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Magical Negress: Re-Reading Agent 355 in Brian Vaughan’s Y: The Last Man

Authors
  • Tembo, Kwasu D.
Type
Published Article
Journal
Open Cultural Studies
Publisher
De Gruyter Open
Publication Date
Feb 01, 2019
Volume
3
Issue
1
Pages
161–173
Identifiers
DOI: 10.1515/culture-2019-0014
Source
De Gruyter
Keywords
License
Green

Abstract

Be it Pride of Baghdad (2006), Ex Machina (2004), Runaways (2003), The Private Eye (2013) or Saga (2012), the comic book author Brian K. Vaughan is renowned not only for the scope of the projects in his oeuvre but the nuance with which he portrays his characters, many of which are of types that usually receive less mainstream attention than their white, heteronormative, superhero counterparts. This paper will perform a close reading of Agent 355 as she appears in Vol. 1-10 of Y: The Last Man. As an analytical framework through which to parse the character, it will make recourse to the literary, cultural, and theoretical concepts associated with the magical negro. In doing so, this paper will analyse and explore the ways in which Vaughan’s writing simultaneously countermands and reinforces these stereotypical stock character arrangements in a precarious balancing act. Strong, intelligent, and determined in her expression and use of agency, 355 often fulfils the function of the magical negro, sanctified, and infused with black girl magic. On the other hand, Agent 355’s entire characterisation is also simultaneously circumscribed within the strong black woman stereotype replete with noble suffering and enduring perseverance.

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