Jersey City’s embiggening heroine may have done some growing up during the eight-month storyline gap due to Secret Wars, but in Ms. Marvel #2 she faces her biggest enemy yet, straight from the pages of Captain America.
That’s right, folks — spoiler alert — Kamala’s taking on HYDRA.
If you weren’t previously familiar with a certain twisted red-haired psychiatrist named Dr. Faustus before now, the disguised HYDRA should be enough of a clue that Kamala’s stepped into the big leagues with this issue. This iteration of HYDRA, dubbed the Hope Yards Development and Relocation Association — yes, HYDRA is indeed behind the co-opting of Ms. Marvel’s image and the forced gentrification we saw in issue #1 — has plans to brainwash and take over the entirety of Jersey City, with the help of Dr. Faustus himself. (“Present your plan to dominate an entire city as an investment opportunity and no one bats an eye,” he tells Kamala.)
Faustus happens to be a long-standing Captain America villain who first showed up in the late 60’s and has hung around brainwashing people ever since. He’s not only the mastermind behind Cap’s assassination on the courthouse steps in the aftermath of Civil War, but is also responsible for quite a large chunk of the many shitty things that have happened to Sharon Carter over the years. For those who are more familiar with the movies, Dr. Ivchenko from Agent Carter is the MCU’s equivalent of Dr. Faustus, capable of gaining complete control over his patients’ wills and actions. In short, mind control = BAD.
The stakes are definitely raised with Ms. Marvel #2, but there’s still a balance between superheroic problems and mundane ones, even in the midst of some spectacular action scenes from Miyazawa and Herring (employing excellent panel framing and balance, cinematographic techniques, use of perspective, and thematic color palettes, including palettes using the bright neon purple of Hope Yards’ nanobot-enriched mind control soda). The world Wilson creates in Ms. Marvel is probably the closest I’ve seen to a representation of what it would be like if we simply took our own world as we know it and added superheroes, and the problems Kamala continues to face do a great job in reflecting that idea.
In addition to handling all the things she needs to punch on a given day, Kamala struggles with the knowledge that her friend Nakia is now a leader of the movement campaigning against her alter ego, believing that Ms. Marvel does support the forced relocation and gentrification being done by Hope Yards. Her mother wants her to stop being Ms. Marvel until this all blows over, Kamala’s still confused and hurt by the idea of Bruno and his new girlfriend Mike (who, Bruno says, would like to meet Kamala, earning her even more bonus points in my book), and — on top of everything else — her older brother Aamir is actually interested in a girl, and needs Kamala’s help as a chaperone to court her properly. (And I, like Kamala, am instantly won over by Tyesha’s Dune knowledge. More of these new ladies, please!)
It’s an interesting and realistic mix of problems, spanning a wide range of topics from the issue of gentrification to the importance of owning one’s identity and what happens when your identity becomes something that people use freely and without your consent. It covers love, jealousy, friendship, family, keeping secrets, the constant wariness of those in the Muslim community for harassment (anyone who’s ever needed to keep an eye out for Islamophobia instantly recognizes the scene where Hope Yards security confronts Tyesha on the sidewalk as the beginning of something else entirely), and so much more, reflecting the hodgepodge of problems we all have to deal with on any given day. Life’s problems don’t always fall into neat plot-aligned baskets and neither do the ones we see in Ms. Marvel, which only makes me like and appreciate the book that much more.
Adrian Alphona’s art began the Ms. Marvel story, and Miyazawa’s art pairs perfectly with where we find our titular heroine now. Its clean lines and highly expressive characters serve to tell the story and drive the action just as much as the writing does, and Herring’s colors help set the tone and feel of the book just as much and as well as they always do. Miyazawa’s art particularly lends itself to Kamala’s work as Ms. Marvel, with the action scenes are excellently plotted out and visualized on the page, giving them a real sense of depth and movement.
The core cast of Ms. Marvel returns in this new volume, grown in ways we can recognize through their words, actions, and interactions with each other. The composition of the cast itself has stayed true to the family-and-friends focus of the Ms. Marvel story but is also expanding, most notably by the additions of Mike and Tyesha (who I hope both become parts of the regular cast). It seems as if we may get that Kamala-and-Mike team-up we’ve been wondering about in Ms. Marvel #3 after all, since Bruno strongly hints Kamala needs to talk to his girlfriend about something very important before getting kidnapped and brainwashed by HYDRA’s Hope Yards mind-control purple drink as well. (Whoops.)
Wilson takes what could have been a bad start for a new volume with the awkward Secret Wars time-skip and turns it into a strength, letting the characters speak for themselves to fill us in as to what we’ve missed. Paired with a main character who, as always, is a person first and a superhero second, a host of interesting and relatable problems reflective of our own world, and a new, bigger, more threatening villain, Ms. Marvel #2 delivers yet another engaging and enjoyable read that leaves us wanting more as we turn the last page.
Ms. Marvel #2 was written by G. Willow Wilson, with art by Takeshi Miyazawa, colors by Ian Herring, and lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna.
Images courtesy of Marvel
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