundane traumatic event? Either way, she decides to run for President of the United States determined to win so that she can learn the truth.
Paul Cornell has created a wonderful character in Arcadia. She is a fully-formed, nuanced character from the moment we’re introduced to her in Issue #1; not the idealization of what a Latina in office would be, and not a stereotype. At first, I balked at the fact that she was divorced (why not show a happy Latino marriage?), but that fell away immediately. Latinos have problems just like everyone else, and it’s not up to Arcadia to be a “role model” for an entire group of people. To me, it’s more important to see a multi-faceted Latina character than to see a perfect one or a demonized one.
Cornell surrounds her with an intriguing supporting cast including her ex, Michael (who’s having his own hard time dealing with his shared “alien” experience with Arcadia), her Republican campaign advisor, Chloe (who is expert at keeping her on her toes and preparing Arcadia for the opposition), and Professor Kidd, a former Harvard professor with an interest in UFO mythology who is helping Arcadia gather information about alien abduction (with the help of a mysterious glowing couple that seems to be following him around wherever he goes).
Speaking of that couple, sometimes the stories get just out-and-out weird. You’ll be chugging along with the story of Arcadia’s run for President only to be blindsided by….weirdness. It’s a little jarring. Then again, so’s alien abduction, from what I’ve heard, so I’m guessing this is part of the point, and it’s one of the reasons why I adore the title so much. It isn’t afraid to plunge you into weirdness, because it’s so well-written that it deftly pulls you back up to the safety and familiarity of the political intrigue…and you’re kind of left looking forward to the next bout of weird.
I’ve been a fan of Ryan Kelly’s art since The New York Four. I particularly love the way he draws women. He’s adept at showing their variations – looking at Arcadia and Chloe, for example, you see two fit women with two completely different body types – and he dresses them normally, not in revealing, skimpy outfits for their own sake. At first, it was strange seeing his work colored – I love his stuff in black and white, and Giulia Brusco’s colors threw me for a loop at first. But having Arcadia be dark is so important that, despite preferring Ryan’s pencils in black and white, I love them in color, because of what that means for representation.
Kelly and Cornell are a great team, as both of them are equally good at grounding the story in reality and allowing it to flit off into strangeness for a little while. Saucer Country is a great read, and is essentially The X-Files
MeetsThe West Wing with a Latina protagonist at its center. Politics and UFO nerds rejoice!
Issue #10 of Saucer Country hit stores this week! The first trade, titled Saucer Country Vol. 1: Run collects Issues #1-6, and is also available wherever Vertigo comics are sold.
Latina, Paul Cornell, Ryan Kelly, Saucer Country, Vertigo, aliens, comics, politics