Sunday, May 10, 2015

Ms. Marvel issues #1 and 2

Greetings, citizens! My apologies for the lateness of this review, but between job interviews, starting my new job, and some personal issues, the words just weren’t flowing. I also had a hard time figuring out what I wanted to say about Ms. Marvel without sounding like I was talking out of my ass. I’m not, by any stretch of the imagination, an expert on things like racism or sexism. That being said though, Kamala is an oddity among the mainstream comic world, being not only a young woman, but also a Muslim. Maybe I’ve just been over-exposed to Fox News lately (thanks Dad), but it feels like positive depictions of Muslims in the media are all too rare. So Kamala is a bit of a departure from most mainstream comic heroes, and I am pleased that she’s been so warmly accepted, but it’s not unexpected after reading the series. So, with that out of the way, let’s dive right in.

The cover is one that in many respects is not good, but because it feels like they were going for iconography, it works. Iconographic images have a different set of standards than other ones, especially when it comes to composition. Kamala is centered in the image, wearing a shirt with the iconic Ms. Marvel lightning bolt on it. (Side note: why did she have a lightning bolt on her outfit? She didn’t have lightning powers or anything like that.) She’s also holding a few text books, making it clear she’s a student. Amusingly, it looks like she has a book about illustration (amusing to me at least, since that was what I was majoring in at school). The most noteworthy thing about the cover is that the upper half of Kamala’s face is off of the cover. There was a sort of meme going around when the book launched of people completing the face with their own. I missed out on that chance, but here’s my contribution;

Truly, I have never looked better. Anyway, let’s get started on the issue itself.

The issue opens with Kamla and two of her friends, Nakia and Bruno, at the Circle Q convenience store. The artwork is a different style than I normally like, but it fits the writing really well. The characters are very expressive in both their facial features as well as their motions, giving it a more gestural quality. The lines are sketchier and less precise as well, which normally bothers me, but it just adds to the sense of energy in the book in this case. There are times when smaller details, most notably faces, are drawn in hyper-simplistic style. That’s another detail that would normally bother me, but it manages to work with the quirky nature of the book overall. There are also a ton of little gags buried in the background that I love, like humorous brand names. The colors tend more towards earthy tones, but there are spots of brighter color present in most panels, usually articles of clothing.

Anyway, Kamala is staring at a BLT and insisting that she just wants to smell the bacon (or “infidel meat” as she calls it), and Bruno and Nakia both think she’s being silly. The trio are joined by Zoe and Josh, who invite the trio to a party. Zoe comes off as a clueless, privileged white girl, exemplified by these panels;

Nakia declines going to the party, since there’s going to be alcohol. I don’t know why she can’t just go to the party and not drink, but hey, her choice. Bruno is vague about whether he’s going or not, and Kamala wants to go, but knows her parents would never let her.

We cut away to… Y’know,  I’m not even going to try and describe it. Here’s the first panel in all its glory;

This is apparently a fanfic that Kamala has written, which has gotten 1,000 upvotes. She’s called away to dinner though, and we get introduced to Kamala’s family. Like with Bruno and Nakia, they’re introduced fairly quickly, but we’re given a good sense of what they’re like. Kamala’s mother doesn’t really get her, her brother, Aamir, is deeply religious, and her father is a stern, patriarchal sort. Kamala asks her father about going to the party tonight, and of course he tells her no. To be honest, I’m hard-pressed to disagree with his reasoning. Lots of high school and college aged guys with liquor, not to mention Kamala being somewhat na├»ve, I’d worry for her safety too. But Kamala thinks he’s being paranoid, things get a bit heated, and she storms off to her room and sneaks out, lamenting how she’s always the different/weird one.

Once she gets to the party, she immediately meets up with Josh and Zoe and their circle of friends. Josh, being a dick, gives Kamala a screwdriver even though he knows she can’t have alcohol. She spits it out, and Bruno intercedes, guiding Kamala away from the group. He tells her she needs to leave, but she thinks that he’s being just like her dad, and storms off. We also get our first hint that Bruno has feelings for her. No time to dwell on that though, as a truly ominously enormous fog bank descends upon the city.

Now, when I first read this, I didn’t really know about the Inhumans or the Terrigen Mist, so this mist was a big mystery to me. One which went a long time without getting resolved. That in itself isn’t necessarily a problem. What is a problem is that Kamala doesn’t even question the mist after she gets her powers. She gets her powers, is freaked out by them, but doesn’t bother trying to figure out how she got them, or connecting that it might have something to do with that weird mist.

