Ms. Marvel #9 opened on Kamala Khan’s showdown with the Inventor’s robot at her high school, before she was whisked away, anxious friend Bruno by her side, to New Attilan, where Medusa, queen of the Inhumans, explained to her the nature of her newfound powers. Spiritedly defying orders to recuperate in New Attilan, Kamala rushes back home to Jersey City, where she learns that the teenagers the Inventor has been using to power his experiments have in fact volunteered themselves for the cause.
Issue #10 starts with Kamala still trying to process the logic behind the “innocent kids”’ admission. In this arc aptly titled “Generation Why,” series author G. Willow Wilson continues to advocate strongly for today’s youth, developing a story of teenagers so convinced, by adults and by the media, that they are “parasites,” an “extra generation” sapping the earth of already-scarce resources, that they have willingly signed up to serve as “human batteries” in order to “give [their] lives to something good.”
A deeply skeptical Kamala attempts to convince them of their potential and worth. Her superpowers are of little use here; again, she has found that “heroing [is] never what you think it’s gonna be.” Rather, it is through her fundamental belief in individuals’ potential, her ability to relate to her peers and speak to them as a fellow teenager (with characteristic humor, and without talking down to them), and her persistence that she successfully convinces them to join her in taking down the Inventor.
— Comics Recap (@comicsrecap) December 21, 2014
Issue #10 is yet another issue which convinces me of Ms. Marvel’s potential for adaptation into an animated series: not just with Adrian Alphona’s ability to imbue even background characters with fully unique appearances down to their clothes, and to convey different perspectives in extended action sequences, but with the way in which the Inventor is presented. We’ve previously discussed how we found him one of the weaker aspects of an overall solid series; without much backstory he seemed only mildly compelling, hiding behind his machines and inexplicably bird-faced.
But this issue sees the creators really leaning into developing him as the kind of almost cluelessly narcissistic villain whose machines may be sophisticated but who persists in dramatically narrating out loud all his actions, and who says things like “odiferous canine” (in reference to Lockjaw) in all seriousness. In this sense, the Inventor seems almost a more tech-savvy variation on the colourful villains in cartoons like Scooby-Doo and The Powerpuff Girls. As the sole grown-up in this issue, the Inventor is the prime embodiment of the adult generation’s utter disdain for young people. The irony, of course, is that he is as much as a “parasite” as the “innocent kids” he’s deemed as such, given his reliance on their energy for his “bizarro experiments.” His most unforgivable act in this issue is probably stealing Lockjaw, who reliably contributes comic relief in this issue when he obediently “sit[s] on Knox and Doyle until [Kamala] figure[s] out what to do with them,” while maintaining a facial expression that is attentive, earnest and mournful all at once.
Ms. Marvel #10 is also an interesting take on the clichéd and romantic conceit that grand, dramatic gestures are necessary to salvage a situation: “The world is basically melting. Canvas bags and hybrid cars ain’t gonna cut it. We’ve gotta do something drastic,” one of the Inventor’s kids insists. The subsequent page-long sequence is faithful to the structure of motivational scenes in popular films, right down to the rousing speech that ends with everyone putting their hands together in a classic gesture of unity. Likely, it is not so much Ms. Marvel, a superhero in costume, who is sufficiently convincing here, but simply sixteen-year-old Kamala Khan, who is able to rally together a group of similarly-aged peers by putting an optimistic spin on each of the kids’ unique abilities, and who appeals to the sense of injustice they feel at the Inventor for spiriting away poor Lockjaw.
With the kids’ intelligence, Kamala successfully enters the Inventor’s abandoned power plant hideout through a back entrance. This issue’s self-consciousness in emulating action movie tropes is almost explicitly referenced in Kamala’s own declaration that “Man. That [crashing through a glass ceiling] is way harder than it looks in the movies.” As the Inventor continues to ramble on at his assistant Knox, we get a good look at his lair and learn, thanks to Alphona’s cheeky visual cues, that Kamala’s nemesis eats “Birdy Num Nums” and corn, is reading a book titled Thomas Edison: Inventions and Fight Tips (foreword by (champion boxer?) Joe Louis) and that he really quite loves his mum (perhaps we’ve also learnt why he resembles a bird?).
— Meinos Kaen (@MeinosKaen) December 22, 2014
At the end of this penultimate issue of the Generation Why arc, the Inventor is probably the most convincing he has been as a villain so far, and Kamala Khan seems to have come up against a situation she cannot immediately resolve with her “embiggening” powers — certainly not alone, anyway. With this story arc the series has turned to larger societal issues and the plot’s forward movement is not as reliant on Kamala’s ethnic and religious identity, even as her faith continues to motivate her compassionate and idealistic approach to “heroing”: “A hero is just somebody who tries to do the right thing even when it’s hard. There are more of us than you think.”
Overall, ten issues — and one year — in, Ms. Marvel continues to provoke both thought and laughter, and I look forward to following Kamala Khan’s adventures into 2015.
Odds and Ends:
- Kris Anka’s on cover duty at least through Issue #12; his work on this issue features lighter lines and a more muted color palette than Jamie McKelvie’s characteristically sleek style accompanied by Matt Wilson’s slightly bolder hues. I’m somewhat reminded of Miyazaki characters, with Kamala and her (non-human) sidekick presented in a sort of natural, graceful unison: a gently swift, still energetic sort of movement nicely livened up by the “fresh paint” title treatment. (Over at Newsarama, Anka briefly detailed his approach to the covers: “just draw a joyous girl enjoying her powers”).
- In addition to the revealing details in the Inventor’s hideout, Adrian Alphona has packed a few more funny references into his panels:
- A burger spilling out of an “OLMEC donald’s” brown bag.
- Are Jersey City’s youth into cricket? One of the Inventor’s volunteers wears a “TOADS: Legit Cricket Club” cap.
- This nifty machine in the villain’s hideout: “ACME ROBOMAKER 3000: Choose Parts, Press to Add Love”.
Aditi Shiva is a graduate student, freelance writer and sometime editor of comics and young adult fiction, in Singapore. She tweets at @aditishiva.
Ms. Marvel (2014) is written by G. Willow Wilson and edited by Sana Amanat. Issue #10 features art by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring and letters by Joe Caramagna. The cover is by Kris Anka. Join the “Kamala Korps” and find out about upcoming issues on the series’ official tumblr. Issue #11 releases on January 28.