The following is a video I made for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s the first in what I hope to be a series about the special, often overlooked gems in the world of comics. I plan on making others like it. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!
The following is a video I made for my YouTube channel, Jack’s World. It’s the first in what I hope to be a series about the special, often overlooked gems in the world of comics. I plan on making others like it. Let me know what you think. Enjoy!
During times of crisis, be they global or just a string of bad days, you got to make the most of what little good you can find. One major benefit of being a comic book fan is that you get a nice shot of good once week, every Wednesday. For us, New Comic Day is like a free massage, a free meal, or a free lap dance that adds a silver lining to an otherwise shitty time.
Let’s be honest. It’s been a long time since things have been this shitty. The news surrounding the Coronavirus/COVID-19 is historically bad and keeps finding ways to get worse. For the foreseeable future, there can be no sports, no concerts, and no major gatherings of any kind. It sucks, but that shouldn’t stop anyone from enjoying a fresh stack of comics.
This feels like one of those weeks where every comic fan is entirely justified in spending more than they usually do. When you’re stuck at home or are looking for new ways to combat boredom, it’s the best possible time to pick up a new series or take advantage of one of Comixology’s many sales. You might just find something awesome.
The world will continue. The news will likely get worse before it gets better. Until then, every bit of awesome we can find is all the more precious. Below is my pull list for the week and my pick. A new batch of comics may count for much for some people, but in my experience, there aren’t many bad situations that cannot be improved by great comics.
Teenage superheroes are among the high risk/high reward ventures of superhero comics. When done right, teenage superheroes can create great characters who grow to become iconic heroes. Peter Parker is the gold standard for just how great those characters can be, as evidenced by his merchandising sales. However, he’s the exceedingly rare exception.
Most of the time, teenage superhero end up being superheroes with teenage angst. That’s why so few go onto become iconic. In recent years, Marvel has been reaping the rewards of putting considerable effort into their teenage heroes. Characters like Ms. Marvel, who is destined for her own Disney+ series, is probably their greatest success story. However, a comic like “Outlawed #1” reminds us that her success extends beyond her character.
A big reason why teenage superheroes have become so prominent at Marvel lately is because the adult heroes aren’t exactly raising the bar. Between superhero civil wars and mass Hydra infiltration, they’ve been letting the younger generation of heroes down a lot lately. They’ve been trying to make up for those shortcomings and it’s led to some remarkable stories and character growth, especially in books like Champions.
All those efforts finally hit an adamantium wall in “Outlawed #1.” Writer Eve Ewing does something different in taking a step back to see the bigger picture surrounding teenage superheroes. The story raises an important question that probably should’ve been asked much sooner.
Should teenagers even be superheroes?
That’s a question that Marvel’s top teen heroes, including Nova, Ironheart, Moon Girl, and Miles Morales try to answer. Even other adult heroes like Captain Marvel and Captain America chime in. Unfortunately, there’s a messy context to the question and it badly affects the answer.
“Outlawed #1” effectively sets the stage for the teenage superheroes of the Marvel universe to prove themselves. Like teenagers who have to prove they can be trusted with their parent’s car, they have to show that they can handle the duties and responsibilities of being heroes. On top of that, they have to do so after striking out on an incident that went so poorly, the government got involved.
Even the most irresponsible teenagers rarely let it escalate to that extent. While their intentions were always good and their ideals always solid, their youth and inexperience showed. The authorities they rarely respect have successfully made the case that teenagers cannot be responsible superheroes. Now, they have to prove that notion wrong.
It’s a daunting prospect that gives “Outlawed #1” a level of dramatic weight we haven’t seen in superhero comic for a while. It doesn’t just raise questions about teenagers being superheroes. It doesn’t frame them completely as one of those simplistic concepts that involves adults lecturing teenagers on responsibility.
There will always be a place for teenage superheroes, but it’s worth questioning how capable these young heroes can be when they lack experience, maturity, and perspective. They’re difficult questions, but “Outlawed #1” gives these heroes an opportunity to answer in a way that makes this book an easy pick.
Regardless of how you feel about irresponsible teenagers, they’re going to do crazy things that adults don’t approve of. That includes being superheroes. Let’s face it, there are worse things they could do with their powers.
Reading comics is one of those special activities that works during any time of the year. When it’s cold out, there’s no greater feeling than curling up under some blankets, downloading some new comics via Comixology, and letting the inherent awesome warm your soul. When it’s hot out, there’s no greater feeling than sitting out in the sun, getting your new comics through Comixology, and soaking in both rays and awesome.
