Last month I used a particular word in my review of Ms. Marvel #4. I called it pure. And I stand by that. There’s something pure about Kamala Khan. Modern and timely as she may be, Ms. Marvel is close to the quintessential Marvel comic. There’s an unsullied, unironic joy in reading this book and this issue, beyond that, feels like a particularly pure expression of Ms. Marvel.
Though it isn’t as strongly paced as last issue, Ms. Marvel #5 is just a pleasure to read. Kamala’s rather slapdash clones have a cartoonish gleefulness about them as they bumble their way through her life and others’. Mentions of Loki summon up genuine chuckles and a sense of real connection to the greater universe. And, as ever, G. Willow Wilson creates a weird, and tantalizingly unexplained, enemy for our favorite adolescent superhero.
There’s a degree to which it feels like Kamala doesn’t appreciate the severity of her situation this issue. The story excuses this by doing an unexpectedly sharp and economical job of communicating her sense of freedom in just being Ms. Marvel. But this, in turn, highlights the degree to which it feels like the story also underplays the threat. It seems impossible to ignore how drastically this could affect Kamala’s life, but no one seems to mind, as if all the weirdness of Jersey City has inoculated them from the bizarre. Apparently “It’s a science project” can explain away anything out in the Garden State. That’s some science program they’ve got. It also feels like a bit of a waste that we don’t get more time seeing the plan go…well, not right but…to plan, at least.
Regardless, the characters are wonderful this issue. Longcoming and slowgoing as it is, I love seeing Nakia’s development and, in the meanwhile, Mike provides a valuable function as a half-way member of Kamala’s formerly one-man support team.
But while Kamala’s friends are great this month, and need to be if Wilson is to succeed in communicating Kamala’s present situation, the real highlight is family. Like last month the best scenes are the ones dealing with Aamir’s upcoming (we hope) marriage. With one ‘meet the parents’ moment out of the way, we’re thrown headfirst into the remaining one. Like seemingly everyone else in this mixed-up New Jersey that lives in Wilson’s head, Tyesha Hillman and her father are fantastic additions to the Marvel universe. Mr. Hillman and Mr. Khan get quite a bit of the spotlight this month as the representatives of their respective families but they play beautifully off of eachother. The relationship between Mr. Hillman and his family is specific and lovely. Admittedly Mrs. Hillman could use some characterization and quick and her son, Gabriel, is not nearly as amusing as I think Wilson hoped, but, while his dialogue doesn’t flow the way the other characters’ do, that’s the worst he does for the issue.
Some gags/scenes may resonate with certain readers more than others and a moment of realization near the issue’s end feels wildly inflated in its significance, but there’s no denying that this is a fun issue with plenty of meat to it. The whole ending scene is just fantastic and I especially love the final spread.
Speaking of which, we’re treated to Nico Leon’s art once again this month. There’s no denying that, whether the individual instance comes as a result of Leon’s lines or Ian Herring’s colors, some panels simply don’t look up to snuff. They’re perfectly decent, but they’re flat or simplistic or lacking in their anatomy. Just the same, I can’t help but come out of this issue interested to see more from Leon. Admittedly it feels like he’s still improving as an artist, but where he gets it right, which is most panels, the books looks pretty great.
Leon suits this series’ look and, like his predecessors, he litters his pages with adorable easter eggs. It’s not quite to the level of Adrian Alphona, but the numerous crowd scenes and interesting settings provide fertile ground for amusing sight gags. His able use of subtle changes in angle really adds life to his compositions. And it doesn’t hurt that there are so many great costumes. Leon adds a great deal to the interplay between the Khans and Hillmans.
Ian Herring is also a huge part of the feeling of continuity between artists. The bright saffron backdrops play well against the soft beige and seafoam that Kamala’s clones wear. I also appreciate the change to brighter, more primary colors while Kamala is in uniform. The colors shift over the course of the issue, from a rose-tinted sky blue to the warm glow of twilight until we arrive at our final sequence, where Herring goes all out. The green and violet of the party are magical and they lead up to that final panel, where they take on a very different tone.
- To be honest I was expecting Tyesha to simply come from an African Muslim tradition. The idea that she’s an American convert is similarly and equally interesting and makes a lot of sense, given her relationship with Aamir. I wish we could have seen an African Muslim in a major comic, but this is cool. Plus, when was the last time that well written female character turned out not to be the interesting minority you thought and didn’t turn out to be something familiar and boring? The very existence of this note is a sign of the great work Ms. Marvel is doing.
This is my favorite arc of Ms. Marvel in a long time and, while I've liked almost all of them, it didn't take me long to determine that. All the characters click, the comedy is solid, and it feels like things are actually moving forward for Kamala and co. Throw in a promising new artist and the same fantastic coloring we've known all along and you've got a lovely issue. Admittedly both art and writing have weaknesses, moments that don't fit alongside the excellent work elsewhere in the issue, but it's nearly impossible not to smile reading this issue.