I had the pleasure of hearing the author speak at the Reforma Northeast conference yesterday and, despite me not being a comic book buff in any way, shape, or form, I was compelled to support this artist and bought a copy of issue 1 from his table.
This is the story of Marisol, a young college student studying geology at Columbia University who is of Puerto Rican heritage. She lives with her parents in Brooklyn and is set to spend the summer in Puerto Rico with her grandparents while studying at the University of Puerto Rico and doing hands on research in the nearby caves. We meet her as she is about to leave for her semester abroad. When she arrives in Puerto Rico, she is told that her class has been cancelled due to the cut backs throughout academia in PR and, being industrious and eager to finish her degree, she decides to continue her research independently. During her studies and her stay in PR, she begins to understand how the debt crisis is deeply affecting every day people and the life of her family and friends. One night, during the end of her stay, a hurricane hits and she discovers that some of the samples she collected during her research are actually crystals. These crystals end up being the source of great power and through them, she is contacted by Atabex, an ancient god who tells Marisol that she has been chosen as protector of the island. She discovers she has superhuman abilities, strength, and the ability to manipulate nature to do her bidding. I believe this is what the kids today call the origin story.
The illustrations are fantastic and I enjoyed Marisol's character. She's extremely relatable to me and there are parts of her personality that I recognize in people I know and grew up with. There's even a shout out to my favorite Washington Heights restaurant (El Malecon...wuttt) which brings the story home for me on a personal level. But I what I like best about this book is that it is a fresh take on the superhero story. Marisol's story allows the story of Puerto Rico, with its accompanying issues of economy and social issues to come to the forefront. The author does this well and, aside from being refreshing to see a character that looks and acts like Marisol be in the spotlight, it is a clever way to bring the important issues facing Puerto Rico to the consciousness of people beyond the island and the community in New York. I will likely read the whole series and recommend it to library patrons.
After finishing this, I realized it allowed me to cross off another of the Read Harder challenges. Progress!
1. Read a book about sports.
3. Read a book about books.
4. Read a book set in Central or South America, written by a Central or South American author.
5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
8. Read a travel memoir.
9. Read a book you’ve read before.
10. Read a book that is set within 100 miles of your location.
11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
14. Read a book about war.
15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
16. Read a book that has been banned or frequently challenged in your country.
20. Read a book in which a character of color goes on a spiritual journey
21. Read a book published by a micropress.
22. Read a collection of stories by a woman.
24. Read a book wherein all point-of-view characters are people of color.