New comics can make any season more enjoyable, by default. There have even been Wednesday mornings when it’s pouring rain outside and I still sit on my porch, reading new books while drinking a hot cup of coffee. The experience is nothing short of Zen like. I’ve tried it in a blizzard too. It doesn’t work quite as well, but it still works.
I say that because this is usually the time of year when the weather is nice enough on a Wednesday morning to watch the sun rise while reading new comics. Whether you’re at home or on a beach, it’s a great feeling that I recommend every comic fan enjoy at some point in your lives.
This week is the first of many opportunities. I’ve got another lengthy pull list, including a few books that I’ve been closely monitoring. What follows is the list of books I have on hand this week and a pick that will make that morning sunrise that much more beautiful. Enjoy!
Teenage superheroes are often hit-and-miss. They’re often high-risk/high-reward characters who can either become beloved global icons in the mold of Spider-Man or they can just become annoying, insufferable, and not the least bit endearing. I won’t name names, but I have singled a few out in the past.
By almost every measure, Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan is a hit. She’s probably the biggest hit Marvel has had for a teenage superhero since X-23. She has her critics, but a character doesn’t go from a complete unknown to starring in her own TV series within a decade without being awesome on some levels. “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13” perfectly demonstrates why she’s so awesome and why her critics are just being difficult.
This book comes out on the heels of a huge upheaval in Kamala’s life outside her superhero identity. Her father is still recovering from an illness that almost killed him and left him with permanent health issues. Her kinda sorta almost boyfriend, Bruno, is looking for clarity when Kamala isn’t ready to give any. She’s a teenager. Emotional clarity is still an emerging concept.
Through all this drama, she still finds time to go to a county fair and hang out with her friends. She also finds time to fight some magic monster hiding in a fortune-teller’s crystal ball and gain a new side-kick in Fadi “Amulet” Fadlalah. That’s a lot for one teen hero to tackle in a single comic, but writer Saladin Ahmed pulls it off beautifully.
In a single issue, “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13” offers a simple, but dense story that has just the right amount of teen melodrama and teen heroism. Those are the key ingredients for any successful teenage hero and Ms. Marvel mixes them better than anyone not affiliated with Batman.
Kamala takes time to be a teenage girl and a dutiful daughter trying to meet her 9:00 p.m. curfew. She also tries to be a good teenage superhero who inspires others for all the right reasons. Her new side-kick, Amulet, is just the latest example that she is having a positive impact. She’s inspiring others, as good heroes do. The fact she does this while still being an emotionally insecure teenager only makes her more endearing.
If you ever need a reminder of why Ms. Marvel is such a special character, “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13” offers all that and then some in a single comic. It’s not just my pick of the week. It’s my personal reminder of why I love this character so much and why her upcoming Disney-plus series cannot come out fast enough.
Every so often, a new character comes along that you just know in your gut is going to be a big deal. I certainly felt it the first time I read about Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan back in 2014. I also felt it the first time I saw X-23 show up in a fateful episode of “X-Men Evolution.” It may be a bit premature on my part, but I definitely got that feeling about Ripley “Star” Ryan “Captain Marvel #10.”
For the past few issues of this series, writer Kelly Thompson has been teasing a new hero to challenge Carol Danvers in ways beyond who looks better in skin-tight outfits. Like Carol, she’s got blond hair, superpowers, and a fondness for punching the giant monsters that seem to invade New York City at least once a week. Marvel has even teased her as being the next big thing in their ever-evolving pantheon of heroes.
I admit, I was skeptical. Whenever a comic company goes out of their way to push a new hero like this, it tends to be hit or miss. Some, like Kamala Khan, work out wonderfully. Others become so forgettable that they’re relegated to punchlines for an entire era. For the most part, Star came off as just some generic woman trying to take advantage of Carol’s recent hardship. That all changed in “Captain Marvel #10.”
After reading this book, I believe Star has the potential to be something special for both Captain Marvel and the larger Marvel universe. I’m not saying that potential could include a future phone call from Kevin Feige at Marvel Studios, but if I were Ms. Thompson, I would start preparing for that conversation.
Whereas the past few issues have been full of questions, setbacks, and failures for Carol, “Captain Marvel #10” offers a fair amount of answers. Thanks to Tony Stark and an old adversary, Dr. Minn-Erva, who fans of the movie should recognize, Carol finds out why her powers have been acting up lately.
It has nothing to do with stress, mental blocks, or one too many grabs from Rogue. Someone infected her with a Kree-engineered virus and Dr. Minn-Erva doesn’t even try to make a mystery of it. She’s not exactly subtle and she gives Carol plenty of reasons to punch her senseless. On top of that, Dr. Minn-Erva is asking for Carol’s help. Let that sink in for a moment.
