Ahmed: Welcome to another joint-review of Marvel Comics’ South Asian phenom Ms. Marvel, by Dynamic Dosts Aditi Shiva and Ahmed Ali Akbar! Last issue, Kamala Khan got some sagely advice from her erstwhile enemy Sheikh Abdullah, and teamed up with Wolverine to explore the sewers of New Jersey in search of missing teenagers. Issue #7 picks up right where #6 left off, with Ms. Marvel and a wounded Wolverine facing down a giant alligator mutated by the Inventor.
Aditi: Get ready for quality time underground in this issue, which delivers more of the good blend of action and introspection we’ve come to expect from this series — we promise there’s light at the end of the tunnels!
Ahmed: Wolverine and Ms. Marvel spend nearly the entire issue exploring the sewers. They vanquish the alligator, escape a pair of deadly closing walls and save a young Mutant girl from being a power source for the Inventor.
Aditi: Yeah, the action was definitely quite drawn out. It didn’t feel too belabored, thankfully, because of the way the dynamic between Kamala and Wolverine unfolded. It was by turns silly, funny and genuinely thoughtful, even when the plot got darker for a bit, near the end.
Ahmed: It seems influenced by the decompressed style popularized by Brian Michael Bendis in the early 2000s with Ultimate comics. There’s a great full-page spread (that Wyatt referenced on his tumblr) where Kamala and Logan are climbing around the sewer tunnels and chatting like in a Where’s Waldo jungle-gym cartoon, but otherwise not doing much else. It’s their dialogue that carries such a busy, large splash page.
Ahmed: We didn’t talk much about it last review, but the team-up between Wolverine and Kamala was foreshadowed by her visit to imam Sheikh Abdullah, who told her “when the student is ready, the master will appear.” This issue explored that relationship in-depth. Wilson takes advantage of Logan’s century-and-a-half experience of cynicism and violence to demonstrate Kamala’s developing views on heroism: “I don’t like hurting stuff. Even giant sewer alligators. I mean…is it possible to help people without hurting others?” Did you buy Wolverine’s cynicism, Aditi? His response was “the pain’s gotta go somewhere.”
Aditi: Well, what felt familiar and in-character to me was Wolverine’s struggle, as an older, more experienced mentor figure, to communicate to Kamala the darker realities of being a superhero, without shocking her out of her youthful idealism all at once. I notice that he seemed to talk about physical pain quite candidly, and about the fact that “The only power worth snot is the power to get up after you fall down.” That could equally apply to emotional perseverance, sure, but he also acknowledges his age, torn ligaments and the loss of his healing factor multiple times in this one issue alone.
Ahmed: It’s a testament to how attached I am as a reader to Kamala that I want to shield her from Wolverine’s cynicism at such an early time in her superhero career. Wolverine is a way better mentor than me, Aditi.
Aditi: Oh, I agree in that I too feel quite protective of her! But at the same time, I feel almost proud of how selfless, loyal and brave (headstrong) she is. She embraces head-on this wild adventure she’s been thrust into, and she faces it with as much enthusiasm as she must feel trepidation. One moment she’s telling Wolverine to stand back while she confronts the alligator, and then she’s blithely assuring him that he can ride on her back through the sewers. There’s obviously many different ways in which protagonists deal with the onset of their powers but I do love when they acknowledge the joy of it, how liberating it must be, even before the hardships and pain that must eventually come. (I’m reminded of Hiro Nakamura from NBC’s Heroes. YATTA!)
Ahmed: She actually ends up saving Wolverine much more than he does her in this issue.
Aditi: For now, it does seem like Kamala will be allowed to “figure things out on her own,” but none less than Medusa, leader of the Inhumans, will be looking out for her. It becomes clear by the end of this issue that even Wolverine, a “guy who’s famous for not liking people,” sees Kamala’s potential and has been in touch with more experienced superheroes, including Captain America, about her. Medusa decides that Lockjaw, a teleporting bulldog-like alien and escort to the Inhuman royals, will serve as Kamala’s companion as she “grows into her power.”
Aditi: On that note, I recall that when we were younger, some Muslim friends mentioned they could not interact with dogs. From what I’ve more recently read online, this isn’t necessarily true. As such, I wondered if it was a deliberate choice — it’s certainly an interesting one — to introduce a dog as a sidekick for Kamala.
Ahmed: Wow, that’s a great point. I hadn’t even considered the problem, for Kamala, of Lockjaw being a dog. I certainly grew up in a household where the status of dogs was really ambiguous. There are some schools of jurisprudence in Islam where dogs aren’t considered unclean, but Kamala, as a South Asian, is unlikely to belong to them. We’ll have to see.
That’s all for us this month. Ms. Marvel #8 is out in stores now! Join us in a few weeks where Aditi and I find out: are Inhuman moon-dogs halal or haram?
Odds and Ends
- This week’s cover takes last issue’s and flips it: Kamala’s cell phone taking a selfie with a very, very grumpy Wolverine. Note the arm bangle!
- Wolverine doesn’t like swearing around teens. “I’ve seen some crazy sh-” I MEAN CRAZY STUFF, CRAZY STUFF.
- Logan said he never made it through high school? From what I remember, he grew up bedridden and sickly on a Canadian plantation. Then his mutant powers manifested, he stabbed a bunch of people and ran away. THERE’S NO TIME FOR SCHOOL IN ANY OF THAT.
- I WANT a teleporting dog very badly!!! (Like, aside from being an elf in Aragorn’s posse, being a superpowered teenager with a magical dog was basically #thedream, haha).
- I’m glad to see the letters page (“Holla @ Kamala”) is back in this issue! I think this sums up my (happy) reaction quite well.
*cries into breakfast* pic.twitter.com/p5iiK9n7u0
— sonia saraiya (@soniasaraiya) August 23, 2014
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Aditi Shiva is from Singapore and works as an editor of comics and young adult fiction. She tweets at @aditishiva.
Ahmed Ali Akbar is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, focusing on race, class and history of American Muslims and South Asian diaspora. He is editor of Rad Brown Dads and a contributor to Salaam, Love. He tweets at @radbrowndads.
Ms. Marvel (2014) is written by G. Willow Wilson and edited by Sana Amanat. Issue #7 features art by Jake Wyatt, 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 #8 released on September 10.