Review: La Borinqueña Short Story for CTRL+ALT Pop-Up Exhibition
Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez (Writer), Matthew Barbot (Editor), Sabrina Cintron (Penciler), Eric Jimnez (Inks), Juan Fernandez (Colorist), William Rosado and Gustavo Vazquez (Breakdowns), Emilo Lopez (Cover Artist), Sabrina Cintron (Pin-up Artist)
Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center
November 12, 2016
Previously I spoke with Miranda-Rodriguez about his upcoming comic La Borinqueña set for release December 22nd of this year and available for sale on his website. The following is a review of a short story commissioned by the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center’s CTRL+ALT pop-up exhibition happening in New York City November 12th and 13th. This short story, featuring Marisol Rios De La Cruz and her best friend Lauren “La La” Liu will be available at the CTRL+ALT pop-up exhibition as well as in the first issue of La Borinquña.
Let it be said, I don’t view La Borinquña as a typical “superhero” story, in that there’s a set-up, there’s an action scene, and then there’s victory at the end of the day where the bad guy is punched and thrown into jail. In fact, there’s very little costumed superheroing featured in La Borinquña. Rather, Marisol is a hero, but she isn’t held back by the traditional parameters of costumed superheroing. The short story establishes instead that there is an underlying problem of corporations dumping toxic waste into unchecked landfills in the Puerto Rican city of Peñuelas. The “big business dumps toxic waste on the little guy” in a superhero story isn’t a new one, but what Miranda-Rodriguez establishes here is a sense of connection and brings to light a real little guy.
The story reflects a real problem currently in Puerto Rico. In July of 2016, Peñuelas Mayor Walter Torres Maldonado stated they were “willing to be arrested” in a protest against depositing coal ash in the municipality’s landfill.
“We will keep fighting for what we understand is right and indeed necessary to preserve the health of our citizens,” Mayor Torres Maldonado had stated.
La Borinquña also brings up the current debt crisis in Puerto Rico and how it’s disenfranchising the island’s citizens. Thus, it takes the simple “big business vs superhero” story and makes it political while also grounding it with a character who is actually is the little guy. Marisol is an Afro-Puerto Rican woman, her fight is a fight for her homeland, and she acts as a symbol for an often forgotten community.
However, instead of overwrought with political messages that feel insincere, Miranda-Rodriguez is able to establish that Marisol, while being a superhero, is also a young Afro-Puerto Rican woman who has lunch with her best friend, takes selfies, and goes dancing. The relationship between Marisol and her best friend, La La, showcases an all too rare relationship between women of color in comics, more so, two mixed-raced women of color whose identities are never forgotten or brushed aside.
La La is one of the very few Asian Latina characters in comics currently. Specifically Chinese-Dominican, La La’s duel identity is not used as a punch line or unspecified. One of the current problems I have with Latinx characters in comics is the ambiguity of their Latinx identities. Not simply the lack of a specified Latinx ethnicity, but the lack of cultural factoring into their presentation and creation. La La is Chinese-Dominican, and she embodies that. She speaks in a mix of Spanish and Chinese, she cooks sancocho and ma po tofu. Small aspects sprinkled throughout the short story establish her racial and ethnic identity with clarity and respect. What’s stated in words is also emphasized in actions. This is how we should be working to establish mixed-raced and ethnically diverse characters. Not by hiding away their identities, but embracing them throughout their story and within the fabric of their personalities.
— Edgardo Miranda-Rodriguez 🇵🇷 La Borinqueña (@MrEdgardoNYC) October 18, 2016
At the end of the day, La La and Marisol save the day from a group of men who have been paid to dump the toxic waste in Peñuelas. What was refreshing was while Marisol was able to stop the bad guys as La Borinquña, she acknowledges the problem at hand–specifically the cases of toxic waste–can’t be saved by her superpowers. Instead, Marisol provides the evidence to a reporter to further expose the story of Peñuelas’ unregulated landfill problem to the people. Truth isn’t won by punching the bad guys, it is won by exposing internal corruption.
I enjoyed Cintron and Jimnez’s on pencils and inks. There are a few moments of awkward angles and paneling, but I appreciated how La La and Marisol were both drawn, especially Marisol in her La Borinquña costume. She appears very muscular and built rather than slim figured. Not that there’s anything wrong with that body type on female comic characters, but there is a disproportionate leaning towards the slim figured, sexy body types for female characters in comics. So this was a nice change on the typical style for female superheroes in comics. Fernandez’s colors at times appear a bit dull, not inducing the brighter aspects of the promotional images and cover image of La Borinquña. However, I appreciated the consistency in colors throughout the short story, especially in regards to skintones of the characters.
Overall, the La Borinquña short story is a promising and strong showcasing of the future of the series itself. It leaves a bit of mystery to intrigue readers for the upcoming first issue, establishes Marisol as a singular character along with an interesting supporting character, and provides a strong foundation for the themes of the future on-going series. It is a refreshing and much welcome read if you’re a Latinx fan of comics, to see to very realistic young mixed-raced Latina women acting as our protagonists and heroes.