It’s not the charitable kind of help, either. It has been canon for a while that the Kree really screwed themselves, going all the way back to the “Black Vortex” event in 2015. They’re scattered, broken, and desperate. That gave Dr. Minn-Erva more than enough excuses to start experimenting with Kree and human DNA.
On paper, it seems like a good idea. Carol Danvers is half-Kree and she has proven on plenty of occasions that she can kick ass on an inter-stellar level. That’s exactly what the Kree needs in such desperate times.
As often happens with alien biology experiments in comics, things don’t go as planned.
Without getting too deep into spoilers, I’ll note that Dr. Minn-Erva’s plans go beyond infecting Carol. I’ll also confirm that Star, who is revealed as Ripley Ryan, is a big part of those plans. Now, Ripley is very much a blank slate. Her first appearance was in “Captain Marvel #1” and she was just a sweet, hipster journalist looking to interview Carol.
Now, as Star, she’s a lot more than that. Between her powers and how she got them, her story is indelibly tied to Carol’s, more so than Kamala Khan’s. It’s also because of that connection that she has the potential to be Carol’s greatest ally or worst enemy. She proved in previous issues how capable she can be as an ally. In “Captain Marvel #10,” she proves what she can do as an enemy.
Once the answers are laid out and the truth is revealed, the fighting starts. That’s where artist Carmen Carnero gives both Star and Captain Marvel the colorful spectacle that they deserve. It’s not just a clash between a new hero and an experienced veteran, either. There’s drama in this fight that you just can’t get from a typical rampaging monster or superhero brawl.
The events of “Captain Marvel #10“ put Star at a unique crossroad. She can still become a hero. She can also become a dangerous new rival capable of challenging Captain Marvel, the Avengers, and anyone else who gets in her way. It’s not the least bit clear which path she’ll take, but the final pages hint that she’s willing to cross a few lines to realize her potential.
Thompson has achieved something special with both Star and Captain Marvel, which will likely make this comic a valuable collector’s item. Star isn’t the kind of superhero who got dragged into it by accident or circumstance. She chose to pursue it. She sought the kind of power and abilities that help make Carol Danvers the hero she is.
Star would not be on this path if someone like Captain Marvel hadn’t inspired her. It offers a unique perspective on the influence of superheroes. By doing what she does so well, Captain Marvel might have created her greatest rival. Like it or not, she’s a part of Star’s journey and “Captain Marvel #10” marks a critical stage of that journey.
It’s still hard to say whether Star will become the kind of character who will one day fight alongside Brie Larson in a Captain Marvel movie, but the potential is there. Since the world can never have too many charismatic female heroes, I’m certainly rooting for her.
Every so often, I get news that excites me like a kid in a candy factory. It doesn’t happen often these days. As adults, it’s hard to get too excited when bills, the news, and traffic do plenty to dampen your spirits. Then, it happens and your world is better because of it.
This past weekend, I got a much-needed dose of that excitement. At Disney’s annual D23 Expo, Marvel Studios announced that they’re making a live-action Ms. Marvel TV show for their Disney+ streaming service. As someone who has praised Ms. Marvel’s comics and her contributions to female superheroes, I freely admit I jumped for joy when I saw this.
I know the news surrounding Disney hasn’t been good lately, given what has been happening with Spider-Man. I also know they’re in a bit of a transitional period after the conclusion of “Avengers: Endgame.” Despite these issues, Marvel Studios and their Disney overlords still want to make money. They’ve got plenty of high-profile movies on their slate, but this could end up being a bigger deal.
I say that as an unapologetic fan of Ms. Marvel and all things Kamala Khan. I also know that Disney is looking for any possible edge to promote their new streaming service and take a bite out of the market share that Netflix currently dominates. I admit I wasn’t planning on subscribing. Shows about She-Hulk, the Scarlet Witch, Vision, and Moon Night sound fun, but not enough to justify the cost.
That all changed with Ms. Marvel. As far as I’m concerned, she’s the only reason I’ll be getting or keeping a Disney+ subscription. There’s a lot to unpack with this announcement. I doubt I’ll cover all of it here, but for now, I’d like to take some time to articulate the extent of my excitement.
To that end, I’d like to share five things I hope to see in this upcoming series. Kamala Khan is one of those characters who can capture the heart, soul, and spirit of the superhero genre. Her entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe couldn’t be better. These are just some of the things that could make it even more marvelous.
