You’ll Want In On This House Party: AOC and the Freshman Force: New Party, Who Dis?

AOC & the Freshman Force

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the Freshman Force: New Party, Who Dis

R. Sikoryak, Nick Accardi, Travis Hymel, Micah Myers; Sherard Jackson; Marguerite Dabaie; Kit Caoagas, K. Lynn Smith; Josh Blaylock; Peter Rostovsky; Dean Haspiel, Christa Cassano; Pat Shand, Larry Watts, Jim Campbell; Sam Wells, Liz McArthur; Hoyt Silva; Jill Thompson; Jeffrey Burandt, Sean Von Gorman, Paul Mounts; Elizabeth Marley Kim, Shawn DePasquale; Jose Garibaldi; Adam McGovern, Jason Goungor
Devil’s Due Comics
May 15, 2019

This anthology celebrating the most diverse Congressional class in American history is one house party you want to attend.

A Latina stands atop a red elephant with the Capitol in the background
Cover by Tim Seeley & Josh Blaylock

It’s hard to wake up in 2019 and not feel dread. While we seem to be in an endless dumpster fire putting us on the short track to Gilead, there are glimmers of hope. One of those was the 2018 mid-term US elections, which saw record numbers of women and people of color elected to Congress. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is one such people, the youngest person elected to Congress, and a not-so closet nerd. This is a woman who quotes Watchmen on Twitter, celebrates when Star Trek: Voyager’s Kate Mulgrew came to one of her campaign rallies, and shows up during a Donkey Kong 64 charity stream. It’s no surprise she’s the star of a comic book celebrating her success.

Comic anthologies can be used to educate and entertain as neutrally as possible. Where We Live and Mine! are two great examples of the anthology serving these purposes. But this one throws that convention out the window. It embraces entertainment and its political views with no shame in its biting satire, and celebrates not just AOC, but all the women that won last November. Now, it offers a male-heavy creative roster with a few features women creators like Beast of Burden‘s Jill ThompsonPlume’s K. Lynn Smith, and Christa Cassano (John Leguizamo’s Ghetto Klown). This lack of representation in the creative lineup does not sit well with me – few women, even fewer people of color. If you celebrate diversity like this, celebrate it on and off the page.

The pop culture aspects play a huge role. Nick Accardi, Travis Hymel, and Micah Myers turn our Congresswomen into wrestlers in “AOC 3:16,” complete with all the WWE trappings. (That’s a GLOW special episode I certainly want to see.) Adam McGovern and Jason Goungor give the decision to run for Congress the Matrix treatment with “The Matriarchy Reloaded.” AOC is a woman who uses social media and pop culture to make policy points, so this is in line with how she thinks and speaks.  I was happy to see that these references have international recognition. This book is American, but an international audience can understand it.  At the same time, I worry that the pop culture will date the book. Will it remain timeless when read a generation or two later?

The story that tugged my heartstrings the most is “The Shoe Deal.” This is the story of AOC’s campaign, told from the perspective of the famous pair of shoes she wore on her campaign trail. These shoes are a testament to how persistence and hard work will pay off. And that’s a lesson we all can use when times get bleak and we feel our work to defend our rights will end up being for nothing. It ends with the battered shoes on display in a museum (which actually did happen), wondering if they are still useful. As if expecting the page to answer back to me, I said “Yes, shoes. Yes. you are still useful. Useful and inspirational.” I love humor, but I love it more when a story puts a tear in my eye.

There are also the more intellectual stories. Peter Rostovsky’s photorealistic “Dance Party” looks at the history of dancing politicians to put AOC’s viral dance video in context. “Why I’m Rooting for Fox” by Josh Blaylock explains that mainstream media coverage of Trump is beneficial for progressives. It’s one of the more text-heavy entries in the anthology, but words and pictures balance each other out very well. Even the most serious moments still have that lighthearted air about them, providing understandable civic education. As much as I enjoyed humor, I wanted to see more stories that leaned less into the silly.  The 2016 election transformed civic engagement in very radical ways, paving the way for a 2019 Congress that looks like America. There’s so much more in the past three years that we can explore. And humor isn’t always the effective way to do it.

One aspect missing in this and many other anthologies are those stories that provide the direct call to action. It’s wonderful to relive the journey AOC took to office. But what’s next? A contribution explaining how to effectively communicate with lawmakers would make this stand out from the pack – especially since so much misinformation on this topic floats around the Internet. And the 2016 election inspired people like AOC to run for office, so why not a story or two to tell us how to do it ourselves?

I wonder if the single issue was the wrong format to take for AOC and the Freshman Force: New Party, Who Dis?. Should it have been a 200 plus page work that would provide solutions to these critiques?  The anthology market is a crowded one, and this may well have been lost in the shuffle. But you cannot deny what lives in this comic: laughs and heart that leave you empowered to continue the work, even on the darkest of days.

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski

Librarian by day, comics nerd by day and by night. Also published at Geeks OUT and Multiversity Comics (where she is also the social media manager for the site). Originally from New Jersey, now of Connecticut and New York City. Raging feminist your mother probably warned you about. Body positivity and LGBTQ+ advocate. Lover of good whiskey, Jensen Ackles, Doctor Who, Funko Pops, knitting, Hamilton, and the New York Mets. Will defend the Oxford Comma to her deathbed. Find her on twitter at @librarian_kate