If one Kamala Khan can prove to headline what is arguably the best solo super heroine comic book offered by Marvel these days, why not three? That’s part of the premise behind this latest arc, “Army of One”, headlined by writer/co-creator G. Willow Wilson, incoming “guest artist” Nico Leon and stalwart colorist Ian Herring. The best comic books offer metaphors for real life problems behind over-the-top details and that is precisely what this opening issue seeks to do.
Kamala Khan may seem on top of the world right now, but in reality she is being stretched to the limit both emotionally and physically! Not only is she still adjusting to her best friend Bruno moving past her to date someone else, but her current tenure with the Avengers has only increased her superhero exploits. Jersey City, which was still very nearly taken over by Dr. Faustus last month, still has plenty of crime to monitor. And to top it off, her older brother Aamir has just gotten engaged, which kicks off a flurry of traditional Muslim parties and preparations to have to deal with atop of the usual load of homework and tests! After having to call in the Avengers to save her from a routine dock battle, Kamala capitalizes on one of Bruno’s latest experiments to duplicate herself so she can literally be in three places at once. While three times the Kamala sounds like a blast, things quickly get out of hand when the copies begin copying each other! Naturally, it will all lead to a lesson about priorities and the folly of trying to multitask too much.
To a degree this plot is similar to many from the Golden and early Silver Age of comics (and in particular, DC Comics) from the 50’s into the early 60’s. Many of those comics didn’t deal with plots involving super villain epics, but often more mundane slice of life tales where an extreme solution to an understandable problem often got out of hand for hilarious results. Practically everyone can relate to feeling swamped and divided into three during the hectic nature of life, wishing that it were possible to duplicate oneself. Peter David has used Jamie Madrox (the Multiple Man) to explore this dynamic (as well as ones of identity) for over a decade’s worth of “X-Factor” comics. Now it seems that Kamala Khan is about to get a taste of this in her increasingly complicated life. As usual, Wilson’s voice for Kamala continues to astound and amaze, and the rest of her cast shine through (from her brother and his fiance and her parents to the rest of Kamala’s high school pals). There are no need for villains when the supporting cast is this stable and solid, at least all the time. They can present stories through a life of their own. Nico Leon’s style of art gels well with the world created by Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa, complete with the zany stretching moves and no end of brilliant facial reactions and physical comedy.
The only quibble is that one can see the moral coming from two issues away. Even Kamala acknowledges that this is not the greatest idea and that all she is doing is delaying the inevitable – that she has gotten too big too soon and is now in over her head. Fortunately, the execution of the rest of the plot makes up for its ultimate climax being fairly predictable, even if it is a couple of months away. There also may be some who aren’t in the mood to see a plot from a sitcom play out in a superhero comic book, only without a laugh track. For the rest of us, however, it will be a pleasant diversion as well as a chance to play with Kamala and her cast dealing with an exaggeration of a real life problem – which is exactly what comic books at their best tend to be about.
Below are five other Marvel Comics from this week! It was a huge one and not all of them could keep up with three times the Kamala Khan action, even if she guest stars in one of them!
All New All Different Avengers #5: The issue in which it is decisively shown that the Avengers will believe a robot originally created by a villain over the word of two teenagers. Then again, one of their founders literally took the word of an ant over a woman once. This latest incarnation of the “earth’s mightiest heroes” (or at least one squad of them) have barely mobilized, and writer Mark Waid, artist Mahmud Asrar and colorist Dave McCaig have begun this latest chapter showcasing the team being shaken apart by a traitor within their midst. Unlike many “traitor among them” stories, previous issues have made it apparent that it is the Vision, who has decided that the team’s teenage members are their weakest link and thus the easiest to drub out of the group. The fact that Iron Man, Sam Wilson, and darn near every superhero in the Marvel Universe would rather reject and lecture teenage peers over their lack of experience than offer a lick of guidance or understanding (aside for crossovers, when the teen heroes usually serve as canon fodder) only plays into his mechanical hands. In addition, the identity of the obviously evil tycoon “Mr. Gryphon” is revealed and it turns out to be a figure who has had a long history with the Avengers in general as well as (seemingly) causing a traitor within their ranks. Yet another obscure super villain is trucked out for a fast paced action sequence (Equinox, a minor villain with a distinct visual from 1974’s “Giant Size Spider-Man #1”), but it is the drama within the team among their various members which takes up the bulk of the issue. The artwork by Asrar and McCaig is spectacular for both the heated arguments and bombastic action sequences. It simply is a shame that Stan Lee’s distaste for “teenage sidekicks” when he was co-creating the modern Marvel Universe in the early 1960’s has progressed to the point that hostility towards any teenage heroes seems to be the standard reaction for many iconic characters. In fact the only Marvel teams who consistently give teenage super-humans any benefit of the doubt are the X-Men (who are feared and hated by the world around them) and the canceled Avengers Academy (run by perennially “flawed” Avengers like Hank Pym and Quicksilver). A satisfying issue despite the intentional feelings of disappointment in some of the characters. In the end what is left of the team will become stronger once this crisis is overcome.
