Look, it's a pretty clear fact by now that I like diversity. Diversity in media and life makes me happy because I think that when we all mix together a bit we can tell much better stories. Diverse stories are, by and large, better stories, because they draw from a wider base of human experience than just the tried and expected "white guy with commitment issues" base.
That having been said, however, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of having been gifted with some wonderful new diverse media that I kind of don't like. At all. Because I think it's not very good. And I feel really bad about that.
The media in question is, as you might have guess from above, the new comics about Captain America and Thor, where the old usual white guys have been replaced by a black guy and a white woman respectively. In Captain America, Steve Rogers has given up the title to finally go off and enjoy his much needed retirement (he is in his nineties, after all), and the mantle of Captain America has passed to his good friend and colleague, Sam Wilson. You may remember Sam as being the super awesome guy played by Anthony Mackie in Captain America: The Winter Soldier. Yeah. That guy. He's Captain America now, and it's great.
As for Thor, the actual crown prince of Asguard is no longer worthy of wielding Mjolnir and so the hammer and the title of "Thor"* have gone to an unknown white woman. We have yet to see her face, but so far we know that she is probably American and a little surprised to be gifted with cosmic powers. So, again, a potentially awesome storyline.
The problem I have with these two comics, which are both in their very early stages, it should be noted, is that they're not very good. As in, while the concepts are super cool and I'm all for them, the actual comics themselves are confusing, badly written, and so embedded in Marvel lore as to be virtually unreadable to me, and I consider myself pretty well versed.
They're not good. It's hard for me to admit this, but it's pretty clear. These issues of the comics are really difficult to get through, and I, at least, am having a lot of trouble giving a crap about the storylines. Which is a problem, since both stories are dealing with apocalypse level events. Captain America has Sam and Nomad (Steve's son Ian) investigating a kidnapping that slowly reveals that HYDRA has infiltrated literally every level of power in the world and if they don't stop it the world will just end like tomorrow. And Thor gives us our new Thor facing off against an invasion of Frost Giants who have partnered with the Dark Elves to invade Earth and have destroyed all the other great heroes of the world.
Clearly the stakes are high in both of those stories. But for whatever reason, I just could not care less about them. I tried. I tried real hard, and I got nowhere.
So what should I do? I want to support diversity in comics, and I think that the nominal idea of having Captain America and Thor be represented by new and different characters is super cool, but I do not like these storylines and I don't really want to keep reading them. Should I keep buying them just for the sake of supporting them? Should I support them when I think they're badly written and kind of terrible?
Now, a big part of my frustration comes from the fact that the storylines in these comics are dense and hard to get into if you haven't been steeping in the larger Marvel-verse for a few decades. Compare them to something like Captain Marvel, which has very intentionally gone out and is creating new worlds, or Elektra, which is developing the old characters along new lines, or even Hawkeye, which has the same villains as usual but also a smattering of just life stuff and character development and Clint and Kate being terrible at adulthood, and Captain America and Thor both come off as if they're trying too hard.
Which I think they probably are. Marvel is a company that has always been very aware of diversity and aware of the positive values of aligning themselves with diverse groups, because that's where the money is. It's without a doubt in my mind that their decision to make Captain America black and Thor a woman was done with an increased audience and therefore increased sales in mind. And I'm okay with that. That's business.
But because they are focused on the business side of things so carefully, I think they got too caught up in the idea that "we have to treat these properties specially. The battles that the new Captain America and new Thor fight must be bigger and better and stronger battles." They don't want anyone to claim that because Thor is a woman they're giving her weaker enemies, or that they're implying that a black Captain America can't fight the same villains as white Cap. They don't want to say that, so they're making the stories as big and bold as possible.
Unfortunately, as I stated above, that doesn't work when I'm not invested in the characters yet. I don't really care, because they're both so new that I have yet to develop strong feelings about them as characters. I love Sam Wilson, but I don't know who he is as Captain America, and he's being thrown into this crazy intense storyline that I have trouble following, and it's hard not to just check out.
It's this intense focus on making sure that the stakes are suitably high that takes away from us learning about the characters as people. Contrast this with the new first issue of The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, which follows a superhero I was only tangentially aware of fighting against a supervillain I'm not super familiar with and I loved it. It was amazing and full of character and a perfect first issue to get me invested in the story. Yeah, the stakes were really low, but that's okay, because now I know a lot more about Doreen and what being Squirrel Girl means to her.
Sam Wilson, on the other hand, really hasn't had much to do that isn't just fighting so far. It's been all action for three issues, and while that's good, I guess, it's not making me at all interested in him as a character. It doesn't feel like the story is about what he can bring to the idea of Captain America, it's just some supervillains and a lot of fights. It's meh. Very meh.
And while I like the idea of a slow reveal on who the new Thor is, in practice it's kind of a problem because if I have no idea who this chick is, it's pretty hard to give a crap about her. I have no emotional investment in this character because so far she has not a single shred of personality.
I honestly don't know if this means I'm giving up on the new Captain America and Thor, or if I'll wait another few issues and see. Right now I'm feeling pretty discouraged. Yes, there are other comics out there that are doing fantastic and have amazing representation, but these are two of Marvel's flagships. I mean, it's Captain freaking America and Thor, for crying out loud. It is so wonderful to have them be these new, different characters. And it sucks so hard that the stories just aren't very good.
*Since anyone who wields Mjolnir is Thor. It's a little screwy but just go with it because comics don't really get any less screwy.