Number 1: The (Many) Quirks That Make Kamala Khan Lovable
Any TV show, comic book, movie, or video game involving Kamala Khan must make its first priority to capture the essence of what makes her so endearing. Being a superhero is only small part of her overall story. What makes Kamala great is the many little things that define who she is.
She’s not just a teenager who gets superpowers and decides to start fighting criminals. She’s a self-professed fangirl. She loves playing video games, eating gyros, and writing fan fiction. These quirks are small, but numerous. They’re real things that people in the real world can relate to. That makes it easy to understand and appreciate her passions.
When I first read about Kamala in “Ms. Marvel #1,” I immediately grew to like her. She came off as the kind of girl I would’ve been friends with in high school. She presents herself as someone who behaves how you would expect a teenage girl to behave in a world where superheroes existed. She has a good family, a good heart, and an adventurous spirit. How can you not love that?
She’s also an outsider and not just because she’s a Pakistani Muslim girl living in Jersey City. Like most teenagers, she’s uncertain of her place in the world. She struggles with real issues, even before she gets superpowers. Those issues stay with her, even as she develops her superhero identity. It makes her easy to like and even easier to root for.
A TV show can’t just focus on her beating up bad guys and making witty one-liners. Plenty of other superheroes already do that, some better than others. It has to highlight, if not belabor, the distinct traits that have helped make her one of Marvel’s most successful female characters. There’s a lot to love and with a TV show, there’s plenty of room to explore it.
Number 2: Relatable Teenage Melodrama (Compounded By Being A Superhero)
Along with the traits that make Kamala Khan so lovable, there’s also the unavoidable battle that is teenage melodrama. Everyone faces it. Superpowers don’t make you immune to it. The last two Spider-Man movies have made that abundantly clear. A TV show provides more time and flexibility to flesh out that melodrama.
In the first few issues of Ms. Marvel’s comic series, which I highly recommend, she deals with a lot of teen angst and uncertainty. In fact, that sentiment is the very thing that prompts her to defy her parents and sneak out at night to a party that would ultimately end with her getting superpowers. In a very literal sense, teenage melodrama helped make Ms. Marvel who she is.
She’s not sure of where she fits in. She clashes with her parents. She argues with her friends. She also is starting to have feelings about other boys, which have made for some wonderfully sweet moments. She deals with all of this on top of being a superhero.
Like a young Peter Parker before her, these different aspects of her life often clash. One tends to undermine the other and it does plenty to overwhelm her at times. That often brings out the best in her and any TV show would be wise to present those moments.
Number 3: The Family And Supporting Cast That Help Make Her Who She Is
Like every major hero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ms. Marvel’s greatest strengths often stem from her supporting cast. Tony Stark wouldn’t have achieved what he did without Pepper Potts. Carol Danvers wouldn’t have accomplished what she did without Nick Fury and Goose the Cat. Kamala Khan is no different.
In “Ms. Marvel #1,” we learn plenty about Kamala’s supporting cast. She has two loving parents who tend to be overprotective of her. She has an uptight brother named Aamir, who tends to intrude into Kamala’s personal life more than most siblings. She also has a friend/love interest in Bruno who had a front-row seat in seeing her become Ms. Marvel.
Each one of these characters helps shape Kamala into who she is, before and after she gets her powers. They support her, but they also complicate her efforts. While none of them have to die for her to be the hero she strives to be, they all make their on contributions to her story. In the same way Superman’s parents guided his heroic journey, Kamala’s friends and family informed hers.
Unlike Superman, Kamala endured a pretty rocky road to establishing herself. However, at no point did her creator, G. Willow Wilson, give the impression that her friends and family were just background decorations. They all care for her. They worry for her. They all want what’s best for her, even when they’re rarely on the same page.
A TV show featuring Kamala has to capture at least part of that family/friend dynamic. Even a fraction of Kamala Khan’s supporting cast from the comics can do plenty to make for a rich, engaging TV show.
Number 4: The Struggles (And Triumphs) Of A Growing Hero
There’s no getting around it. Kamala Khan screwed up more than once when she started off her superhero career in the comics. While she managed to save one life the first time she used her powers, she ended up getting shot the second time. Even before that, she struggled to master her powers in ways that were both understandable and hilarious.
It’s a critical part of every superhero’s journey. With new challenges come new struggles. Some of those struggles devolve into outright failures. Even the best heroes fail sometimes and Kamala had more than her share in the comics. Any TV show that tells the story of her journey cannot and should not gloss over those struggles.
With Kamala, however, the struggles matter even more than the triumphs. While many heroes may lament at their failure, Kamala tends to get a lot more animated. She’s passionate about what she does and has a tendency to wear those passions on her sleeve. It’s part of what makes her lovable. It also reminds everyone that she’s still a teenager. She’s still growing and maturing.
