Rather than being any kind of hard reset, Ms. Marvel #1 (technically Ms. Marvel vol. 4 #1, though that doesn’t make it any less confusing) is a reintroduction to the life of Kamala Khan, beginning eight months after we saw her last on the rooftop of her school at the end of Ms. Marvel #19. In that time, Kamala’s dream has finally come true — she’s a “freakin’ Avenger,” and life seems pretty great. (Right?)
Time has passed in a blink of an eye for Kamala, with her rooftop moment with Bruno feeling like “pretty much yesterday” (and if that’s a dig at the fact that Ms. Marvel #19 only dropped a month ago, making it basically yesterday in the comics timeline, I approve of it). In terms of the story, Ms. Marvel #19’s “To Be Continued” is picked up perfectly here in the new Ms. Marvel #1, almost as if it were Ms. Marvel #20 instead, and I do find myself wondering if it would have been better if it had been simply issue #20 instead of a relaunch.
Just as Ms. Marvel has always been a story revolving around balance, especially the balance between Kamala’s hero work and the people in her life, the Kamala we see in Ms. Marvel #1 is having some troubles balancing her work as an Avenger with her solo hero work, her schoolwork, her friends, and her family. A schedule full of school, heroics, and giant rampaging animals doesn’t leave a lot of free time, which is why Kamala is so shocked to discover that Bruno has met and has been dating a girl named Michaela “Mike” Miller for a month and a half.
One aspect of Wilson’s work on Ms. Marvel that I’ve always admired is how real the characters she writes turn out to be. More than perhaps any other hero or heroine in comics right now, Kamala Khan has always felt real to me, as if she were a person I could meet tomorrow while walking down the street. She’s not an airbrushed picture-perfect image of a hero, but she’s a person, first and foremost, who has problems and makes mistakes and says awful things in anger she later wishes to take back. If Captain Marvel is the character who makes us all want to step up and be better, Ms. Marvel makes us think that maybe we can be heroes, too, just as we are — flaws and scars and all.
The environment around her, too, feels more real than much of the Marvel universe does, both in terms of the city she calls home and the people who surround her. In case we had forgotten, Wilson remembers for us how it really feels to be a teenager in high school, uncertain of your place in the world and filled with so many conflicting emotions that you don’t know how to express. Her teenagers sound and feel like the teenagers I know and the teenager I was, and it’s a strange and familiar world to be brought back into whenever I open up the pages of Ms. Marvel. In this modern age of comic books, comics aren’t written with a younger audience in mind quite as much anymore, so to see and read a book that speaks directly to teens with understanding, empathy, and intelligence is terribly important.
Teenage jealousy turns out to be the least of Kamala’s problems, though, as a real estate development company that’s up to no good has decided to use the face of Ms. Marvel herself as their poster child for a forced gentrification of Jersey City. Outraged and upset, Kamala takes it upon herself to figure out just what’s going on, but gets chased away by actual attack drones belonging to the company.
In the time since we’ve seen her last, Ms. Marvel has become a bigger figurehead in her Jersey City community — a true superhero. But part of the problem with being a superhero is that, by definition, a superhero is someone who is bigger than life. Once someone becomes bigger than life, they stop being a person and start being a symbol — and anyone can use a symbol in any way they so desire. In our world, celebrities and other bigger-than-life figures have to be asked permission before companies or corporations use their images to endorse products or messages. But in a world with superheroes who have secret identities, such protections are difficult to obtain for any hero who wears a mask, making it nearly impossible for a costumed hero to have complete control over their image.
This is another “first” in Kamala’s career as a hero, and it’s certainly not a pleasant one. This unexpected and unapproved use of her face to endorse a cause that goes against everything she fights for is an unwelcome wake-up call, bringing Kamala into the stable of heroes whose images are used to fight for causes they certainly wouldn’t support. (Anyone else thinking about Captain America?)
While the “evil real estate developers” may feel a little simplistic to tackle an issue as complicated as gentrification, it’s good to keep in mind that Ms. Marvel is the comic that tackled the issue of teenage disillusionment by using a human-bird hybrid clone of Thomas Jefferson who liked to invent giant robots (see issue #10 and issue #11 for more details), so let’s not count it out just yet.
Wilson’s writing is spot-on in this issue, whether it’s tackling personal or heroic issues, and I particularly loved the ending story detailing Bruno and Mike’s growing relationship. Though we haven’t gotten to know a tremendous amount about Mike as a character, I like her quite a bit so far, and I hope she sticks around to become part of the Ms. Marvel crew in future issues. The story brings us in at a place where we still recognize Kamala and her friends, but it’s easy to tell that there’s been growth and change during the (short) time we’ve cut away from their lives, ranging from noticing Kamala’s increased skills at handling her powers to the different types of interactions between classmates.
Both Miyazawa and Alphona deliver a clean, well-put-together issue in what we’ve come to recognize as the classic Ms. Marvel style, filled with expressive faces, evocative body language, and background details galore. These details range from silly to amusing to downright thoughtful, whether it’s comic-book-sound-effect graffiti in an alley, Loki’s lightning golems being crossing guards and one wearing a cat as headwear, showing Bruno meeting Mike’s mothers, or having Kamala and Bruno’s science teacher Ms. Norris use a wheelchair.
Miyazawa’s bolder art fits well with the portion of the book depicting Kamala’s hectic life, complete with superheroics and giant marauding frogs, while Alphona’s art for Bruno’s portion of the story evokes a nostalgic feel during the flashback, aided by the slightly muted color palette Herring uses with it. Herring’s colors serve as the bridge between the two art styles, allowing Kamala and Bruno’s stories to feel connected with each other while allowing each their own individual style and feel.
Ms. Marvel #1 feels like a “Here’s What You Missed” segment of a TV show instead of “And Now For Something Completely Different” like so many new #1s can be, which fits better with the course of the stories that have been told in Ms. Marvel so far. It’s not a perfect jumping-on point for new readers, but it gives more than enough context to provide an enjoyable read and to make readers want to go back and find out what happened before if they haven’t read it already. (And if you haven’t, really, where have you been?)
Ms. Marvel #1 is, as it has always been, a story about Kamala Khan, the people around her, and how she grows into herself as a person and a hero, with an added sprinkling of whimsy and romance on the side. It all culminates in a near-perfect recipe for a comic, and I’m excited to see how this recipe turns out.
Ms. Marvel vol. 2 #1 was written by G. Willow Wilson, with art by Takeshi Miyazawa (pgs. 1-21) and Adrian Alphona (pgs. 21-30), colors by Ian Herring, and lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna.
Images courtesy of Marvel
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Eve is asexual panromantic, a graduate student with no time for sleep (but always time for comics), a senior contributing writer for the Rainbow Hub, and an avid consumer of any type of media she can get her hands on. When not perusing her incredibly large collection of Marvel comics, she can be found reading, knitting in front of the TV, or on her laptop.