I usually refrain from reviewing a book more than once—“Thunderbolts” being a glaring exception. My policy is if the book hasn’t taken a drastic change, better or worse, there’s not much point talking about it. After all, if the article can be summarized with “Like before again”, I’m not adding much to critique it. Today I’m going to break that philosophy because today I review “Ms. Marvel” number ten.
As I said when I initially reviewed “Ms. Marvel”, the book is absolutely fantastic. Kamala Khan herself has a dazzling personality that immediately draws in readers and makes you root for her. This is just as true today as it was back in February when the book launched. So instead of parroting myself, let’s focus on some other aspects, mainly the art. I didn’t get around to talking much about the art the first time which is a demerit on my part, bad Patrick! Not only are the action sequences absolutely captivating and pulsing with adrenaline, but they also belay Kamala’s inherent inexperience.
Let’s not kid ourselves here, this is an origins story. Kamala has had her powers for all of about a month and a half. Plus, she is a scrawny teenage girl who is cajoled by social pressures to be unobtrusive. So we can rightfully imagine her combat prowess is somewhere between a kung-fu enthusiast pensioner and a particularly menacing chicken salad sandwich. And this is perfectly conveyed in the combat, she’s drawn to have a hesitancy, with a lack of confidence in her own abilities. Yet she still continues fighting, trying new things in combat, things she is uncertain she can actually do. You actually see the doubt in her when she tries to do something she has never done before or when something that she did try falls through or is deflected and this is very much a credit to Adrian Alphona because he is able to capture the action without losing any of the personality. But if you thought it was just action that makes the art in this book incredible—then hold onto your butts.
One of my favorite, favorite, favorite things about the art is the faces that Kamala makes when she is reacting to these crazy things that are happening in her life. Whether showing balls to the wall excitement at meeting Wolverine or surprise and shock when she accidentally falls through a sky light, her emoting is a pillar of this book. It’s gotten to the point where I am convinced that any other character or incarnation of this character would not have worked, Kamala is the only one who could have pulled off the mantle of Ms. Marvel. But it’s not because she is doing these incredible feats of super hero-ing (she is). It’s because she has reactions to this super hero business that makes us want to see more. We want to see her experience these new aspects, to fall into these familiar troupes and see how she responds. She already had her first super hero team up, what will it be like when she finds her first arch nemeses? What about her first guest stint on a super hero team? And the thing that we are all waiting for, what happens when she finally meets her hero, Captain Marvel? We’re all captivated by this book because we are the jaded comic book enthusiasts who have seen it all before and she is that vibrant and enthusiastic idealistic voice that gets to be excited about all the things that are common place in comic books.
So, the question. How does Kamala continue to stack up to Mark? Well, art wise it is two completely different ball parks. Adrian Alphona makes for a fun, almost cartoonish environment where you almost expect to see the old onomatopoeia word balloons like “Bam” and “Crash!”—but not in a bad way, this is a return to childhood adventures where there is nebulous danger buried under heaps of fun action and fighting. To contrast that, Ryan Ottley also draws in a cartoonish style—a comic book-y cartoonish style; the distinct difference being that “Invincible” will go from fun and happy super fight to gruesome anguish dripping in buckets of blood in two panels flat. It’s this thing that “Invincible” does to make the dramatic moments more poignant. Books where everything is blood and gore lose the impact when there is nothing to compare it to. But in “Invincible”, we see Mark having a fun father/son moment and it is immediately torn asunder as the two are forced to fight and Mark is beaten to a bloody pulp. No, we won’t ever get this in “Ms. Marvel” but I don’t think that detracts from the story. The dramatic moments have more to do with the emotional strain on Kamala than the physical—though her fight scenes are no less punishing than Mark’s.