Comics, Diversity, Race

Review: Ms. Marvel 5

Cover: Ms. Marvel #5, Marvel 2014Ms. Marvel #5

G. Willow Wilson (W)
Adrian Alphona (A)
Marvel Comics

In this issue, Kamala takes on Doyle, the shiftless teen in charge of the other shiftless teens Vick has gotten involved with.

This issue begins with Kamala’s first (mostly) in-costume superhero battle! She came to rescue Bruno’s idiot kid brother Vick, and faced off agaist the Inventor’s hench-teens.

Nice to see the mask and powers combining to give Kamala a new confidence, one she hasn’t experienced before. The Mohawk kid she faced off against as issue 4 endeed expects her to be afraid and so did she… until she realized she wasn’t. Too bad confidence is no match for a laser weapon, and Vick’s only contribution is to point out to Kamala that she’s losing. Kamala realizes that she needs to do better than flying by the seat of her pants, even as she’s still trying to fight beyond her limitations. But she has the sense and the wherewithal to act on her new realization. Smart girl doing smart things — like retreating. It doesn’t seem very heroic, but living to fight another day, right?

Kamala runs home, whereupon she discovers that pushing her powers and healing burns calories at an exorbitant rate; calories which need to be replaced immediately. She has a moment of little girl lost, wanting her mom; understandable in the face of a fight, an injury, and a scary realization of the changes in her body, and how it reacts to the damage. Too bad her mother, who in fairness lacks knowledge the readers have, decided that screaming and accusations were the best response to discovering Kamala’s late night chow down session.

Too bad, really. Wilson could’ve showed readers a mother/daughter bonding moment. Not that I dislike Kamala’s father; he’s head of household as is appropriate for a Muslim family from another country.  Just frustrating to see more patriarchy. At least her father has mellowed from his earlier displays of rage and mockery. I’m glad to see his approach was gentler this time. His confession that the “new Kamala” terrifies him is offset nicely by the story he tells her — the origin of her “weird” name and the reason she was given it. While it is a sweet reminder that although her parents are frustrating and upsetting to her, they do, despite their reactions, love Kamala — deeply.

The scene between father and daughter serves to nicely underscore and reinforce the message Kamala already heard from Bruno: to be her own person. It’s kind of frustrating that it’s a bunch of guys driving this point home to her, but at least she’s getting the message, right? He actually goes so far as to say that he and her mother don’t want to make Kamala’s life miserable, and that they want her to come to them in time of trouble — before reminding her she’s still grounded and has to talk to that sheikh from two issues back; the one who obviously finds Kamala trying to deal with.

Fortunately, Kamala took the same things from the talk I did. She steels her resolve to be the best Kamala. And she goes about it intelligently. One call to Bruno later, and she’s got a new plan for improving her costume and learning her powers with practice. Cue the power up montage music: sadly I can’t think of any that isn’t for a magical girl transformation sequence, a “getting ready for the date” sequence, or some action hero guy. Memo to Hollywood, get on that.

Bruno is not keen on helping at first, even though his (called it!) experimental polymer will help Kamala not have to concentrate on her costume. A raise of the cup to Wilson for coming up with with an easyish substitute for the unstable molecules other superheroes must pay to access. I do really, really wish they’d quit calling it “super snot” already.

Kamala finds creative and clever ways to make the most of her powers. We see her testing her stretching, strength, size changing and shape-shifting. And we get to see her putting that lightning bolt logo on her burkini, taking it from “outfit” to genuine superhero costume.

The second attempt to rescue Vick, as a result, is much more successful. Doyle takes some pew pew lasers to the tenders, and the embiggened Ms. Marvel succeeds in escaping with Vick.

A few days later, Bruno returns to the Circle Q all excited about the post foiled robbery renovations, only to find an effigy of Ms. Marvel hanging off the door. Since she started her career there, the bad guys decided to make a threat there. The new Ms. Marvel (who lives only upstairs, see issue 2) is undaunted. She takes the threat and announces that she and the people of Jersey City aren’t going to put up with any disrespect. So our girl has her first win under her belt, and has gone on record as the willing protector of Jersey City. She’s letting people see her in costume, and no longer hiding from the cameras. But her announcement that she’s willing to fight the Inventor has now got the villain riled up. Aww, our Ms Marvel has her first supervillain. They grow up so quickly.

Sniff.

So that’s arc one. The origin. The acquisition of the powers. The first conflict. The establishing of the confidante/sidekick. The first failure. The first victory. And the first villain.

Issue five also brought us none of Kamala’s school or after-school life. Wilson ramped up the action and there just wasn’t room to squeeze it in. Surprisingly, I found I missed it, even though some of the kids from school were visible in the backgrounds.

Mild spoiler: fans of Animaniacs will get a kick out of the issue’s last page.

4/5

 

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