Though they often make good money, event tie-ins are not popular issues and writers know it. There have been all kinds of methods and strategies employed to overcome the negative reception that these kind of issues have received over the years. Some try to tie in closer, others attempt to tell their own story. Some hide in the corners of the main series, filling in details, while others zoom in close, providing a tight focus on one moment in time. With Ms. Marvel #10, G. Willow Wilson seems to be doing the latter, cutting out the noise of “Civil War II” that she’d already relegated to Manhattan to focus exclusively on Bruno.
I can’t say that Wilson is bringing new ideas to the table. In fact, the vast majority of this issue is familiar. The bedside laments and fraying partnerships and flashbacks filled with revelations could be extremely redundant, but Wilson has kind of earned this. We’ve seen writers try to pull this same script off again and again, but few of them have put in the time and the heart that Wilson has and that makes me afraid for Bruno and Kamala, even in a world where new bodies are grown and resurrections are a rite of passage.
And Wilson isn’t coasting on prior work either. Though Kamala’s thoughts about Bruno’s condition aren’t reinventing the wheel, they do an admirable job of actually summoning up that fear of the unknown, particularly as felt by a teenager. Kamala’s anger and fear are well written and that leads to some solid action that neither goes exactly how you’d expect nor feels unnecessary or shoehorned in.
This is the first of the, admittedly few, “Civil War II” tie-ins that has really dropped the illusion of equity between the two arguments. I know that the original “Civil War” prided itself on trying to present compelling reasoning for both sides but it’s kind of nice to acknowledge that there is a correct stance here. Wilson also makes it clear that just because some of the heroes are wrong, it doesn’t make them villains. Captain Marvel’s preventative justice is clearly dangerous and exploitable, however it is also understandable, especially in light of what’s gone on recently.
For Kamala, “Civil War II” is about more than just a clash of ideas or a falling out with her idol, but a slow and creeping realization that even your heroes are flawed. Everyone has hard days, good or bad, and everyone counts.
But, much as Wilson does to avoid the pitfalls of the event tie-in formula, it’s hard to ignore that doing an amazing job with a canned plot still leaves you with a canned plot. Ms. Marvel #10 is engaging in the moment, but it feels short. Part of that is the sense of urgency that permeates the issue, but part of it is just that things are fairly predictable, or at least that the things that aren’t don’t have time to fully bear fruit. You’ll enjoy this issue a lot while you’re reading it, but once you put it down you’ll notice the flaws more.
Thankfully we still have the series’ trusty artists aboard. Adrian Alphona handles the flashback at the issue’s start. His extremely particular style suits a flashback of young Kamala nicely. The very particular level of detail brings the first day of 2nd grade rushing right back. Alphona also draws the last two pages, This is, admittedly, a somewhat awkward way of structuring the art chores, tossing Alphona back into the ring for a page or two. You can’t say he doesn’t leave us on a lovely image, but, still, it feels like letting Takeshi Miyazawa round us out and leaving the different artists separated by a flashback might have been wise.
Speaking of Miyazawa, he’s at his best when there’s movement to play with. Kamala’s showdown with the PJ Cadets is a highlight. Miyazawa is great at utilizing Kamala’s size changing powers in a static medium and his dynamic, manga-inspired look makes Becky and Kamala’s tussle something to see.
In slower scenes, like Bruno’s hospital room, things are a little weaker. It’s still lovely to look at but it lacks direction in comparison to Miyazawa’s other work. It’s also distracting that the dialogue mentions that Bruno is covered in third degree burns but appears particularly pristine in the artwork.
Thankfully Ian Herring is the colorist on the whole issue which strengthens and ties together both sections. Herring is really the unsung hero of Ms. Marvel, contributing hugely but rarely getting the credit. His love of yellows, purples, and teals finds easy expression under the light of hospital fluorescents or a waterside sunset. It’s also clear how much thought goes into his coloring, as each shift in artist is accompanied by shifts in color. From the pastels of Kamala’s memory to the soft primaries of Miyazawa’s section to deeper shades as Alphona returns, Herring works with his collaborators to craft the best version of their work and makes this issue, and this series, a very pretty one indeed.
Ms. Marvel has actually done very well under the banner of “Civil War II” and, once again, G. Willow Wilson and her team have delivered a moving story that focuses on those who suffer most. Unfortunately the story is very familiar and, though the incredible work that the team has done over the past two and a half years elevate this issue, it’s not enough to fully overcome the limitations that predictability lays at their feet. It’s an issue we’ve all seen before, with the polish that this creative team brings to their every effort. Ms. Marvel #10 is emotional and beautifully illustrated, but it’s the least necessary read of the “Civil War II” tie-ins this series has given us.