One of the things I love most about Ms. Marvel comics is seeing her grow with each passing story. The first dozen issues had more growth for Kamala than the last 100 issues of Amazing Spider-Man. Along the way, there were missteps, heartbreaks, and victories. They all just made me want to root for Kamala even harder and if a TV show can accomplish that, it’ll do plenty to justify a Disney+ subscription.
Number 5: A Vision For Young (Idealistic) Heroes In A World That Needs Them
From the beginning, Kamala Khan connected with fans like me because she radiated this ideal spirit that a lot of people once had in their youth. Time, age, and watching too much news has a way of crushing that idealism over time, but most of us still remember why it was so important to us.
As Ms. Marvel, Kamala carried herself as the kind of young, idealistic hero that many of Marvel’s traditional heroes grew out of years ago. The comics, themselves, became jaded as the very act of heroism gained major complications, both from events within the stories and influences from the real world. That’s part of what made Kamala a breath of fresh air.
She might be young, naïve, and impressionable, but she’s also exactly what we need right now. The MCU just suffered some devastating losses. The world, as a whole, is still recovering from the events of “Avengers: Endgame.” This world still needs heroes. Even though it still has plenty, it doesn’t have someone like Ms. Marvel.
She can be the hero that emerges from the chaos of this broken world and shows what dedicated heroes can accomplish. She can show everyone that, even in the face of heavy losses and broken hearts, there’s a place for pure, uncorrupted heroics. You don’t need to be a billionaire playboy genius philanthropist, either. You can just be a teenage Pakistani American girl from Jersey city.
I cannot overstate how excited I am for Ms. Marvel to get her own show. I imagine I’ll be writing about it a lot once it comes out. There’s a lot I hope to see for this show, the comics, and the MCU. If Marvel Studios can capture even a fraction of what makes Ms. Marvel great, then the future of that world and ours will be that much brighter.
Teenage superheroes have always had a unique appeal, as well as a unique set of challenges. It’s not just their youth, inexperience, and idealism that sets them apart. They deal with complications and obstacles that adult heroes rarely have to worry about. Say what you will about Hawkeye’s abilities. At least he doesn’t have to worry about turning in homework on time, dealing with parents, and enduring puberty.
When it comes to teenage superheroes who embody that unique appeal, Ms. Marvel checks every box. She’s young, idealistic, lovable, tough, determined, awkward, and overwhelmed with balancing her superhero life with her personal life. Since her debut in 2014, some of her best moments have come from struggling to maintain that balance.
Now, that balance is completely thrown off in “Ms. Marvel #6” and for once, it has nothing to do with aliens, Hydra, or high school. What unfolds in this comic is more personal. It puts Kamala Khan in a position where no superpower or superpowered allies can make a difference.
It’s a difficult position, even for adult superheroes. Superman faces it almost every time he clashes with Lex Luthor. However, Kamala Khan isn’t Superman. She’s a teenage girl still growing into her superhero identity. What happens to her in “Ms. Marvel #6” is an impossible challenge as much as it is a turning point.
Since he took over, writer Saladin Ahmed has taken Ms. Marvel’s journey far beyond the limits of Jersey City. She’s teamed up with the Avengers, led a team of aspiring young heroes in the Champions, and fought in an alien war in which she saved an entire planet. She has had her share of triumphs lately, even when compared to adult superheroes.
Then, just after she acquires a flashy new costume powered by alien technology, her parents drop a bombshell. Her father is dying. He’s not just sick. He’s not just facing some new condition that requires treatment and management. He is dying and there’s nothing anyone can do about it.
For a superhero who just saved an alien planet and is on a first-name basis with the Avengers, this is akin to the ultimate gut punch, followed by the worst hangover, and topped off with the most agonizing heartbreak. This is the kind of news that even adult struggle with, long after they’ve built lives apart from their parents. Kamala Khan is just a teenager. Superhero or not, this shatters her world.
It’s a heartbreaking turn of events for a character who has been on a solid winning streak lately. Almost every teenage superhero faces setbacks. Kamala has had more than her share, from love interests who ran away to idols who abused her trust. This is more than a setback.
Since her debut, Ms. Marvel has stood out in a great many ways. One particular way that sets her apart from the Peter Parkers and Bruce Waynes of the superhero world is that she didn’t need a parent or loved one to die to become a hero. Kamala comes from a loving, tight-knit family who instill in her the values that would make anyone a hero in their own right.