Speaking of her getting her powers, she’s wandering around the city in the mist and collapses. While passed out, she receives a vision. Again, nuts to trying to describe it, here’s the page;

Captain Marvel is apparently speaking Urdu according to Kamala (though I can’t seem to get a translation for what she’s saying). She talks with her visions, saying that she doesn’t know who she is, but that she wants to be like Carol, including the classic costume.

Before the vision ends, Captain Marvel tells her that she’s going to get a chance at a reboot, but it won’t turn out how she expects. Kamala then wakes up inside a cocoon, and furiously tries to break free. When she does so, she finds herself getting her wish, closing out the issue.

The cover for issue two doesn’t work quite as well as the one for issue one, and ends up just being somewhat bland. It’s just Kamala standing in front of the Captain Marvel logo, with all the lighting coming from said logo, meaning there’s little detail to see about her appearance. We do get to the see Kamala’s costume though, which is simple yet stylish. The only problem is that she doesn’t have the costume yet. Nor does she get it in this issue.

The issue opens right where the last one left off, with Kamala in the form of the classic Ms. Marvel. However, she immediately feels like she’s going to puke, and reverts back to her normal form. Her form shifts a bit more as she understandably freaks the hell out and wanders to the water (not sure which body of water it is specifically, I’m guessing the Hudson River since it looks like New York on the other side). Anyway, Kamala attempts to shapeshift on her own, but with no luck. However, she hears Zoe and Josh approaching and immediately shifts back to Ms. Marvel on reflex. While we follow her stream of consciousness, she once again shifts, this time becoming really small, and then runs away from a “giant” cockroach. While that’s going on, Josh is clearly drunk and is… trying to dance with Zoe on a little dock. Huh. I kind of had less of an opinion of him, and was expecting something worse. Turns out that drunken dock dancing is a bad idea though, as he knocks Zoe into the water, and naturally she can’t swim. Kamala sees all of this, and does some quick thinking, realizing that Josh jumping in will just mean there’s two people drowning. Thus Kamala jumps into action, once again reflexively assuming Ms. Marvel form, and quoting an ayah from the Quran that her father always quoted.

She makes her hand grow giant sized and scoops up Zoe, along with some of the riverbank. Josh’s shouting has attracted a small crowd of people though, and they of course start taking pictures/videos and asking questions. Naturally, Kamala runs off. She’s able to get some control of her body and shrinks her hand back down, but is still stuck as Ms. Marvel. She wanders around, musing about everything that’s happened tonight, and realizing that being a hero isn’t quite what she thought it’d be before heading home. She sneaks back in, but unfortunately for Kamala, her brother hears her getting back in and her parents knew she was out. At least she shifts back to her normal form before Aamir or her parents see her though. Her mother is pissed, and quite vocal about it. Her father goes the whole “not mad, just disappointed” route. Her father wants to know what happened tonight, but Kamala decides to keep quiet about suddenly having superpowers. She gets grounded, but the issue does end on a positive note, as Kamala looks at a poster of Captain Marvel, and decides to keep going down the path of a hero.

Kamala is probably the most relatable superhero I’ve ever read, and part of that is because she is a giant nerd. She writes Avengers and My Little Pony crossover fics! She’s also been called a spiritual successor to Spider-Man, and I wholeheartedly agree to that. While the two are very different characters in a lot of ways, their story begins in much the same way; young people who don’t fit in with the hip crowd who feel the burden of responsibility that comes with their power. The main difference is that Kamala didn’t need some sort of tragedy to spur her into action; she saw someone in trouble and tried to help immediately, because that’s how she was raised. I also like that she feels like an outsider. This is by far something new in comcis, but it feels more real from her than it has in any of the X-Men books or the like that I’ve read. I’m not saying it’s better, but it connected with me more, and developing a connection with the characters is important with any work of fiction. Maybe it’s because she’s different for some of the same reasons I was, I don’t know.

This series is one that I’ve wanted to look at for quite a while, and part of the reason is because I’m pleased to see a positive depiction of Muslims in the media. Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve been inundated by very negative depictions of Muslims (One of the downsides of staying with my dad for a month and a half or so; LOTS of Fox News). Part of the reason I’ve wanted to look at it is also just because of how fun it is as a series. The first two issues you get a hint of that (especially with all the little gags hidden in the artwork), but it really shines in later issues. If you haven’t checked out the series yet… well, my endorsement probably isn’t going to sway you, since people have been talking about this thing for over a year now. In all seriousness though, the series is great and I’m glad to hear that it’s going to be continuing even after Secret Wars.

Thanks for your patience with me these past couple months. I’m trying to get back on track with a normal schedule, as well as the video finale for Superior Spider-Man, but things happen. More than likely, reviews will be posted on Fridays from now on instead of Thursdays. That’s all for this week, so until next time, citizens!

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