Today, Spencer and Taylor are discussing Ms. Marvel 16, originally released June 17th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, click here.
Spencer: Being a teenager comes with a skewed sense of priorities. Every setback you face feels like the end of the world, even something as simple as failing a test or embarrassing yourself in front of your crush. As the superheroic Ms. Marvel, Kamala Kahn’s problems are often much more severe than the typical teenager’s, but even she sometimes needs a lesson in priorities — it’s just a shame that Kamala’s reminder takes the shape of the literal end of the world. If that sounds depressing, don’t worry — despite the heavier subject matter, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona never let Ms. Marvel 16 feel gloomy or depressing, instead focusing on the same mix of humor, heart, and adventure that’s made this title such a delight from the very start.
It’s been three weeks since Kamran broke Kamala’s heart (by trying to turn her over to Lineage’s rebel Inhumans) and she’s still reeling. Kamran doesn’t make things any easier for her — he’s drugged her parents and made off with her brother, hoping that he may be more sympathetic to Lineage’s cause than Kamala.
Wilson hasn’t touched on Kamala’s religion as much in recent issues, but I found this to be a really subtle handling of the matter. Kamran doesn’t seem to care much at all about being Muslim — he’s more interested in his Inhuman heritage — but he’s well aware of how devout Aamir is and thinks he can use that to his advantage. I can see parallels between Kamran’s assumption here and the hateful, malicious assumption that all Muslims are terrorists that many ignorant, bone-headed people make. Kamala is right to be offended by that sentiment (“Don’t you dare speak for him”), but it doesn’t really matter — Kamran’s already struck a nerve by attacking Kamala’s family, the people closest to her.
Kamala doesn’t have any more time to mope, or even to go after Kamran yet, though — she’s got the end of the world to deal with! Thanks to Secret Wars and that final, universe ending Incursion, Manhattan is in panic, but Kamala’s first reaction is to rush back to Jersey City to protect the people closest to her. It’s a tiny bit surprising, as most superheroes would probably charge head-first at the city in the sky, but Ms. Marvel isn’t just any old hero, and a threat of this magnitude only reminds her of the people who matter most in her life.
Ultimately, though, I think Kamala knows that she can’t keep playing defense forever. People are looking to her for protection and guidance, and that includes fixing the problem that’s caused such havoc in Jersey City to begin with. That’s easier said than done, though (actually, in this particular situation it’s impossible — there’s no stopping the Incursion — but Kamala has no way of knowing that), and Kamala is lost. She’s faced several varieties of supervillains by now, but this is her first real Crisis-level crossover, and that’s not something any one hero can handle alone. Thankfully, Kamala doesn’t have to — her idol, Carol Danvers a.k.a. Captain Marvel, arrives on the scene just in the knick of time!
This is a crossing of paths I think we’ve all been waiting quite a while for, and Wilson could not have picked a better time to finally have them meet. Kamala’s learned and grown so much by facing her previous challenges alone (or with the subtle help of her friends and Queen Medusa), but she’s finally met something she just cannot tackle in this same way, and Carol will be a fantastic mentor in this time of crisis. In a way, though, this is also a bit of a final exam for Kamala, a chance for her to prove herself to her greatest hero and, in doing so, fully entrench herself amongst the superheroic community. That’s something I’m beyond psyched to see (assuming any of this still counts after Secret Wars ends, which I’d almost guarantee that it will), and Kamala certainly deserves it — time after time she’s proven her bravery, smarts, skill, and now, her willingness to put everything aside to help people who cannot help themselves. Ms. Marvel’s the hero Jersey City deserves, and it’s absolutely heartwarming to see the way her city — as well as readers worldwide! — have so wholeheartedly embraced her.