Her family has always been a big part of her story. Like many teenage superheroes, she struggles to navigate family life alongside her superhero life. At the same time, her family has largely been a source of strength, even when they hound her about being late for school. Now, her family is facing one of the worst situations that any family can face.
Ahmed doesn’t rush Kamala through the various stages of acceptance. The plot of “Ms. Marvel #6” starts with a heart-breaking revelation, but follows Kamala as she tries to make sense of it all. Being young and idealistic, her first instinct is to try and fix this. She’s a superhero. She’s supposed to do the impossible and succeed where others fail.
This is different. She can fight to save her father’s life, just as she fights a typical supervillain. However, even when saving the day, the effects of her father’s news is apparent. The art by Minkyu Jung even captures that mood at every turn.
“Ms. Marvel #6” is one of those comics in which elaborate heroics and flashy costumes are secondary, at best. The events in this story signal a major upheaval in Kamala Khan’s superhero journey and it’s not one she can embiggen her way out of. Right now, her personal journey is more important than that of any hero. Tony Stark even shows up to remind her of that. He even brings gyros to belabor the point.
More often than not, when teenage superheroes are faced with loss and heartbreak, their first instinct is to lash out. You can usually set your watch to them doing something reckless or self-destructive out of anguish. That’s not just a trait common of superheroes. That’s something teenagers struggle with in the real world.
It once again strikes to the heart of why Kamala Khan is such an endearing character. It’s not just that she succeeds where other female superheroes falter. Her struggles, even though they involve Avengers and aliens, feel real and genuine. The idea that she’s poised to endure one of the hardest things any family can endure is both powerful and relateable.
After the events of “Ms. Marvel #6,” it’s not unreasonable to say that Kamala Khan’s life will never be the same. Even though that seems to happen with teenage superheroes every other week, this feels different. This isn’t part of some elaborate plot by a cunning supervillain. This is a terminally ill loved one.
Whether you’re a hero or a nobody, this is a challenge nobody is equipped to handle. Kamala Khan now faces the prospect of losing her father. It’s heartbreaking, but it also helps reaffirm just how much heart she has. That heart helped make her a hero. It also makes the prospect of watching it break feel that much more difficult.
If you want to know the true character of a superhero, then just look at how they handle themselves when their powers are weakened or removed. The heroes with the strongest character won’t change in the slightest. They’ll keep being a hero. They just have to adapt to their limitations. The lousy ones tend to cower and whine like a kid who lost their binkie.
Carol Danvers has a history of losing her powers, her identity, and her bodily autonomy. Her character has been tested more than most and, through many setbacks and losses, she never stops being the hero she strives to be. Now, Kelly Thompson and Carmen Carnero are testing her again in “Captain Marvel #9,” but it’s a different test of character.
For the past few issues, Carol has been having issues with both her powers and her public image. She couldn’t handle a standard tentacle monster that seems to attack New York every other day in the Marvel universe. On top of that, news got out of her Kree Heritage, as revealed in “The Life of Captain Marvel.” Now, her status in the Air Force and the public trust she’s worked so hard to earn is in question.
If that weren’t challenging enough, there’s a new female hero in town named Star who may or may not be tied to her recent issues, but is already becoming more popular. That’s a lot of challenges, to say the least.
However, “Captain Marvel #9” does not devolve into another story about a superhero becoming paralyzed by vulnerability and self-doubt. It certainly has all the right ingredients for that kind of struggle, but that’s not the direction that Thompson goes and that’s refreshing. There are enough stories about superheroes losing their powers and whining about it. Carol Danvers doesn’t whine. She confronts that shit.
She even finds time to squeeze in a little sexy time with her boyfriend, James “War Machine” Rhodes. Powers and reputation are important, but so is spending quality time with her significant other. Say what you want about Carol, but she knows how to prioritize. That, alone, is a strong measure of her character.
It also establishes that Carol isn’t going to deal with these challenges alone. She accepts help from the likes of Rhodes, Tony Stark, and her long-time friend, Jessica “Spider-Woman” Drew. She doesn’t always accept it immediately, but she does accept it in the spirit of finding answers.
That’s not to say she does so without an attitude. She’s still Carol Danvers. She has an attitude, regardless of what’s going on with her powers and reputation. She may lose her strength, but she doesn’t lose her edge. Thompson makes it a point to demonstrate that on many occasions and not all of them involve a shirtless James Rhodes.
There’s a bigger mystery at work and it’s not just about Carol’s powers. There are issues surrounding the tentacle monster that Carol fought, as well as the recent appearance of Star. Some of those issues are explored more than others, but they all seem to have a common link.
