The third chapter of Ms. Marvel cements us in Kamala Khan's journey to becoming a superheroine. Marvel (and G. Willow Wilson) have made some daring choices across the board with a smart, clumsy, insecure young woman. Spoilers follow.
Marvel's strong suit has always been in presenting heroes with flaws. Peter Parker's day-to-day struggles are part of what give him depth. Kamala Khan is far from perfect, and it's gratifying to see that.
She's already been grounded (in issue two) for sneaking out of the house. Kamala means well, but as she explores her powers in issue three, it's obvious she has no idea what the hell she's doing. And that's outstanding.
Her background as a Muslim American is also an important new direction for Marvel to explore. The majority of Marvel's roster are white guys who rarely-if-ever mention their faith. It's refreshing to have G. Willow Wilson bring us someone entirely new. And while her religious affiliation is at least somewhat important to her, Kamala doesn't seem to be defined by it, either. Kamala's a confused young lady, unsure of who she's going to be. Adding shape-shifting powers to the mix only compounds her confusion.
The artwork's grand. Adrian Alphona (best known for his work on Runaways) gets to cut loose with size and proportion, as Kamala struggles to master her powers. Also, I cannot overstate how happy I am to see a superheroine wearing pants.
There's been a lot of commentary lately from amateurs and professional artists alike that superheroines don't need to show a lot of skin in order to look great. Ms. Marvel is a grand step forward in the right direction, in that regard.
The writing is going places, planting seeds that may one day bear fruit. Bruno, a friend and employee at the Circle Q, has lofty goals. Those goals have led him to developing something that could provide a certain superheroine with a costume down the road, should she need one. It's good to know someone in the family has ambition, because his brother Vick does not.
The comic has a playful, almost goofy feel to it: The pages are rife with throwaway gags for the eagle-eyed, movie references, and so on. The colors are bright, almost cheerful... which makes it that much more of a shock when Kamala's shot in the stomach.
Armed with a pistol that's "not even loaded", Vick holds up his brother's Circle Q. Kamala discovers this, and actually thinks before leaping into action. She tries to call the cops, but her phone is dead. She decides to intervene, and does so. Badly.
Nothing against Kamala, but her efforts almost wreck the Circle Q. Bruno asks her to stop what she's doing, but by that point, she's rolling. She still manages to scare Vick into leaving... when his gun goes off. It's pretty clear from the artwork that he didn't mean to shoot Ms. Marvel, but it happened anyway.
It's fun to see the adventures of heroes who know what they're doing. It's also fun when we see a young heroine take her first steps into a larger world. Ms. Marvel has a distinct tone, cast of characters, and set of stakes (which are on the rise). I look forward to issue four.
Lastly, the comic ends on a shot of Ms. Marvel, in shock, bleeding onto the floor. How's that for a cliffhanger?
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