Ms. Marvel continues her reign as the 21st Century’s Spider-Man. I’m sure Miles Morales would beg to differ, but I can’t think of a better superhero analog to Peter Parker than Kamala Khan. Their accidental transformations, the joy they exude in their adventures, and the difficulty their exploits have on their loved ones are common threads in both Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel.
Peter Parker’s cultural landscape, however, was a default given and assumed by most creators and readers. Kamala Khan is a thoroughly different branch of the mainstream and in each issue, writer G. Willow Wilson expertly weaves Kamala’s culture (religion, family, friends, school) into Kamala’s story and surroundings. News headlines were grabbed with the notion of a superhero comic whose true identity is a teenage Muslim girl. Wilson makes darned sure that these three adjectives are meaningful and necessary parts of Kamala and not just window dressing.
A superhero walks into a mosque. She’s been battling The Inventor’s bots who have been targeting her since her victory in issue #5 and while Ms. Marvel has upped her superhero game quite a lot she still feels overwhelmed with having her first nemesis. Coming straight from an exploding bot, Kamala finds even more terror when she finds she must have a meeting with Sheikh Abdullah the next day.
Cynical old me, I expected the Sheikh to speak in bland platitudes about “honoring your parents” and other such stuff. Fortunately for us all, G. Willow Wilson is a better writer than I am. Where Peter Parker was given the trope about power and responsibility, Kamala Khan’s lesson from the Sheikh boils down to “If you are going to try to do good, try to do it well.” Kamala needs a teacher.
The Sheikh’s advice resonates with Kamala and leads to her first superhero team-up when she encounters Wolverine in the sewer system. The two team up to fight a small army of weaponized cyborg alligators created by an insane cockatiel/Thomas Edison hybrid clone. Read that last sentence again because this book really is that much fun.
Wilson’s writing captures the fangirl reaction that Kamala has when meeting Wolverine (she tells him about the fanfic she wrote about him) as well as drawing out the teacher mentality that Logan has somewhat recently acquired. The rapport between the two grows gradually and realistically and the cliffhanger of facing down a bigger bad than they have found before is treated appropriately given Ms. Marvel’s lack of experience and Wolverine’s lack of healing factor.
Jacob Wyatt takes over art on this issue and doesn’t depart much from Adrian Alphona’s style. There are far too many times that Ms. Marvel lacks irises or pupils. From some distances I can understand that choice but it became such a common look with Wyatt’s drawing of Ms. Marvel that I started to think he didn’t realize that she wears a standard domino mask. Alphona creates much nuanced expression in Kamala’s eyes and it was a shame to see that missing in Wyatt’s renditions. Ian Herring’s colors keeps the book in line with previous issues and sets strong palettes for each setting (blue/greens for the sewers, earth tones for the mosque, bright yellows/reds for daylight cityscapes).
It is exciting to see Ms. Marvel here at the beginning. Now that her origin story is officially over, watching her develop and grow into a more confident and driven hero is going to be just as fun. This issue starts a new arc and would be an excellent time for new readers to jump in and start their ride. This book has everything going for it, but Kamala is right; she needs theme music.