Ms. Marvel #9 opens on a chaotic note at Jersey City’s Coles Academic High School, where, previously, villain The Inventor’s giant robot arrived in search of Kamala Khan, who is still confused why her transforming powers suddenly won’t activate. “It’s helpful when your super-powers work like they’re supposed to,” she comments. Kamala’s admission can be easily seen to represent the trials of teenagehood more broadly: your body sometimes doesn’t quite behave the way you’d like, or at least know, it to. But her subsequent statements — “I can’t go out there looking like me.” — can perhaps also be read as alluding to the very real and often challenging experience of being visibly different — a young person of color — in the United States.
— Andrea Towers (@atvgeek82) October 15, 2014
The irony, of course, is that Kamala is American; she’s wearing a variation on the country’s flag on her chest, styled after Captain America, and later in this issue describes herself as “Pak-American.” As she takes a leap of faith, with “embiggened fists of rage”, Kamala is fully aware that “this isn’t a game anymore. Not for [mysterious villain The Inventor], and not for [her].” Per its title, the current four-part story arc “Generation Why” seems set to explore adults’ tendencies to complain about Today’s Youth, while not taking them seriously. Ms. Marvel author G. Willow Wilson promised as much back in June itself, and here she delivers:
Btw, the next arc of MS MARVEL is devoted to this issue–adults bashing teens while the world burns. But with more embiggening/supervillains — G. Willow Wilson (@GWillowWilson) June 9, 2014
Interestingly, there’s a brief moment that seems to contradict this; the Jersey City police officer who showed up at the Circle Q grocery store in Issue #4 instructs his colleagues to hold their fire, saying “I think that giant girl is Ms. Marvel.” I initially read this as a possible reversal of their previously dismissive attitude towards her. But given Bruno’s later remark that “[the cop]’s gonna be a problem,” as well as recent real-life episodes of police violence, I cannot say I am so sure any more.
Issue #9 also finally addresses some fundamental questions keen readers and Marvelverse fans have been asking about the origin and precise nature of Kamala’s shapeshifting powers. Kamala, with Bruno by her side, is rescued from their school, and wakes up in a vat of “slime” in New Attilan, the Inhumans’ “crazy art deco alien city” right in (yes, in) the Hudson River. When she comes to, Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans, reveals that Kamala is not a mutant, but Inhuman, and alien physician Vinatos explains the relationship between her healing factor and shapeshifting powers. Medusa firmly but kindly requests Kamala to remain in New Attilan, but, unsurprisingly, trying to convince Ms. Marvel that “Your house is on Grove Street. But your home — your origin, is here, among your people” is a futile effort. Mentally overwhelmed and physically weakened as she might be, Kamala’s loyalties remain firmly with her community in Jersey City: this is personal, she declares, insisting she be taken back to the “non-Star Wars universe,” with the stubborn courage that is one of her most admirable and endearing characteristics. To the Inhumans’ credit, they do not put down the headstrong, clear-eyed, insistent determination of a young person, as (human) adults sometimes deem naïve idealism, or sheer disrespect.
Kamala’s difficulties do not end when she returns to Jersey City; there are surprises yet to come, right up till the revelation in the very last panel of this issue. But back on familiar home ground, she seems better equipped to deal with the life-changing information that’s been dropped on her; while her mother is (understandably) freaking out about what’s going down at her daughter’s school, Kamala betrays no trace of doubt or worry, even hugging and assuring her worried Ammi that “everything is gonna be fine. I promise.”
So long as home is where the heart is, Ms. Marvel seems firmly committed to Jersey City, though before she left New Attilan, Vinatos hinted that it was only goodbye “for now.” We can likely expect not just a lot of sizing up but also growing up in the issues to come, as Kamala learns to deal with plans going awry, powers not working and all about patience.
Odds and Ends:
- In this review’s installment of Adrian Alphona’s Amusing Art: did you spot the following? These perceptive fans did!
- So Issue #9 answers many questions, but it remains a mystery why The Inventor looks like a bird.
- Shoutout to Inhuman bulldog Lockjaw, for standing by Kamala (or standing around adorably) for the entirety of this issue.
- Marvel just recently announced a Captain Marvel movie, scheduled for 2018. Can we please get a Kamala Khan cameo, especially since Carol Danvers (formerly Ms. Marvel) is her hero, and all?!
Aditi Shiva is from Singapore and works as an editor of comics and young adult fiction. She tweets at @aditishiva.
Ms. Marvel (2014) is written by G. Willow Wilson and edited by Sana Amanat. Issue #9 features art by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring and letters by Joe Caramagna. The cover is by Jamie McKelvie, and is colored by Matt Wilson. Join the “Kamala Korps” and find out about upcoming issues on the series’ official tumblr. Issue #10 releases on November 19.