Today, Ryan M. and Taylor are discussing Ms. Marvel 15, originally released February 8th, 2017. As always, this article contains SPOILERS.
Ryan M: We all have things that we would never want the world to know about us. I started to type an example about me here and then deleted it, so there’s your proof. There is a reason that certain things are kept private. In a world where a malevolent person could access so much of your life through technology and persistence, it feels even more important to keep some things sacred. Ms. Marvel 15 deals with the psychological ramifications of a secret getting out as well.
With a powerful baddie knowing her secret, Kamala is shaken. This is a conflict unlike what she has faced before and without her old support system, she turns inward. It’s that introspection about the inherent lonlieness of being a teen that causes her to reach out to a shunned fellow student, Clara. Clara’s brush with the troll doc.x virus is enough to inspire Kamala to investigate, huge fists first. While she is able to confront the troll physically as Ms. Marvel, she discovers that her foe is not a person at all, but a virus that can infect both devices and people.
It’s a science fiction premise, but G. Willow Wilson is much more interested in exploring the human implications. Kamala’s narration is heavy throughout the issue, lowering the veil of her perspective over what we witness. She is on shaky ground since having her cover be in jeopardy.
In a splash page on the second page of the issue, Kamala’s guilt and fear are front and center. She is telling us that she believes the worst is happening. Even though we know that it’s not likely her secret is out given how her friends were talking on the page before, Wilson makes sure we know about Kamala’s anxiety. Takeshi Miyazawa doubles down on the relationship between Kamala and the reader in this moment. Though she is headed into class, her hips are turned back. She looks at the reader imploringly, asking for help. Of course, she is not the subject of the classmates’ whispers, but Wilson and Miyazawa have let us know where Kamala is emotionally and demonstrated her isolation from her peers.
That sense of distance continues as she sits apart from her friends at lunch. While the rest read a series of texts on Nakia’s phone, Kamala is caught in her own thoughts and fears. The texts stood out to me in that panel, if only because they are a demonstration of the lines blurring between public, private, and secret.
I don’t know if the implication was that they are reading Clara’s texts or that Nakia is sharing a thread that she is on, but either way this is the type of behavior that blurs the line between what is public information and what is meant to be private. I say that not as a judgement, because I have definitely shared a text chain with a third party (or group text) to get second opinions. And the story doesn’t judge it either, but we are in a world where we all develop personas both in real life and online that inherntly hide secrets. For Mike and Nakia, they feel a drive to hide any imperfections, lest they become a negative representation that others can use against their families. Their conversation is a sweet moment of connection between Mike and Nakia. It’s also another riff on the idea of public, private, and secret. By being honest about their secrets, they can connect, but they are relating over a need to pretend.
With very little happening page to page in this issue, Wilson is able to make each moment count. Kamala witnesses the interaction between her friends and it inspires her to reach out to Clara. It gives an arc to Kamala, who earlier in the issue simply stood as Clara fleed the classroom. Kamala has an internal arc as she goes from scared for herself, to reaching out, to avenging Clara as her next step.
Once Ms. Marvel arrives at the construction site we are thrown from inside her head. It’s a bit distancing, but also reflects how she is dealing with the threat. It’s not a time of reflection or breaking down her moment-to-moment feelings, but instead, she is fighting hard. Miyazawa gives us a sense of her power and rage in each panel against backgrounds of reds and yellows.
Taylor, what did you think? What did you make of the fight? Do you think there are thematic implications to the Troll’s ability to take over human bodies? There are some pretty fun details in this issue, like the football player who eats lunch in helmet and pads. Do you have a favorite?
Taylor: I didn’t really notice any fun details the likes of which we used to see in Ms. Marvel, but I still found plenty to like about Miyazawa’s art. However, what really stood out to me is how Miyazawa paces the paneling in this issue. My favorite example this comes when Kamala first confronts the construction foreman who she believes is the troll ruining her life.
As soon as the troll clicks off the computer screen in the second panel pictured here, the third panel shows Kamala’s fist punching the door off the hinge in her haste to confront her tormentor. This smash cut from inside the trailer to the outside so effectively demonstrates how eager Kamala is to beat down her newest nemesis. This isn’t only because the door is literally flying off the hinges. By wasting no time in establishing the outside scene, Miyazawa speeds up the action of the door being smashed open. We barely have a second to breathe between the troll turning off the screen and that door being smashed. Now that’s fast pacing, but pacing with a purpose.
Of course as the fourth panel in the above sequence hints at, confronting the troll isn’t going to be all Kamala hoped it would be. After a brief fight, Kamala defeats the troll’s avatar, an apparently baffled and innocent construction forewoman, and has her arrested. The ease of Kamala’s win leaves her feeling hollow, however.
Kamala feels weird about her win for two reasons. First, it came way to easy. Second, and more importantly, even though she won the day Kamala realizes that her secret identity still isn’t safe. This is exactly like the situation with Clara, the girl at Kamala’s school who had her secrets aired out by an untrustworthy friend. Even though the perpetrator has been found out in both cases, the damage has already been done. Whereas Clara has to deal with everyone in school knowing her secrets, Kamala realizes that her identity will never truly be safe again. This hollow win for Kamala demonstrates aptly how even though online trolls may be found out, banned, or sued, the damage they initially inflict on their victims can never be fixed.
Kamala knows this is the case even before her confrontation with the troll at the construction site. At school earlier in the day Kamala is scared everyone knows her secret and this leads her to empathize with Clara because she knows exactly what she’s going though. In supporting a fellow victim, Kamala invites Clara to join her for lunch, saving her from embarrassment.
In this way Kamala is practicing a form of heroism that doesn’t involve a secret identity. By helping to support Clara, Kamala is fighting back against the troll in a what could be the most effective way. Trolls gain power by trying to embarrass and badger their victims to the point where they feel helpless and alone. By giving Clara her support Kamala is already working to erode the power the troll has over his victims. True, Kamala can’t stop Clara’s secrets from getting out, but at least she can chose not to judge Clara for those secrets and still treat her with basic civility and compassion.
This is a wonderful scene and it captures what makes Kamala a unique hero aside from her bending body and huge fists. Kamala tackles modern day issues that plague our culture. While Thor may be out saving Alfheim, Kamala is here doing the dirty work of making a culture a better one to live in. It may not be as flashy, but it’s just as, if not more, heroic than the deeds of other superheroes.
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?