Suzanne: Ms. Marvel 9 introduces the subject of having a heritage that you don’t necessarily connect to. Who hasn’t gone through that at some point as a teenager? We’ve all been there, usually in less dramatic fashion than Kamala’s trip to New Attilan. For some teens, it looks like telling your dad you don’t want to go to med school like he did. For Kamala, this essentially expands on her feelings of difference and being an outsider as a Pakistani American.
Themes of belonging and kinship fit nicely into Ms. Marvel’s purview as a legacy character. By linking to an established superhero like Carol Danvers, Kamala grounds herself firmly in a tradition of women using their gifts and sacrificing for the greater good. Essentially, she chooses which group to associate with through her namesake. But what happens when she realizes that she’s part of a greater legacy and culture like the Inhumans? Is that necessarily welcome news to a teenage girl trying to establish her own identity? Does it add another layer of complexity to a character who already describes her life as complicated?
This issue opens with a natural segue — a giant robot in care of The Inventor trashes Kamala’s school and leaves her defenseless. She cannot transform because of her weakened state; instead she uses Lockjaw as cover and (eventually) disables the robot. Kamala passes out and presumably is in critical condition. Medusa saves the day in all her red-headed glory as she beams Kamala up to New Attilan along with Bruno and Lockjaw.
Kamala revives in some medical lab covered in blue goo reminiscent of Neo from The Matrix. Medusa and an alien physician called Vinatos reveal Kamala’s legacy as an Inhuman and explain the origin of her powers. Needing some time to absorb the news, Kamala goes against Medusa’s wishes and returns to Jersey City to take on The Inventor. Her parents make a cameo appearance long enough to show their overprotective side about the attacks on her high school. Then Kamala and Vick return to The Inventor’s stash house to break up “harvest day.” Although it looks like Kamala doesn’t have all of her facts straight–those kids in the robots actually want to be there.
Having more than a passing familiarity with Medusa, her somewhat stiff interaction with Kamala feels true to her regal demeanor. She doesn’t have time for more than a basic, one-size-fits-all explanation of her Inhuman heritage. Medusa also makes some assumptions early on, like telling Kamala: “You are home.” How can you identify with a heritage you never knew about? Its not like Kamala asked to become an Inhuman. Vinatos makes a good point about her newfound identity, that “Unique is not the same as alone.” It’s important that Kamala feels supported and affirmed as she establishes herself as a superhero. Similar to shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer, this series uses the metaphor of being Inhuman to discuss feeling different and isolated as a teenager.
Adrian Alphona’s work on this book is unique and delightful. Little details like the school sign having a joke about asbestos removal make me chuckle. Also, did anyone else catch the map of North America labeling Canada as “Snow Mexico”? If you don’t find that funny, than maybe you should just give up on comics altogether. Alphona draws Lockjaw as this enormously cuddly monster out of an episode of Sesame Street.
Taylor, I know you’re new to this series and a lot happened this time around. Was it easy to dive in or did you wind up Google searching quite a bit? What did you think of Kamala’s reaction to her Inhuman legacy? Any predictions about The Inventor’s long game here with those kids?
Taylor: You know, even with the internet at my fingertips I found I didn’t need it at all to just plow headfirst into the action of issue 9. True, there were some moments of what-the-hellness (giant robots powered by people, is this Sonic the Hedgehog inspired?) but I found those to be quite rare. I think the reason for this is that the comic has a certain laissez-faire mood that preps the reader for any crazy ol’ thing to happen. Giant talking dog? Sure! Robots powered by humans? Why not! Inter-dimensional travel? You bet! Coming into issue 9 cold was bit daunting at first but I leave it feeling like that’s almost the best way to enjoy it. This comic is offbeat, weird, cool, and everything in between. When it’s all that, there’s little you need or can do to prepare for the issue.
That being said, I’m immediately smitten by this comic and I’m eager to check the back-issues in hopes they are all as enjoyable as this one. Again, my admiration of this issue stems from the wackiness of everything involved. While there is a coherent plot and believable danger, that seems to take a backseat to the more outrageous elements present in this issue. From the weirdness of being saved by a queen named Medusa to the simple and inherent weirdness of Ms. Marvel’s skill-set, this issue is saturated in moments that never let you forget you are reading a comic where anything is possible.
I really enjoy how these odd moments bleed over into the “normal” aspects of Kamala’s life. After she returns from New Attilan, she must confront her upset and scared parents about her disappearance. As they give her a stern warning in her bedroom, the enormous Lockjaw lays belly up on the floor — with Kamala sitting on top.
I feel like this scene typifies the issue as a whole. On the outset, it’s a perfectly normal scene that has and will continue to be acted out in households across the world for years. However, making this encounter bizarre and delightfully offbeat is the presence of a giant, alien dog. The way Kamala’s parents treat the beast adds to the pleasure of the scene. Instead of being nervous or scared, they treat Lockjaw like they would a real dog. It’s hard not to enjoy a series which equally balances the absurd with the realistic. Basically it has something for everyone!
Wilson’s take on Ms. Marvel is wonderfully supported by the art of Alphona. It can’t be an easy task to draw all of the weirdness in this issue and have it feel natural, but Alphona does just that. What makes this possible is that like his writer counterpart, Alphona depicts the world in somewhat realistic way, but smears it over with a tasty coating of absurdism. While this is apparent in many parts of the issue, I think the character design accentuates most. Just look at these C-list cop characters and how well they fit into the design of a crazy world:
The main cop here emerging from the driver seat is about half the size of that squad car. There’s no conceivable way he could actually fit in there much less turn the wheel with arms that are about the size of a car door. The man is huge but not to the point that he’s a caricature. He still seems real, but at some point, when you view him in comparison to the car your brain skips a beat.
These things make me feel like anything is possible in this world, and I really have no clue what to think about the Inventor’s volunteers or Kamal’a heritage. All I know for sure is that I’m hooked.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?