Ms. Marvel 19

Alternating Currents: Ms. Marvel 19, Ryan and DrewToday, Ryan D. and Drew are discussing Ms. Marvel 19, originally released October 14th, 2015. This issue is a Secret Wars tie-in. For more Secret Wars coverage from the week, check out our Marvel Round-Up.

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Ryan: As you may already know, Ms. Marvel is a delight to read. I, personally, have not had so much fun reading a comic since Vaughn’s Runaways, with all of its silly and earnest characterizations. The comic being discussed today features the same amount of oddball quirk and spirited dialogues, but also does not shy away from the heavier side of human emotions, making Ms. Marvel 19 a joyful kick to the gut. Though it may seem a little odd reading a Secret Wars tie-in dealing with the Incursion about five months since Hickman took us to Battleworld, the this issue offers a completely fresh, focused perspective on the cataclysmic event, wherein our titular character does not even don her tights. Instead of sweeping battle scenes, Wilson and Alphona treat audiences to a pay-off of inter-personal relationships and redemption in the face of confusion and helplessness.

With Kamala’s brother rescued from Lineage and Kamran — neither baddies appear in this issue — and her secret identity outed to her mother, Ms. Marvel 19 serves almost as an epilogue about the love one finds after finding the acceptance featured in the last issue. The love between Kamala and her mother as the parent recognizes the child’s painful transition into adulthood, the compassion showed by the oft-maligned jocks and bullies, and the sister-like philia of Nakia drive this issue instead of sleuthing and super team-ups. As a middle school teacher who has shown the film an embarrassing count of times in class during half-days, I loved the Frozen reference here:


Both that film and Ms. Marvel feature deep connections between the heroines and, even more importantly, do not define the success of its protagonists by the capitulation to hetero-normative romantic relationships. The audience finds just as much catharsis in the deep love between Bruno and Kamala despite the fact that it is not defined by passionate eros. I applaud the creative team for making that strong choice and bucking the popular trend.

One of the other most important characters in this series, especially as of late, is New Jersey, herself. I have always gravitated towards the superheroes who have high stakes in keeping their neighborhood safe (Daredevil, Moon Knight, Spider-Man), and Ms. Marvel cares deeply for her city. The amount of community seen in the make-shift emergency shelter which once served as Kamala’s high school moved this reader to tears. As cheesy as it sounds, the spirited pep-talk followed by impromptu dance party worked perfectly:


This scene is goofy, preposterous, beautiful, and terribly human in a universe renowned for gods and aliens. Every person drawn in this scene possesses an egregious amount of individuality, binding together in a show of solidarity, made all the more vibrant with Alphona’s trademark, distorted, curving lineation and slightly fish-eyed choices in perspective.  If it did not hit you last issue, one particular line, from the mouth of the ever-wise Bruno, drives home the parallels between this crisis and the devastation left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy in 2012: Apparently all the government resources are going to New York — we’re getting screwed as usual. Jersey City’s little, little brother complex to the Big Apple means that the city needs to look after itself, and it does so with pride.

If you have stuck around this past year to read the entirety of season one of Ms. Marvel, you probably love Kamala Khan, which can be attributed to many things: a strong, non-traditional female who resonates with a diverse audience while offering the particular socio-cultural sub-set of first-gen Muslim-Americans a role-model who grapples with her transition into adulthood in a world of conflicting messages. Most of all, though, we love Kamala Khan because the creative team does, as well, and crafts this comic with a pervading love for the readers. Drew, you lovely man! Are you excited for season two of this series? Did you mind the lack of punching in this issue? Were you feeling the love?

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Drew: Absolutely. In a comics market still filled with anti-heroes and grey areas, it’s refreshing to see a character succeed by simply doing the right thing. That’s not to say this series isn’t morally complex — indeed, exactly what “the right thing” is is often unclear — just that Kamala’s wins actually feel like wins. Part of that is no doubt the affection this creative team has for the character, but another part is how easy it is to put ourselves in her shoes. Marvel was built on the principle of superheroes with relatable human problems, and Kamala Khan might be the best example of that on shelves right now.

Which is to say, I have absolutely no problem with the fact that “Ms. Marvel” doesn’t make an appearance in this issue — Kamala is acting plenty heroic enough. Er, “heroic” might be overstating it a little, but having a series of hard conversations with her friends and families certainly takes guts and maturity, and is undoubtedly “the right thing.” But of course, everyone around her is also being pretty awesome.

Kamala’s mom knew she was Ms. Marvel (it turns out Kamala wasn’t quite as sneaky as she thought), but hasn’t said anything because she approves. Or, at least she prefers helping “suffering people” to drugs or falling in with a bad crowd. Ammi needs to be supportive in this moment, and it absolutely warms my heart, but I can’t help but wonder if she really is okay with the risks Kamala is taking — a “righteous child” doesn’t mean a whole lot if that child is dead. I’m inclined to think that drugs might be less risky than fighting crime — Kamala was shot pretty early in her career, and has faced more than a few dire situations since then. But Ammi is reacting to Kamala’s heart, which is undoubtedly in the right place.

Kamala’s other conversations require a little less mental gymnastics to land. She really was neglecting Nakia, and she really does regret it, and giving those two a moment to connect speaks to what makes this character great. The same thing with Bruno, albeit amped up with a little teen romance. It’s a hard conversation — one that Kamala was actively avoiding earlier in the issue — but she turns to face it all the same. It’s her decision there that really demonstrates her maturity, though: it’s not that she doesn’t care about Bruno, or feels restricted by her family or religion, it’s just that she needs to focus on Ms. Marvel. She needs to devote herself fully to the thing she cares most about — would that I had that kind of foresight in high school.

But the thing that really gets me about this issue — and the thing that really reveals the power of Ms. Marvel — is just how infectious Kamala’s choices are. She’s the reason all of these people have been brought together, and that simple act has brought out the best in everyone. Even Zoe is more mature and empathetic, admitting that she’d been horrible just to cover up her own insecurities. That might actually be Ms. Marvel in a nutshell: success isn’t just about beating the bad guy (or the bully), it’s about making them want to be good. It’s when Kamala can do that without changing shape that’s truly remarkable.

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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?

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