By G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring & Irma Knivila
Event tie-ins are often sources of concern. Many a great title has been derailed for a couple months by misbegotten editorial demands. Last year, though, writer G. Willow Wilson rose to the challenge of tying Ms. Marvel into Marvel’s Secret Wars. Along with artist Adrian Alphona, Wilson crafted a four issue story-line bursting with excitement, humor and heartfelt emotion. In other words, all the elements which help make Ms. Marvel one of the best series currently published. Tie-in or not, The Last Days of Ms. Marvel was one of the highlights of the year. Can Wilson repeat this feat with her tie-ins for the latest Event, Civil War II? Based on the initial chapter, the answer appears to be yes she can.
#8 opens with a flashback to Aisha, Kamala Khan’s great grandmother. It is Bombay 1947 as the Indian Subcontinent is being torn apart by partition. The separation of Pakistan from the newly liberated India has unleashed waves of violent civil unrest triggering a mass exodus of Muslims from their homes, while Hindus in Pakistan hastily migrate in the opposite direction. Three of these individuals are Aisha, her husband Kareem and her father-in-law. Wilson expertly captures the uncertainty of the moment by focusing on the emotions of those caught in the cross-hairs of history. Aisha is uncomfortable leaving her home, especially as she is pregnant. She is understandably frightened for the future. At the same time, the reader feels the bit of comfort Aisha receives from being with family; they might bicker and tease, yet in the in the end they are there for each other, providing reassurance. Hope is the heart of this sequence. Wilson wishes to remind readers that even as a nation literally rips itself in two, hope does not die. “Something however small remains.”
Following this prologue, the story settles into the present day adventures of Aisha’s great granddaughter Kamala, aka Ms. Marvel. Kamala is being transported to the Alpha Flight Space Station in order to have a conversation with fellow Avenger, and personal idol, Carol Danvers formerly Ms., now Captain Marvel. Carol briefs Kamala on the newly emerged Inhuman Ulysses who possesses the power to predict the future. Carol stresses that Ulysses does not actually foresee future events as much as is able to estimate “within a fraction of a percent” what they will be. Carol wishes to use this knowledge to stop criminals before they commit crimes, saving untold lives in the process. At first Kamala appears a little unsure of the approach, asking how different it is from profiling. Carol immediately dismisses the criticism and Kamala decides to trust in the authority of her mentor. She enrolls herself in the narrative of Civil War II by bringing Carol’s vision to Jersey City.
At first everything seems fine, as Kamala faces off against one of the many zany threats that have been a regular feather of the series: Hijinx, the leader of the Canadian Ninja Syndicate. Seems Hijinx thought it would be a blast to steal a tank and drive it through urban New Jersey. Kamala confronts the problem with her typical effusive, can-do attitude. The sequence is a delight to read, especially as rendered by Takeshi Miyazawa in flowing cartoonish antics. Soon after, though, Kamala begins to hear dissenting voices regarding Carol’s vision for the future and troubling shades of grey start seeping into Captain Marvel’s black and white worldview.
The concept of Civil War II presents its fair share of real world analogies. Some of these are cited directly by Kamala’s concern for profiling. Others are referenced more indirectly. One striking aspect is how Wilson’s script, surely completed before the recent mass shooting in Orlando, deepens these connections. The Orlando tragedy motivated some people to demand that terrorist suspects be detained even if there is no evidence of a crime having been committed. As with Carol’s scheme this would theoretically save lives, yet, at what moral cost? In typical Ms. Marvel fashion these abstract quandaries are about to become quite personal for the young heroine. At the same time, the reader remembers Aisha’s reflections from the prologue: “Something however small remains.” Wilson is asking the reader not lose hope amidst their own contemporary civil discord.
Art for the present day section is provided by Miyazawa. His loose style continues to be a good match for the title, emphasizing Kamala’s youthful enthusiasm. The reader cannot help but smile along with her gaping in astonishment at being on Alpha Flight. Similarly Miyazawa’s battle sequence between Kamala and Hijinx is a spirited lark. (Extra points for having “Oh, Canada” scrawled on the side of a missile). At the same time, his faces are full of expression, allowing him to convey Kamala’s shifting emotions. This sense of poignancy is even stronger in the Bombay prologue illustrated by Adrian Alphona. Alphona and Miyazawa share an artistic disposition which allows the two sections to sit side by side without dissonance. Alphona gracefully depicts Aisha and her family forming their little safe zone within the surrounding discord. Alphona minimizes hustle and bustle, guiding the trio into the open air of a deserted road. He ends the prologue with a stunning splash page depicting the family quietly making their way beneath a twilight sky.
One of the most compelling elements of Kamala’s personality has long been her struggle to find her place in the world, both as an American teenager and as a costumed heroine. Watching her experience this process has been fascinating. In the back-matter for #8, editor Sana Amanat speaks of how Civil War II will further that maturation as Kamala will be forced to confront the question of what happens when she no longer sees eye to eye with her idol. In the first chapter of their tie-in, Wilson and her artistic collaborators do a strong job laying the groundwork for these themes, indicating that once again they will be able to pull off such tricky material with grace and charm. In other words, Event or no Event, Ms. Marvel promises to continue being the best Marvel book on the racks.