Practically every single solo hero ever since the Silver Age has had to find a way to juggle both their secret identity and their “superhero career” with their personal life – be it school or a job (or both). Such has been the case of Kamala Khan (the latest Ms. Marvel) ever since she not only became Jersey City’s official super-heroine but also joined Iron Man’s latest roster of “all new all different Avengers”. Yet it’s possible for someone to stretch themselves too thin, even if they have elastic super powers. G. Willow Wilson wraps up this “slice of life” arc with fast paced flair alongside guest artist Nico Leon and longtime colorist Ian Herring.
Trying to juggle being a solo heroine, an Avenger, a high school student, and preparing for her big brother Aamir’s wedding, was too much for Kamala Khan to bare alone. Rather than prioritize (as her best friend Bruno initially suggested), Kamala talked him into making some synthetic clones of herself via some leftover Loki magic and Bruno’s super science wizardry. Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever dealt with clones knows, things can go haywire very quickly. By the time the last issue ended, not only were there hundreds of Kamala clones, but most of them had merged into one giant version of her rampaging through town! “Giant Clone Kamala” had even crashed Aamir’s pre wedding party literally! When not even Ms. Marvel can handle things alone, Bruno tries to synthesize his own solution – little realizing that creating a giant T-Rex rarely solves problems! Things go so haywire that in the end it takes the combined forces of Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Loki to clean up the mess. Thankfully, in the end Kamala learns something about priorities, and being there for the people who mean the most to you.
To a degree this was very much akin to a typical plot for a DC Comics series during the Silver Age. There was no real threat or antagonism beyond the lead character’s attempt to solve a very relatable problem with fantastic super-science. Superman’s entire family of comic book series throughout the 1960’s thrived on these sorts of plots. Thankfully, G. Willow Wilson manages to insert a lot of modern sensibilities into this arc to avoid having it seem like “filler”. In just a short period of time, Kamala has gone from a novice to an Avenger, and her eager nature to try to be everything to everyone isn’t something she could sustain forever. In particular, dismissing her responsibilities with family and school to be Ms. Marvel almost 24/7 was both untenable and something Kamala would ultimately regret. Trying to spin all of the plates in one’s life at once and seeing them collapse is something every reader can relate to; thankfully in their case it rarely ends with clones, giant dinosaurs, or raids by a Norse god. Nico Leon’s artwork is amazing, easily able to feel natural within a universe designed by Adrian Alphona yet full of her own unique and distinct flair. Her Ms. Marvel is as energetic and rubbery as ever, and no matter how insane some of the panels get, it always looks like a lot of fun with her renderings. In addition to tons of amusing dialogue and exciting exchanges was a sense of playing with elements which had been introduced in the previous volume of the book and allowed to flourish.
This arc isn’t without its quibbles. Some may find the angle of a title hero needing to learn a blunt moral at the end of three issues to be a bit too quaint. It certainly doesn’t help that both Captain Marvel and Iron Man have to pretty much tell it to Kamala themselves. And while the clones may give her some plausible deniability, almost everyone who knows Kamala (including her extended family, school chums, and teachers) should at the very least be wondering why she of all people was massively cloned. Bruno’s girlfriend Mike not being able to recognize that Kamala and Ms. Marvel are the same person despite a mere domino mask to tell them apart is a fair suspension of disbelief in a superhero series; virtually everyone Kamala knows wondering why everything surrounding her life has become superhuman insanity risks stretching that too far. On the other hand, Spider-Man has benefited from nobody wondering why he would always show up wherever Peter Parker was, even other states or countries, for decades. In addition, there is a risk of diminishing some of the drama if Kamala can call Iron Man or Captain Marvel at any point when things get too dangerous, at least in the long term. But, one supposes that could be said of any superhero who finds themselves on a team. Within his first twenty issues, Spider-Man teamed up with Human Torch at least twice, and one of Johnny’s speeches wound up convincing Spider-Man not to quit in his fourth issue.
Despite the resetting of her issue numbering and the extra dollar in price, sales for Ms. Marvel have remained consistently strong. Even with an arc where the only villain is herself, she manages to bring a much needed spark to the Marvel Universe with her adventures, and tap the pulse of what the current generation around the world craves in superhero comics. Now with twenty five issues at her belt, the sky truly seems to be the limit to one of the house of ideas’ greatest creations!
Below are more mighty Marvel honorable mentions. They’re all marvelous comics in their own right, but can’t quite stretch as far as Kamala Khan can.