Carol is still trying to be the same Carol she’s always been, but that’s just not possible anymore. She’s half-Kree. She knows this and now the entire world knows this. In a perfect world, that wouldn’t matter. She would still be the same person she’s always been and the people who adore her would just shrug it off.
However, the Marvel Universe is not a perfect world. It may have Deadpool and Squirrel Girl, but it’s far from perfect. People are still paranoid and untrusting for all the wrong reasons. It’s the same world that takes J. Jonah Jameson seriously. It has many flaws and they do put a strain on Carol’s efforts.
That’s what helps give “Captain Marvel #9” the necessary impact. Carol doesn’t lament or whine about the declining state of her powers, but she does show moments of frustration. It’s a fitting reminder that she still has a human side. It still bothers her when a part of her identity is taken because the public is uncomfortable with her heritage. It also bothers her that a new hero is in town to show her up in her weakened state.
She could whine about it like a teenage Peter Parker. She could use it as an excuse to be an asshole to her friends, as well. Plenty of other A-list superheroes have made similar excuses for less valid reasons. That’s not what she does, though. Thompson and Carnero don’t let Carol fall into that same trap. It’s a reflection of the kind of hero she is.
Beyond just providing Carol with a test of character, “Captain Marvel #9” also deepens the mystery surrounding her new Kree heritage. There are a few unexpected twists that add both complications and intrigue. For a story that could’ve easily become a predictable diatribe about a hero losing their powers, it’s both relieving and refreshing.
If nothing else, “Captain Marvel #9” proves that Carol Danvers has the character of a hero, regardless of superpowers or public perception. Having all those traits and still finding time to get sexy with James Rhodes further affirms that she deserves our admiration and respect.
Every Wednesday, a new batch of comics enters this chaotic world and makes it a little more tolerable. As someone who has come to appreciate this weekly injection of personal joy, I’ve taken it upon myself to single out one particular comic that helps make that Wednesday extra special in the hearts of comic fans.
This week had more going for it than most because “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” came out and for those still bathing in the afterglow of the “Captain Marvel” movie, this is a perfect desert. While it doesn’t feature Carol Danvers, it does focus on Kamala Khan, her biggest fan and the one who has been carrying on her mantle wonderfully since 2014.
I’ve already mentioned Kamala before, having singled her out as a case study in how to do young female superheroes right in an era where gender politics and internet trolls are determined to make everything go horribly wrong. Kamala has grown a great deal over the past several years and, with the success of “Captain Marvel,” seems destined to enter the MCU.
There’s so much about Kamala that makes her lovable, heroic, and compelling. If you need a reminder why, “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” is the perfect refresher. This series marks a transition of sorts. The previous writer for Ms. Marvel, G. Willow Wilson, has left the title. As the one who created Kamala Khan and did so much to make her so lovable, she set a very high bar.
Kamala’s new writer, Saladin Ahmed, does plenty to maintain the lovability that comic fans have come to expect from Ms. Marvel. In the earliest parts of the issue, he takes a page right out of Wilson’s creative playbook by focusing heavily on Kamala’s story when she’s not in costume.
It’s a major part of what makes Kamala so relatable. She’s an aspiring superhero, but she’s also a teenage girl with plenty of non-superhero issues to deal with. She has friends, parents, and bus schedules to deal with. Like a young Peter Parker, she has to balance her superhero life with her civilian life. Unlike Peter Parker, though, her life is subject to unique challenges that aren’t contingent upon dead uncles.
While Kamala does spend time in her Ms. Marvel costume fighting a couple villains, the biggest upheavals in “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” occur when she’s not in costume. I won’t drop too many spoilers. I’ll just say that her superhero life and her civilian life come at a sudden crossroads.
At first, it seems sudden. There doesn’t appear to be much of a build towards the drama. Then, Ahmed throws in an unexpected twist towards the end that completely changes the situation surrounding that drama. It suddenly becomes a mystery, one that may have greater consequences for Kamala down the road.
Every teenage superhero faces critical moments, at some point, that changes the course of their journey. Peter Parker often dealt with those moments by quitting for a while, but Kamala never gives the impression that she’s going to quit. Despite all the hardship and frustration that being Ms. Marvel brings her, she never uses that as an excuse to walk away. That, in and of itself, puts her ahead of the curve for most aspiring superheroes.
At the same time, it also makes her vulnerable. “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” puts her in a position where her life as Ms. Marvel and Kamala Khan undergo a major upheaval. She faces a new kind of threat that isn’t well-defined. However, it quickly establishes that it’s capable of attacking her on a very personal level.
