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A-Force brought a feminist utopia to life — only to reveal its flaws
Bells ring out to mark a new day dawning on Arcadia, the quiet island of Battleworld where Marvel's mightiest women reside. As She-Hulk takes over command from the night shift, a team led by Captain Marvel patrols to ensure the island's safety. Carefree, the fliers, including Dazzler, Nico Minoru, and America Chavez, soar out over the ocean.
From the depths a megalodon appears, snapping its gnarly teeth at our fearless heroes and snagging America's hoodie. As she is dragged deep underwater, the team fights the giant shark, defending the people of Arcadia and trying to limit damage to their community. America wrestles free, Dazzler wounds the beast, and a very miffed America decides she doesn't need some megalodon stinking up the place, lifting it over her head and chucking it as far as she can.
America has saved everyone, but that doesn't matter in Battleworld, a land ruled and held together by the will of God Emperor Doom. Doom's laws are immutable and the consequences for breaking them weighty. The Thors — who are essentially Doom's cops on Battleworld — arrive and arrest America, taking her from her home, her people, and the family she has with Loki (in a female form) and Nico.
She-Hulk tries to fight for America to be allowed to stay but is met with draconian claims about law and order and the command that she do her job as Baroness of Arcadia. But it seems like Doom and his lackeys don't remember which giant green badass they're messing with.
Written by G. Willow Wilson and Marguerite Bennett, with pencils by Jorge Molina, inks by Jorge Molina and Craig Yeung, colors by Laura Martin and Matt Milla, and letters by Cory Petit, 2015's A-Force boasts the first all-female Avengers team. The events of the five-issue series take place as a part of Marvel's "Secret Wars" crossover event during which all the various universes that exist within the Marvel comics are destroyed and the surviving pieces of reality are cobbled together to form Battleworld.
Each domain of Battleworld looks completely different, and there are multiple versions of your favorite heroes living in different domains. In Arcadia, the all-female Avengers, who call themselves A-Force, live peacefully in their little feminist utopia. That is until the fateful day America is arrested and imprisoned.
This beloved series made FANGRRLS favorite comics of the decade list, and after "Secret Wars" ended the series lived on as A-Force (2016), continuing the story back in the non-Battleworld Marvel universe.
When the aforementioned giant shark is followed in quick succession by the arrival of a universe incarnated as a girl and a Sentinel (of X-Men fame), it becomes apparent that someone is trying to destabilize Arcadia. If She-Hulk wasn't already pissed, these additional anomalies make her angry enough to risk incurring Doom's wrath exploring one of the portals that open up over Arcadia. Her exploration leads her to discover the traitor in A-Force's midst: Loki.
With the Thors descending on Arcadia and Loki wresting control from She-Hulk, our heroes flee. In the process, Medusa is killed by the Thors and Singularity hides A-Force inside her — she is a pocket universe after all. They eventually return and expose Loki for the power-hungry jerk she is, but not before Loki tears down the wall keeping the undead separate from the living. The forces of Arcadia fight back the surging hordes of death incarnate with Singularity's help, seemingly killing her in the process.
Arcadia is never the same after the events of A-Force. Where She-Hulk believed she was building a garden, a paradise away from the terrors of Battleworld, she finds that just under the surface is rot — the rot of corruption, the rot of authoritarianism, the rot of a utopia based in lies. And once that rot is revealed, it's impossible to pretend it's not there. From complacency to feminist revolution and back again, A-Force is a story about how we delude ourselves into thinking everything is fine, but when we pay attention, we find ourselves in a complicated web of power, deceit, and cruelty, whether in a fictional story or IRL today.
Utopias aren't real in part because they are so hard to maintain. What makes for a perfect life? The answer depends on who you are, both in terms of your power and privilege and in terms of your personality. And how do you maintain that perfect life when some people aren't pleased with their station within it? Doom's solution — an exacting and unquestionable system that metes out punishment without regard for context or cause — works, but it only works for some, as becomes apparent in other "Secret Wars" stories.
If A-Force represents feminism within an imperfect world created by Doom (aka the patriarchy), then by extension, there is also a traitor in our midst. Until we are all committed to making our feminism anti-racist, queer-inclusive, trans-celebratory, fat-loving, anti-ableist, and so much more, we are the traitors we worry about. We are as power-hungry as Loki if we are unwilling to use our privilege to change the world.
After all, a feminist utopia that relies on extreme punishment, incarceration, and bowing to a patriarch is no utopia at all.