Taking place a “great few weeks” after the dramatic events of issues #11 and #12, Ms. Marvel #13, in its opening panel, conveniently recaps recent victories in Kamala Khan’s life in her own words: “The Inventor is out of the picture, [she] managed to get an A- in social studies — and [she] kept this Viking magician dude named Loki from ruining the school dance”. With its usual blend of action and humor, this latest issue does not let down readers of the previous Valentine’s Day issue who are still in the mood for love, launching into a new three-part arc aptly titled Crushed.
Ms. Marvel #13 opens with a return to the family setting. We see that despite keeping up with, and enjoying — for the most part — virtual training simulations highly reminiscent of the X-Men’s Danger Room sessions at the “swank gym facilities of [her] Inhuman cousins across the [Hudson] river,” Kamala is still straddling two purposefully isolated worlds.
In New Attilan, Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans, and Kamala’s sidekick, alien dog Lockjaw, are her guardian figures; their simultaneous pride and concern for her are apparent in their conversation about how her skills have improved, but she remains “vulnerable…to other influences.” Medusa concedes that it’s not “[her] decision,” but that if it was, “[she] would insist Kamala live here, with [them]”; in her view, New Attilan, her home, is “where it’s safe.”
The scene then shifts to Jersey City, where Kamala’s parents and older brother Aamir are getting started on breakfast. They believe Kamala has simply been out for a jog; Ammi doesn’t quite like the idea of her daughter “running around in the street, puffing and sweating,” however — “It’s not decent,” she says. It is a different take on protectiveness from Medusa, but both are motherly attitudes in their own way.
Thankfully — and then less so, perhaps — this point of contention is momentarily set aside with Abu’s announcement that the family’s “oldest friends in the US” will be visiting from Houston. Kamala hasn’t seen Bushra Aunty, Irfan Uncle and their son Kamran since he was a five-year-old nose-picker.
The situation may perhaps be familiar to many kids of immigrant parents: Kamala is obliged to “put on a nice shalwar” and make small talk with people who are clearly important to her parents, perhaps on the basis of their past shared experiences, but who hold no particular relevance to her own present, daily life — she wants to meet her best friends Nakia and Bruno at the arcade.
However, in a sequence endearingly reminiscent of ’90s Bollywood movies, shalwar-clad Kamala reluctantly makes her way back downstairs where the guests are making conversation, only to witness that Kamran is not just tall, dashing, a dutiful volunteer at his mosque and an aspiring triple major applying to MIT, but truly “Mr. Perfect”: what he really likes to do is to “kick back in the evening and play some World of Battlecraft.”
With those magic words, he and Kamala immediately hit it off, much to Abu and Aamir’s bemusement, discomfort and perhaps disapproval. Eventually, Kamran and Kamala are allowed to head to Newark Avenue to check out DVDs of the old Amitabh Bachchan movies they both turn out to love, with the concession that Aamir has to chaperone them.
— Aly Caviness (@scandalsavage) March 12, 2015
Of course, no good Bollywood fantasy would be complete without some sort of dramatic showdown, and in this case, it is of course Ms. Marvel who has to intervene. Much as Medusa had worried, not all the newly emerging Inhumans are benign, and one such self-styled “sparkly” young anarchist, calling herself Kaboom, turns up along the busy shopping street, promising a “kilowatt right to the head” of anyone who interferes with her vision for a new age in which Inhumans dominate the human “subspecies.”
As has been the case in this series so far, with the Inventor appearing, on occasion, an unconvincing villain, neither is Kaboom particularly well-developed. Her unprecedented appearance is likely just to set the ground for Kamala’s public appearance as Ms. Marvel — pretty much a plot necessity in each issue — though her purported agenda hints at a larger movement by a subset of the Inhumans, which should prove more substantial and will hopefully be fleshed out further in subsequent issues.
With her training in New Attilan Kamala has learned how to protect herself physically — since taking down the Inventor, she has been wearing her costume under her clothes, and so can spring to action almost immediately as Ms. Marvel. But she is still capable of being emotionally caught unaware. Upon hearing that her name is familiar to the “whackos” in Manhattan, she manages a decent comeback: ”That’s nice. I’ve never heard of you.”
But when confronted with the reality that Kaboom represents a group of Inhumans who have other leaders, and who seek a new world order in which they reign supreme, Kamala seems stunned, disbelieving. She simply pauses for a moment, her fist raised above Kaboom: “I — I don’t understand,” is all she can say, before returning to the fight with a renewed sense of purpose and strength that leaves Kaboom knocked out cold on the ground.
Even as Kamala is coping with the potentially serious consequences of the solid blow she delivered to Kaboom, she has to prioritize the constant worry that her alternate identity will be revealed to her family. While her interlude as Ms. Marvel successfully escapes the eyes of her usually watchful brother, Kamran is more observant, leading to a brief but deeply significant conversation that likely holds great significance for both him, and especially Kamala. Her persisting emotional vulnerability extends to coping with her apparent feelings for this resurfaced acquaintance.
At the start of this issue, Kamala admits she’s always thought “Pakistani family stuff was big and complicated,” but is quickly discovering that “Inhuman family stuff” is exactly the same, perhaps even more so. “Kamala Khan. Livin’ the dream. Sort of.” she declares. If furthering the dream means bridging the homes, lives, and families she has on both sides of the river — Ms. Marvel of the Inhumans, Kamala Khan of Jersey City — Kamran may prove to be an important source of support, and maybe even a new “home” altogether.
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Ms. Marvel is written by G. Willow Wilson and edited by Sana Amanat. Issue #13 features art by Takeshi Miyazawa, colors by Ian Herring with Irma Kniivila and letters by Joe Caramagna. The cover is by Marguerite Sauvage and the Women of Marvel variant cover is by Noelle Stevenson. Join the “Kamala Korps” and find out about upcoming issues on the series’ official tumblr. Issue #14 releases on April 15.
Aditi Shiva is a graduate student, freelance writer and sometime editor of comics and young adult fiction, in Singapore. She tweets at @aditishiva.