Review by Frank Plowright
It was a fair way into The Life and Time of America Chavez before writer Gabby Rivera adapted to the formula for writing comics and presented America Chavez as something more than just a one-dimensional voicebox for snappy dialogue. The change came as America met her grandmother and learned more of her background. That’s where Rivera picks up here, having America’s grandmother Madrimar show her the origin of the Utopian Parallel where she came from, why people fled, and why her grandmother hadn’t previously been able to intervene in her life. It’s still high on snappy comebacks instead of any emotional depth, but readable, and nicely drawn by guest artists Jen Bartel, Ming Doyle, Aud Koch and Annie Wu, each allocated a specific sequence.
Rivera still has a tendency to prioritise a smart line over being true to the way people would react to any given situation, but importantly during Fire and Fuertona it’s not as all-pervasive as previously, meaning the stories flow far more smoothly. The main piece is a sadistic school teacher skit in which America’s private school is taken over by the villain Exterminatrix, albeit not in her dominatrix costume, but in severe civvies, although how is never explained. It seems to be an allegorical piece concerning the debate in wider American society about the border between freedom and security, and has fun moments for anyone who can overlook that it’s barely logical in places.
Joe Quinones (sample art left) only manages the single complete chapter in his clear, smooth style, and replacement artist Flaviano is quite the contrast. His figures are looser, he prefers larger panels, and prefers to have the viewpoint close in on people, which is different to not only other artists used on the book, but to Bartel, Wu and Stacey Lee who contribute a fair number of pages to the chapters he draws. It makes for some schizoid storytelling.
There’s too much self-congratulatory back-slapping, too much doing the show right here, and too many times when revelations serve plot twists rather than logic, but Fast and Fuertona is an improvement on The Life and Time of America Chavez, while dampening its random nature. Where Rivera’s good is in coming up with solutions to the problems she’s set involving more than just fists flying, and given a third graphic novel she might have delivered on promise.