The latest issue of Ms. Marvel opens with one of my favorite scenes that this series has produced in a while. I’ll try not to spoil anything, but, needless to say, things are still changing in Kamala’s world and it’s not all about her. Getting back in touch with the Khan family proves a fantastic opportunity to build upon Kamala’s story and theirs, not to mention remind us why Kamala is so awesome and fun.
However, as joyous as the scene is, for the reader and the characters, Kamala is already at her limit and change is not usually good for that.
But her family isn’t the only thing getting more complicated. Jersey City is still feeling the effects of Dr. Faustus’ plans and that means tougher crime. While an encounter with some undercover HYDRA agents feels rather dull and uninspired as a threat to Ms. Marvel, Wilson demonstrates an impressive knowledge of the craft of the superhero battle.
Caped battles have reached new heights when it comes to layouts and banter in recent years, but it’s felt to me like they lost sight of the art of creating tension in spite of the known outcome. Ms. Marvel presents the perfect opportunity to get back in touch with the heroic struggles and clear advantages and weaknesses of Marvel’s classics and Wilson seizes it with eagerness and style.
The dialogue is also wonderful. Bruno and Kamala remain some of the strongest and most definable characters Marvel has and, even as the supporting cast swells in size, they all remain enjoyable to read and distinct from one another. Particularly given this title’s problems utilizing its cast in recent arcs, it’s wonderful to see attention paid to Nakia, the Khans, Mike, Bruno, The Avengers, and more. In fact, speaking of the Avengers, while Cap comes off a little stiff, Wilson writes one of the best Iron Man lines I’ve heard and tosses it in casually. She may be one of the few, highly needed, writers that can put eyes on a female-led series, but G. Willow Wilson should be put one of Marvel’s leading men as soon as she asks.
It’s not that I haven’t enjoyed Ms. Marvel’s recent outings, because I really have, however it’s been a while since I felt such a pure connection to what seems to be the core of this series. There’s superhero action, there’s social drama, there’s family madness; while the Avengers segment takes up a little more time than I think it probably should, there’s a little bit of everything and that’s pretty great. And at the core of this issue is one of the key themes of Kamala’s story: the different people that we have to be. The person we are with our family, the person we are with our friends, the person we are in our job, the person we are in our own estimation. The mechanism that Wilson uses to explore this idea is very well-trod, but the details tie it into the lore of the series and the thoughtfulness of the execution is very welcome. It may not live up to its potential, but it’s a promising start.
It is strange to see an issue of Ms. Marvel without Adrian Alphona or Takeshi Miyazawa on board, but Nico Leon proves a surprisingly able replacement. In fact, with Ian Herring’s familiar coloring, Leon’s artwork fits in quite nicely, possessing many of the same elements as Miyazawa and Alphona.
While every once in a while there’s a panel where you can see through the illusion and find the stiffness of his art, for the most part Leon proves a great addition to this series. His Kamala may actually be one of my favorites and he clearly has the right sensibility to bring Ms. Marvel and her strange, wonderful world to the page. The reactions are excellent and the physical comedy is spot on, but Leon also knows how to make Ms. Marvel look downright heroic.
He lacks the consistent polish that Alphona and Miyazawa bring to the book, but he’s easily a match for either one when it comes to rendering Wilson’s Jersey City. Visually, his comic is, top to bottom, Ms. Marvel and it’s a wonderful way to meet Leon and his artwork. And, besides, you can’t go wrong with Ditto face.
With pitch-perfect pacing, G. Willow Wilson brings us back to the heart of this series. The metaphor she’s playing with is wonderful and the supporting cast may never have been better, at least not all at once. Nico Leon joins the club of Ms. Marvel artists and finds a comfortable place between Miyazawa and Alphona while delivering a confident and attractive look for the series. Its biggest problem is that it doesn’t do any one thing spectacularly, but its strength is that it does everything well. If, for any reason that defies explanation, you’re not already reading Ms. Marvel, this is a perfect place to jump on and a brilliant encapsulation of why you should.