Avengers Academy: Queer Rep Done Well in Capes

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Avengers Academy is a free-to-play mobile game, though it’s more of a waiting-for-timers game in my experience. Unlike a lot of my friends on here I don’t like Avengers Academy, well, as a game. The business model is just too awful, and I can’t find myself invested in real time-based gameplay loops that cause me to spend money if I fail. I say all this because I am going to spend the rest of the article praising it. I’ll be taking a look at the A-Force event in the game that introduced two canon queer characters to the game, as well as allowed Loki to express their gender. Avengers Academy is what I dream of for Marvel and manages in small beats to do queer representation better than a lot of the comic book industry.

I redownloaded this game for the A-Force event. I couldn’t not do this when two of my favorite characters, America Chavez and Angela, and one of my top two characters, Loki, were getting to finally do what I wanted from them. I couldn’t make it through the end of week two of the event thanks to paywalls, but, thank Loki, people can take screenshots. I was expecting a lot worse from this given this game’s younger demographics, Marvel’s history with queer people, etc., etc. Yet, here I sit amazed by the high quality work put into Angela, America Chavez, and the trans character Loki.

Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.

Loki’s costume starts off on the right foot with one of the most powerful lines from Agent of Asgard: “It’s me, first and last and always.” This simple line, as a trans person, as a person on the nonbinary spectrum, means so much. It’s a bold statement that gender and presentation don’t mean Loki stops being Loki; while she may be “Lady Loki,” she is never not Loki. This is further underscored in Loki and Thor’s dialogues when they speak about the way they see gender. There is even a scene in which Loki talks to Singularity about why she chose to be in a female form, and then Loki echoes the same feelings. There is some masterful writing on this gendered experience, and it’s such a relief. Loki has had a rough year post Secret Wars. Vote Loki had a scene where Loki states, while in feminine form, that she was only doing that for votes. In a similar vain, Mighty Thor not only gave Loki the worst beard in comics, but also a scene where Lady Loki while fighting Jane Thor calls the other Lokis men. The hope for quality nonbinary representation for Loki was gone, but at the tail end of the year Avengers Academy brought it back. 
Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.When we get exchanges like the one above we see a commonplace acceptance of Loki as a genderfluid character. There is questioning, but Loki is very much in control. Loki isn’t misgendered, but mistrusted due to her history. It’s handled very well and played just right in the delicate lines that are needed for portraying Loki’s gender in a pre-Goddess of Stories form. This Loki is still very much dealing with all the issues that Asgard has placed on them, getting some of the highlights from Agent of Asgard’s portrayal of gender for the character, but keeping it true to the established status of Loki in the game.
Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.America Chavez makes her status as a lesbian very clear in a lot of her dialogue with male characters. In a similar fashion, other characters make sure the dudes know America and Angela aren’t interested in them. None of these characters have their sexuality as the only part that defines them, but it is clearly an important part of them that the game is not at all shy about expressing. With a game that is obviously aiming for a younger demographic, this is particularly important. Younger people need to know it’s okay to be themselves and also that they have to respect other people’s dating preferences. It’s a shame these characters will be mostly locked behind this event, but clearly people are seeing this content or they wouldn’t still be developing these events.

Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.While America is quick to turn down men, this doesn’t happen with Loki. Loki’s actual attempt to ask America to dance isn’t met with a “I don’t do boys,” but simply questioning Loki’s motives (like how America would question anyone trying to date her). This acceptance as a non binary feminine person is really a great display of nuance in sexuality and displaying that America isn’t transphobic. With scenes like this we are seeing so much more than the words in the scene. The scene ends with America saying she just likes to know what she is dealing with and Loki says simply, “You’re dealing with Loki, and when you deal with Loki you dance…”  The amount of Agency given to Loki and the nuance given to America is wonderful.Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.One of the most important factors in writing high quality queer characters is interaction with other queer characters. Angela and America’s banter, in which they could mention attraction, was not a conversation that meant they needed to make kissy faces. The two lesbians could actually be friends to one another as America talks about wanting to help her save her girlfriend, and Angela gets to say going in alone is for the better.

Speaking of Angela’s girlfriend, Sera actually gets a nod in the game, and that’s more then she’s gotten since the tragic cancellation of Angela: Queen of Hel. Guardians of the Galaxy and Mighty Thor both totally ignore that Queen of Hel happened, opting to return Angela to bikini armor and ignoring the fact she has a powerful magical girlfriend. While not all couples necessarily hero togethr, Angela and Sera are partners in more than the romantic sense. Angela needs Sera and that means if Sera can be there she will be. They love each other and count on each other in all things. It’s clearly painted here and painfully ignored in the comics.

Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016. Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.We also get something we haven’t had in the comics and that is a seemingly healthy sisterly relationship building between Loki and Angela. The two characters are very damaged by family, Angela raised by Angels who sought to torture Asgard and Loki taken by Asgard from their birth family — children damaged by events they had no way to have a say in. The bond building between them and Angela’s acceptance of Loki as a sister is so beautiful.

Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016. Avengers Academy, TinyCo, 2016.Arguably the best part of all this is that Avengers Academy allows for queer characters to be funny. They aren’t all copies of one another either; Loki is snarky, sharp-witted, and smart, whereas Angela has a dry humor that lets her be funny in a similar way to Drax in Guardians of the Galaxy. America Chavez is a powerhouse, but she has the laid back and cool personality that lends well to her teasing other people. These are well-crafted characters with lots of layers that really display what’s good about working with other people’s IPs. The writers on this game build on the lore in ways that many mainstream comic book writers seem to fail at.

This game perfectly captures the queer-friendly voice that is bringing life back into comics and securing a future in it. This game would feel right at home with the BOOM! Box line-up of comics with narratives that infuse fun into bigger discussions. This isn’t invested in the drama of the bad things but exploring the joy, the hope, the possibility. Personally, I’m dying to see if one day they will give me Sera in this game so that we can have a binary trans person of color represented in the game and see the clever writing that could be done for her.

I am really thankful to Allen Warner, the lead narrative designer on the game, who is chiefly responsible for a lot of this, as well as the rest of the TinyCo crew. I don’t know how long it will be until I find another piece of media that treats these characters with this amount of respect for their queerness. All I can say is I hope this gets spinoff comics (call me, Marvel), cartoons (call me, Marvel), toys (actually can’t help here, Marvel), and more. Avengers Academy is a vision for the future of Marvel I didn’t think I could have. If this was the universe I think all I could do is sing its praises. I hope at the very least, some writers look at this game and take lessons from some of the great subtle things it does.  

Special thanks to because level 57 is too far away for collecting all these images from the game.

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Latnix, Femmy Enby nerd who cares about consumers and progress. I write comics for fun and some times money. You can see me scream at the sky @transcomics on twitter. You can support me on Patreon for more content if you like my stuff https://www.patreon.com/SergioAlexis .

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