This post will contain spoilers for Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #3.
Yesterday, I spent a lot of my morning talking on twitter about representation in comics, particularly among the Big Two, with an eye to gender diversity specifically. It was a good conversation, and my opinion remains the same: as frustrating as it can be sometimes (a lot of times) it’s an exciting time to be a fan of comics, and to hope for representation in a time when representation might actually happen.
After I took a break from talking about comics to read them, I got into the latest issue of Angela. If you’ve been following along with my regular column, you know I’ve been enjoying the book. And if you follow me on twitter, you know I’ve been wondering about the relationship between Angela and Sera, her angelic friend with whom she is traveling, and who serves as both some comic relief and expository actor. Sera has been my favorite part of the series so far, which wouldn’t surprise you if you knew me.
Every month we get the main story and a substory, which fleshes out Angela’s background and, in bits and pieces, Sera’s background as well. The substory has a different main artist (the magical Stephanie Hans, whose art I have appreciated since she did Fearless Defenders #7), and is co-written by Marguerite Bennett. And in this month’s substory, we learn how Angela and Sera met, when Sera was living as an Anchorite of Heben. In a male body.
Yeah. So Sera, this angel, who is a main character in this major Marvel release, is a transgender woman of color. Who’s also in love with her friend Angela (who apparently returns the love, in whatever fashion). So Sera, this main character in a major Marvel release, is a queer transgender woman of color who is not a stick figure. She’s not a villain, and she’s not a bystander or damsel or a set piece. She is a part of this story: a big part.
This is not something that was announced with a press release (I haven’t really seen many people talking about it, actually), or exclusively in the pages of USA Today, or whatever. This was an aspect of the character that was woven perfectly into the comic itself, revealed at a great time in the story, and done so with such care and tenderness and complete matter-of-factness that it pretty much brought tears to my eyes. This is the “Lesbian Requested Denied” of superhero comics; the integration of a transgender woman’s story into a broader story in a way that neither sensationalizes nor tokenizes. And while we’re at it, we have a love story between two women.
In the pages of Angela: Asgard’s Assassin #3, a comic about a character from the Spawn universe, the sister of Thor and Loki, wearing a golden bikini (though that changes), I found everything I want in modern superhero comics: a story told well, about the kind of people who don’t get superhero stories about themselves very often, if ever.
It really is an exciting time to be reading comics.