Patsy Walker a.k.a. Hellcat #5: The unofficial Defenders reunion comes to a close as this initial arc to Kate Leth and Brittney L. Williams’ series about Marvel Comics’ original feline heroine comes to a close. At the end of the last issue, Patsy had seemed to be captured by her old enemy Casiolena alongside Valkyrie and Bailey, who she’d briefly battled in attempt to thwart a shoplifting incident. Fortunately, Casiolena’s zeal to avoid being compared to Amora the Enchantress helps cause her to brash actions, and having a friend like She-Hulk at your back is one of the best things to have. Not only does Jennifer Walker cover for Patsy during a legal meeting with her “frenemy” Hedy Wolfe, but she convinces Casiolena’s minions to quit and rides the winged steed Aragorn to their rescue alongside Patsy’s other pals, Ian Soo and Tom. In fact it could be argued that Patsy’s allies do more of the heavy lifting here than Patsy herself; however, if the true mark of a person’s character is the quality of the company they keep, then Patsy is golden. Hellcat saves the day and gets to kick off her temp agency, although her troubles with Hedy may only be beginning. Kate Leth’s ability to mingle subplots and relationships from some very old comics within a very modern and trendy set up is more impressive than many may give her credit for. It isn’t easy juggling Patsy Walker’s life as both a teen comedy sensation (akin to Veronica Lodge or Betty Cooper) and a superheroine, but Leth weaves it all together into a very fun tapestry. The artwork by Brittney L. Williams is brilliantly colored by Megan Wilson and is always a joy to behold. It matches the optimistic action/comedy tone of the script well and has a distinctive pop to it. The classic Silver Age cover is also a nice bonus to an altogether amazing issue.
The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl #7: Thanks to a crossover with “Howard the Duck” last week, April has seemed to be a bonus month for Doreen Greene. Her second adventure for the month of showers is told in the style of a “choose your own adventure” novel. They were a series of “interactive novels” published from 1979-1998 which are now owned by “Chooseco” and were a fun gimmick for children in an era before video games became mainstream (and inexpensive). Jason Shiga (best known for his webcomic “Demon”) attempted to transition this gimmick into comic form with “Little Jimmy, Kid Detective” earlier this year in “Comics Squad: Lunch”, and Ryan North and Erica Henderson (with Rico Renzi on colors) attempt to follow suit with unbeatable Squirrel Girl here. Much like with Shiga’s effort, this means following arrows across various pages and panels as one makes various “choices” throughout the story. North and Henderson are less ambitious about this angle than Shiga was and there are far fewer “combinations” to play with, perhaps because they’re only working with twenty pages. It follows what passes in a typical day in the life of Squirrel Girl as a trip to the organic food market leads to a fight with a minor Speedball villain in Bonehead (circa 1989’s “Speedball #8”) and a choice to battle either the elder god Quoggoth or the villain Doctor Yes (an obvious riff on James Bond’s “Doctor No”). After that comes the bout promised on the cover against Swarm, a Champions enemy turned Spider-Man rogue who seems to be everyone’s favorite Marvel villain besides Doctor Doom because he is literally an evil Nazi scientist whose body is made of bees. Unable to beat Swarm alone, Doreen has to call her college friend Koi Boi to get some aid from the sea. While always a fun read with manic humor, the “choose your own adventure” gimmick seems almost to exist to pad out a fairly thin and routine plot, even by the comedy standards of Squirrel Girl.
The Ultimates #6: Guest artist Christian Ward tags in to illustrate Al Ewing’s latest issue of the “science team” of the Marvel Universe now that the Fantastic Four have split apart. While the opening pages pick things up right where issue five left off, this is really an issue about Galactus’ search for what seems to be plaguing Eternity, the physical embodiment of the universe who is now in chains. Thanks to the efforts of the Ultimates in their first issue, Galactus is now a “Lifebringer” able to revitalize worlds rather than feed on them. Not everyone in space is happy about this turn of events, such as Lord Chaos and Master Order (the manifestations of chaos and order). Yet even they may not be the most dangerous figures in space that Galactus meets, as he soon as a sit down meeting with Molecule Man – the figure who helped Doctor Doom and Mister Fantastic destroy and restore the multiverse in “Secret Wars”. An insane being more powerful than even Galactus, it seems even he is at a loss for what is wrong with the universe. Could figuring it out be an impossible task? Or is it as simple as the inevitable return of Thanos of Titan? After “Unbeatable Squirrel Girl” above, this serves as only the second weird comic that Galactus appears in this week. The art by Ward is very trippy and strange, which suits the nature of the story perfectly. It is interesting seeing Galactus cast in a different role than he’s been in in the past, and even become an unofficial member of a team like the Ultimates (who already are among the most powerful superhero teams in Marvel Comics right now). Yet with Thanos slated to return, this issue may merely be a stopgap towards better stories.