By G. Willow Wilson, Nico Leon & Ian Herring
Two years ago Marvel published the first issue of Ms. Marvel. To say that it was a sensational success would be an understatement. The reviews were ecstatic, the fans passionately devoted and the sales reflective of both. It was a triumphal debut which went on to grow even richer in its sophomore year. Towards the end of 2015, Marvel relaunched the series as part of its All-New All-Different initiative and title just went on soaring without missing a beat. And so Kamala’s journey enters its third year with all its heart intact. This week’s instalment is an endearing, exciting reminder of why this series remains such a stand-out book. There were a lot of strong comics this week, yet, this one stands above the rest.
One of the most important keys to the success of Ms. Marvel has been writer G. Willow Wilson’s flawless character work, which is amply on display in #4. The issue opens with Kamala’s brother Aamir announcing to their parents he wishes to get married. Wilson and artist Nico Leon naturally capture all the emotions of the people involved. Aamir and his girlfriend are clearly apprehensive, unable to decide whether it is best to look at or away from each other. (She is meeting her potential in-laws for the first time). At the same time, though, they are unable to contain their excitement, making announcement in unison. Kamala is obviously overjoyed, letting out a cheer. Their parents, though, are shocked and not in an “oh my, that’s wonderful” kind of way. The tone is just right, capturing both the drama and humor inherent in the moment.
Wilson digs deeper, though, allowing each character to speak in the heated, cluttered give-and-take which is the universal feature of family debates. Eventually the parents learn that Aamir and his girlfriend plan to follow tradition by continuing to live in their parents’ house after the marriage. All of a sudden, mom and dad are overjoyed for the match, while Kamala’s wondering if everyone could calm down for a moment. Then her cellphone rings: Iron Man needs her. Then the home phone rings: her math teacher is informing her father of Kamala’s poor performance on a recent midterm. Now dad is yelling, while brother is piling clothes for his love into Kamala’s arms. Oh and Captain America is calling on her other cellphone. It is a whirlwind of competing responsibilities, which nicely sums up the tone of this issue.
Throughout the issue Kamala finds herself pulled in various directions. Her school work is flagging, which puts a strain on family matters. This would be manageable if it was not in turn effecting her performance as an Avenger. Tired and distracted, she fumbles what should have been an easy take down of nefarious waterfront activity. Instead, she needs to call in her teammates for assistance. The reader cannot help but feel for Kamala as she shuffles off, aware of how the “grown-up” heroes have already put her out of their mind.
This type of insightful character detail is a major reason why readers have fallen so hard for Kamala. However, it is to Wilson’s credit that she pays equal attention to the supporting cast as well. In addition to the Khan family, her classmates feel as well developed. Kamala continues to stumble in her attempts to be at ease around the new girlfriend of best friend/unrequited love Bruno. For his part, Bruno remains one of the series’ most endearing characters. Alternating between support and exasperation, Bruno is loyal to Kamala while concerned about her well-being. He is the voice of reason against a dubious scheme of Kamala’s. He is the guy who is always in her corner. It would be impossible to imagine the book without him. Finally, there is Iron Man, who in a four panel phone conversation Wilson captures expertly. His manner of distracted condensation is an apt summery of his personality. Also, his blowing past birds without giving them a second thought is a choice touch.
Leon does a good job substituting for regular artists Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa. His cartoonish style fits well with theirs without coming off as too imitative. There is a light-heartedness to much of his work. For example, Kamala’s head poking into the panel during the family argument. Leon also includes a fair amount of background jokes, such as a man fishing from the roof of his building. At the same time, Leon handles the somber scenes with an equal deftness. Finally his action sequence on the docks flows smoothly. It has dynamic moments as well as absurd ones, which means Leon does an excellent job of channeling the tone of the series.
All in all, this was another fabulous chapter in Kamala’s ongoing story. It moved the narrative forward, while still leaving plenty of room for the character beats which are its heart and soul. It also reminds readers of the universal nature of human experience. Regardless of cultural background, any fan can relate to Kamala’s struggles with family, friends, school and simply trying to live up to her own potential. It is a lesson that is especially vital in our current political climate. Most importantly, though, Kamala continues to rise above being a mere slogan by headlining one of the best books on the stands today. And for that, Ms. Marvel is also This Week’s Finest . . .