New Avengers #6: Apparently they are less new and different than the above Avengers squad, but still newer than other “uncanny” Avengers teams. This is almost a jam issue as writer Al Ewing and regular artist Gerardo Sandoval are joined by two other artists (Phil Noto and Mark Bagley) to complete what is the third arc of this volume. Ewing is wisely wrapping up most of his stories within two or three issues while carrying over subplots which progress throughout – which remains a rarer skill than it should be in monthly comics of the 21st century. That said, the conclusion of the “Wiccan is possessed by Moridun” plot does verge on being built up to be more than it is. After a team of Avengers from the future (the year “20XX”) barely survive a reality warping version of Wiccan to make a desperate jump into the past (where a fight with the “current” New Avengers ensues), all that it takes for Billy to overthrow the seemingly ageless alternate dimensional demon is Hulking yelling at him to do so once. Despite all of the bluster and dread from the future team, their mere act of notifying their past counterparts of the crisis seemed to solve it neatly – a rarity for these sorts of plots. As usual, Sandoval’s art may remind some readers of some of the over-the-top styles of the mid 90’s, but the brief work by Noto and Bagley is a great treat. The dialogue by Ewing is fun and it is great to see one of Marvel’s most well known homosexual heroes being given a “happily ever after” footnote to their relationship (especially in an era when not even Spider-Man is allowed to commit to a mature relationship), even if the conclusion of this arc does border on being an anti-climax. Perhaps Ewing is carefully focused on the economy of each issue due to numerous cancellations and/or the next upcoming crossover.
Spider-Man 2099 #6: Peter David, artist Will Sliney and Rachelle Rosenberg delve into the inhuman with the start of their latest arc covering the exploits of the late 21st century Spider-Man, Miguel O’Hara, who remains stuck in the present. Unfortunately, all it does it drive home the fact that Marvel’s line wide attempt to position the Inhumans franchise into the same slot as the X-Men – complete with there being a cabal of “Brotherhood of Evil Inhumans” out to forcibly recruit any new member of their species for general evil purposes – is as nakedly obvious as it is ineffective. One of O’Hara’s staffers at Parker Industries is exposed to Terragen gas and immediately forms a cocoon around herself, promoting Miguel to have to defend her from the token member from the aforementioned squad of obvious evil doers who has arrived to abduct her. The mystery involving the new Captain America from 2099 is quickly brushed aside for a fight sequence which doesn’t quite deliver. On the whole, Sliney and Rosenberg always offer top notch artwork, aside for one panel of Spidey dodging an energy blast which offers a feat of contortion which not even Mr. Fantastic could pull off. On the whole, this is another mediocre issue within a volume which has seemed to shift between that and outright disappointment. Not even an entire sitcom’s worth of banter from Miguel’s assistant Raul can save this issue.
Totally Awesome Hulk #3: Greg Pak,artist Frank Cho and colorist Sonia Oback craft an issue which offers plenty of over the top gamma action mixed in with one-liners. Amadeus Cho is still the Hulk and takes on one of Marvel’s greatest monsters, Fin Fang Foom, all without completely losing himself to the monster within. Ultimately, his quest to prove himself to the buxom intergalactic monster-collector Lady Hellbender seems to work too well, as he soon becomes her target! Seeing the normally brainy Amadeus embrace his inner “frat bro” makes for some hilarious moments, even if it does cast his kid sister Maddy or any other woman within his radius (such as She-Hulk) as long suffering voices of reason. While Frank Cho naturally gets to draw plenty of buff women in swimsuits, he also offers plenty of satisfying monster-thrashing action. This series could be accused of being fairly one note, but it at least embraces that note with full gusto and is doing its best to execute it properly. Amadeus’ tenure as the Hulk will hardly be permanent, but it looks to be a fun diversion in the meantime. Considering his path through the Marvel Universe, one could call Greg Pak’s creation the modern reinvention of Rick Jones, and his adventures continue to entertain.
The Ultimates #4: The second Al Ewing written superhero comic this week, it also is the second which deals (at least vaguely) with the dilemma of time travel. His “super science squad” have gone on a quest to access the damage to reality which has been caused by rampant time travel, which brings them to a realm called “the Neutral Zone” which is as far beyond time as many have managed. It is a realm which Adam Brashear – the Blue Marvel – is most familiar with, but it also delves too far into his past with his arch nemesis, Anti-Man. In fact, this entire issue serves as a primer for Adam’s history, embellishing on his original mini series “Adam: Legend of the Blue Marvel” by Kevin Grevioux from roughly a decade back. Fans who are less familiar with him will learn a great deal about his origins here, while those well versed in them will get another look at his former friend turned enemy, Conner Sims. Kenneth Rocafort and Dan Brown provide the art, covering everything from alternate dimensions to lab accidents to the Korean War. While vaguely similar in concept to Paul Jenkins’ Sentry, Blue Marvel has always been more interesting and layered, and it is terrific that Ewing has taken such a vested interest in the character. Both this series his previous “Mighty Avengers” have always included at least one or two arcs fleshing out the gaps of Adam’s long history. Frankly, if Marvel Studios ever wanted to produce a film offering their “answer” to Superman, they could certainly do a lot worse than Adam Brashear; from his ability to cover multiple areas as a scientist and cosmic level hero to his awesome costume designs, Blue Marvel has it all.