With Kamala reaching such new heights in her career, it’s only appropriate that regular artist Adrian Alphona return to the book he helped launch, and I don’t know if I’ve ever appreciated his art more. Alphona’s art just strikes such a delicate balance — it’s never so silly that you can’t take it seriously, but it never takes itself too seriously either, and that’s exactly the tone needed for an issue like Ms. Marvel 16. Alphona easily captures the emotion behind Kamala’s predicament, but also balances it out with a goofy sense of humor, be it through his interpretation of Kamala’s abilities (I got a good chuckle out of her sprinting through the city at three times her normal size) or his inspired background gags.
These particular panels are my favorite — the cops disposing of evidence and the angry tiger just hanging out in the crowd of panicked people both cracked me up — but nearly every panel has some sort of zany Easter Egg just waiting to be found. All these elements don’t necessarily make Ms. Marvel‘s Jersey City the most realistic city, but it does make it a city I want to see triumph, and a city I look forward to visiting every month.
I’ll admit I was a bit worried when I first saw this “Last Days” tie-in solicited, but I needn’t have been. Wilson and Alphona have crafted the best kind of event tie-in here — the kind that takes the event and bends it to the title’s needs, using Secret Wars as a surprisingly natural extension of Kamala’s story and path as a hero. Taylor, did this work for you as well as it did for me? And while we’re at it, what was your favorite background gag?
Taylor: Oh there are so many great gags in this issue! I really enjoyed seeing a vampire doctor, a robot business man, and a squid with a dagger. But while all of those are fun, my favorite has to be an old woman wearing a “Ball Don’t Lie” sweatshirt.
For the uninitiated, “ball don’t lie” is a phrase used in basketball when someone is called for a foul. If the person who did the fouling believes the call is bogus, they can voice their displeasure by stating that the ball doesn’t lie. Basically this means if you miss a foul shot it’s because you weren’t really fouled in the first place.
Anyway. Why I enjoy this particular gag more than all of the others is that it just speaks wonderfully about the world Kamala lives in. For the most part, everything is ordinary. However, everything is also just a bit…off. While I can’t roundly say all old women don’t like basketball, I can ask you when was the last time you saw your grandma wearing a sweatshirt displaying Rasheed Wallace’s favorite way of getting kicked out of a basketball game? It’s not that it couldn’t happen, but it’s pretty zany and funny when it does. And that’s the world Kamala lives in and I love how Alphona so subtly shows us it’s inherent weirdness.
Wilson also creates this oddly humorous tone with her writing. While I appreciated all of the site gags, my favorite joke of the issue by far is when Kamala is divulging her troubles to a hot dog vendor. After her third doom Dog it becomes apparent Kamala needs to go home.
The scene is a parody of trope barroom scenes where a worried character, drunk, lays their worries at the feet of a bartender. Wilson gives the hot dog vendor all of the exact same lines as a bartender only she changes what Kamala says. It’s a gag I’ve seen all the times in cartoons and other places, but it just never gets old. What really sells the joke for me is that both hot dog vendor and Kamala play everything so straight laced. Their unawareness of how silly the situation is, is what makes it funny. Again, this reminds how the world Kamala lives in is just a bit weird and loony, which just makes it all the more charming.
Even though the world Ms. Marvel is fighting to save is humorous, the things she does to save it are serious and full of heart. Spencer, you mentioned how Kamala is still a superhero learning on the job and I couldn’t agree more. In this issue we see this to be the case with the way Kamala handles the impending end of the world. Instead of focusing on one plan, Kamala tries to everything.
First she has to save her family. Then she needs to help her friends. She also needs to make sure everyone is safe in the school. She also wants to save her brother from Kamran, but by the end of the issue she hasn’t even had the time to address this. What this shows me is that Kamala isn’t quite sure how to handle a situation of this gravity. Don’t get me wrong, she’s trying her damn best. But her efforts are a little unfocused here and by the end of the issue, she actually hasn’t ensured her family’s safety as she had hoped. Luckily, it seems like she’s going to get some fine tutelage that will help her next month!
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?