It’s the worst kind of attack for a young hero undergoing heavy personal dramas. She basically has to fight her battles with a wounded spirit, but she still fights. That’s what makes her Ms. Marvel. That’s what makes her so easy to root for, both as a character and as a hero.
For years, G. Willow Wilson told Kamala’s story in a way that made her endearing in her own unique way. So far, Saladin Ahmed is moving that story forward in ways that make you want to root for Kamala even more. “Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1” doesn’t just tell the next phase of Ms. Marvel’s superhero journey. It raises the stakes, promising a new kind of challenge that will either break her heart or make it stronger.
Fridays may be everyone else’s favorite non-weekend day of the week, but ask most comic book fans and they’ll say Wednesday holds a special place in their hearts. It’s that magical day when a new batch of comics enters the world and our souls are nourished by their awesome. I don’t care what kind of a week I’m having. When new comics come out on Wednesday, I find a reason to smile.
This week, with Valentine’s Day coming up and me being single, I needed more reasons than usual. Thankfully, this week brought us Ms. Marvel #38 and I’m already feeling the love. It also happens to be the five-year anniversary since her landmark debut. Given all the awards and accolades she received in that time, this definitely qualifies as a milestone worth celebrating.
I’ve gone out of my way to praise Kamala Khan before, citing her as a prime example of how to do female superheroes right in this crazy era. She’s young, lovable, determined, and idealistic. She’s also relatable, dealing with the same problems that most stressed out teenagers from Jersey City often deal with. If the past five years of comics haven’t convinced you of that, then Ms. Marvel #38 should help make that point.
This milestone issue is a one-shot, self-contained story that starts off with Kamala being in a miserable mood. Then, after a brief, but colorful adventure with her friends, she remembers that being pissed off all day is a waste of a perfectly good day. It’s simple. Writer G. Willow Wilson doesn’t try to reinvent Kamala here. She just affirms why she has come as far as she has in five years.
A big part of that process involves highlighting the parts of Kamala’s life that don’t involve costumed villains, superpowers, and dealing with Deadpool’s dirty jokes. Wilson takes the time to show Kamala dealing with parents, siblings, and just getting to school on a day when she feels like crap. It may seem mundane, but Wilson uses it to humanize Kamala at every turn.
In the same tradition of Peter Parker’s Spider-Man, Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel is a teenage girl first and a superhero on the side. She doesn’t have the luxury of mixing her personal life with that of her superhero life. Both affect the other and rarely in a good way. She wants to be a superhero, but she doesn’t want to stop being Kamala Khan. That’s not just a challenge. It’s overwhelming.
The stress really gets to her in this Ms. Marvel #38. Even without some major villain attacking, she’s doubting herself and her ability to manage everything. Then, she finds herself plucked into a strange new dimension where the most cheesy tropes of old RPG games come to life. If it sounds random, that’s because it is, but that’s exactly why it works.
Like a double shot of espresso and a slap upside the head, Kamala has to stop moping and be Ms. Marvel. At the same time, she has to help her friends who get sucked into this world as well. Nakia, Zoe, and Bruno do not have superpowers. However, they still end up helping Kamala every bit as much as her powers.
It’s one of the most common, but powerful themes of Ms. Marvel comics. Whereas supporting characters often end up being complications and liabilities for many heroes, Kamala’s supporting cast often supplement her heroics rather than hinder them. Sure, they still have to be rescued every now and then, but it never feels like anyone is a damsel.
There’s also more to this little dive into the world of overdone video game themes than just giving Kamala an adventure to go on. In between the colorful visuals that artist Nico Leon provides every step of the way, there are a few powerful moments in which Kamala and her friends realize how much they’ve grown and how much they haven’t.
It’s a fitting testament to how far Kamala Khan has come in the past five years. On some levels, she’s the same insecure girl she was before she got her powers. On others, she’s grown a lot since then. Having watched her grow since her debut issue, I found Ms. Marvel #38 to be a satisfying testament to the kind of hero she has become.
For that reason and plenty others, Ms. Marvel #38 is an easy choice for my weekly quick pick. Even if you haven’t been following Kamala Khan’s story too closely at this point, this wonderfully-crafted, self-contained story will help reveal why she has become such a big deal in comics in the past five years. Hopefully, the next five years are just as enjoyable, especially if she ever finds her way into the MCU.
Beyond being a teenager, a girl, and a fan of superheroes and video games, Kamala Khan’s journey is one that’s easy to follow and even easier to root for. She starts off having a bad day and you can’t help but want to see her turn it around. We’ve all had bad days. Some are so bad that even superpowers can’t cheer us up. However, Ms. Marvel finds a way because she’s just that special.