First of all, how amazing is this cover by Kris Anka? The composition is kept simple so that our main subject, Ms. Marvel and her large beast friend, Lockjaw, are dynamic and striking. I love Kamala’s pose: this a a hero on the go, ready to kick butt and save people. The spray-painted logo and police car fill out the rest of the picture without cluttering it. The colours keep it fun and energetic. While I’ve enjoyed the previous covers by Jamie McKelvie, I’d love to see more covers by Mr. Anka.
Anyway… Kamala is baaaaack! Woohoo! We’ve had a month-long break since issue #9 broke way back in October, but as I started this issue, it felt like it was just yesterday — this book’s look and tone is just that distinct, thanks to the combined talents of G Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, Joe Caramagna (and of course the two editors shepherding them, Devin Lewis and Sana Amanat).
Issue #10 follows directly from where #9 ended: with some of Kamala’s peers, who she has just saved from captivity as human batteries, explaining to her that nope, the villainous Inventor wasn’t keeping them against their will. They were all there by choice. Yikes! As if the idea of kids plugged into weird machines, kept as energy incubators a la The Matrix, wasn’t horrifying enough.
Kamala doesn’t get it, of course. What follows is an interesting and very relevant conversation about the way contemporary society treats its young people. Maybe it’s just the influence of social media, but it feels like we live in a world where there aren’t enough opportunities for our young people — to be educated, gainfully employed, or live at similar comfort levels to their forebears. Articles decrying “the selfish millenial” are dime a dozen on the interwebs. Heck, you can see it even in comics, where sweet little Billy Batson was rebooted for DC’s New 52 as a whiny, selfish brat. Because kids these days can’t be earnest, apparently.
The older generation would have us believe that everything is our fault, but as Kamala rightfully points out:
This is one of the many reasons why I love Kamala. She is the kind of person who is always striving to do right by the morals and principles that her parents and faith have taught her — e.g. using her powers to help people — but she’s also not going to take any of your bullcrap, old folk, thank you very much. It’s such a refreshing portrayal of a young person in comics; I hope more creators take a cue from Wilson in how to write teenage superheroes (i.e. as flawed individuals who carry both positive and negative traits).
The teen pow-wow is interrupted by the entrance of our big bad, The Inventor. Being a strange bird-man creature, he looks terrifying, but his words are sometimes even scarier:
Sadly, there are many people out there who agree with him. I guess we haven’t developed the technology to convert human beings into walking power sources, but given that children are exploited and ill-used every day, all over the world… it doesn’t seem like we’re too far off.
The battle sequence that follows is brutal. The Inventor takes Kamala down with an EMP that temporarily zaps Ms. Marvel’s plasticity. Kamala gets back into the game through sheer force of will, but it’s not enough to stop the Inventor from hurting and kidnapping Lockjaw, Kamala’s massive dog (and Inhuman) companion.
It’s a low point in the comic (hurting animals is just not on!), but Kamala manages to rally the troops — but that is a poor turn of phrase, because what she actually does is encourage and inspire them to take charge of their lives and help her stop the evil Inventor.
Shout-out to Alphona & Herring and whoever else was involved in making sure the kids, Kamala’s peers, come in all shapes, sizes and colours! What a great moment.
Kamala and her new friends hatch a plan to sneak into the Inventor’s hideout and take him down. I wish I could say it all goes well and that the day is saved, following this exciting climax… but nope, not at all. Kudos to Wilson for making this a story where Ms. Marvel has to fight for her victories, and where nothing is easy. I might be turned off if this were any other comic, but here, the obstacles posed by the Inventor and his freaky schemes feels just as real as Kamala’s other, more personal troubles.
Indeed, her superhero problems throw into sharp relief the fact that life isn’t easy. You’re going to fall down a lot, but you have to keep picking yourself up. Kamala does that a lot in this issue, and with the cliffhanger thrown at us in the last page, she’s going to have to do that in the next one as well. It’s appended with a “to be concluded!” tagline, so there will be some closure on this arc one way or other.
Overall, I very much enjoyed this issue. It was great to see thoughtful interactions between young people, where they’re discussing very relevant and important issues. Kids aren’t all just about surfing Tumblr or looking up cat videos, but I feel like contemporary mainstream comics often forgets that.
It’s also worth pointing out that Kamala’s ethnicity and religion do not come into play at all here. A fellow brown girl expressed concerns to me after reading issue #1 that Ms. Marvel might end up focusing too much on Kamala’s struggles as a Pakistani-Muslim girl in America, and not enough on her struggles as a young superhero, but this issue is proof that the comic has transcended that. Yes, Kamala’s family life does play a role in Ms. Marvel; but so does the fact that she’s a fanfiction-writing geek. Ultimately, so much of her story is about trying to do the right thing with the gifts and powers she’d been given. This is something that anyone can relate to, and it’s why Ms. Marvel has proven so successful and popular with comic readers.
The art is absolutely fantastic, as usual. There’s a lot of action in the comic, and a few panels of people standing around and talking, but everything looks equal parts whimsical and dynamic. Ian Herring’s colours add a very distinctly “soft” touch to Alphona’s pencils. I noticed only recently that Joe Caramagna does not use th econventional all-caps style of comics text balloons here, instead using a sort of youthful scrawl that I’ve come to associate as being unique to this series.
Ms. Marvel #10 is the final issue of Kamala Khan’s debut year. Almost a year on, the series has exceeded everyone’s expectations, mine included! It’s not just a triumph for diversity, but a triumph for hopeful, optimistic superhero comics. I absolutely can’t wait for more in 2015.