The Bakian family: Anwen; her father, Menzin; little sister Fayne; and her grandfather live in a post-apocalyptic world ravaged by gigantic alien bugs and different factions waging war in search of the all-powerful Infinity Stones.
After a harrowing adventure in which the family is attacked by the insects, they are saved by matriarch Eve, who has joined an intergalactic military organization called the Nova Corps. She then gives them a gem that fits them in a powerful Nova suit.
All the while, the evil time-traveling Thanos is lurking in the shadows, plotting to thwart the Bakians looking for opportunities to strike and take the Infinity Stones for himself.
No, this isn’t a sci-fi version of “Black-ish.” Instead Marvel Comics has brought back its “The Infinity Gauntlet” heroes in a mini-series as part of their 2015 “Secret Wars” crossover.
Written and illustrated by Dustin Weaver and Gerry Dugan, what makes the cosmic conflict plot interesting is it features a Black family as the main protagonists. While Black superheroes go back as far as Marvel’s Black Panther (and let’s not forget favorites like Luke Cage, Storm and D.C.’s Cyborg), “The Infinity Gauntlet” (which itself debuted in 1991) includes compelling themes like conflicting responsibilities to kind and kin, power’s corruptive effect, the maturation of youth in war-zones, and the rebuilding the family after destruction or separation, in this case a Black family, which pulls Afro-futuristic dynamics to the story.
The characters in “The Infinity Gauntlet” also counter several mainstream tropes and archetypes normally seen in comics. When they accept the stars, Anwen and Fayne are Black and female characters given super abilities that are typically offered to young adult, caucasian and male ones — or phenotypically caucasian, for example, since Superman is technically an alien.
But saying Clark Kent is white is hardly a gross mischaracterization. This form of ultimate agency is a trait often missing from mainstream comics Black characters. This is also one of the few instances when Black super-heroes are saving the world, not just their neighborhood.
Also, while there have been comics depicting Black families before (Black Panther and Storm were married for six years, in case you’re not a comic book nerd), this may be one of, if not the first Marvel comic with a Black family being the central characters in a conflict narrative, with a Black mother as leader.
Eve and Menzin’s relationship is complex, full of feelings of love, some resentment, and other conflicting emotions. But there is no hint of patriarchy or power struggle between the two. It’s a great depiction of not only cooperative parenting, but an illustration of masculine stability, not fragility, in the presence of strong Black femininity.
Comics like these bolster Marvel’s initiative to increase diversity, as many of its newest, most popular comics feature both women and people of color, like Miles Morales, a half-Black, half-Puerto Rican alternate Spider-Man, Ms. Marvel, a Muslim American super heroine, the Moon Girl and the Devil Dinosaur comic, and the upcoming 2018 Black Panther movie, which will be Marvel’s very first film featuring as Black hero as the main character. It also coincides with the broader increased demand for diverse representation in mainstream media, art, and animation.
For many of us, the last couple of years has shown that representation matters, as we saw the box office success of the film “Home”, surging popularity from shows like Doc McStuffins, the animated film version of Khalil Gibran’s “The Prophet”, the unveiling of Disney’s new Polynesian princess, Moana, and more. These successes help promote the idea that diverse storytelling and universality are linked, and that diversity has a market in the entertainment industry.
But aside from the deeper symbolism, those looking for a fun, well-illustrated comic with an exciting plot, can follow Marvel’s new Black family of super-heroes on their quest to keep the family together, reclaim the Infinity Stones, and of course, save the galaxy.