This article was originally published at Comics Bulletin on April 7, 2016.
Here at Comics Bulletin we’ve had Chase Magnett read through and review the offerings of Marvel’s two biggest franchises The Avengers and The X-Men in week long series. While these two families may have the most history and largest collection of team-based titles at the publisher, there is a new arrival on the scene that isn’t far off. With the announcement of an Inhumans movie from Marvel Studios and the appearance of many Inhumans characters in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the comics branch of the entertainment titan has also begun to push for this third Kirby and Lee created group in their own lineup. This week Chase will be taking a look at all of the most recent Inhumans publications to figure out whether this synergy-oriented publication push is any good outside the boardrooms at Disney.
Ms. Marvel #5
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Nico Leon
Colors by Ian Herring
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Ms. Marvel is one of the few Marvel Comics series where you can definitely believe the hype and Ms. Marvel #5makes it clear why. It would be easy enough for most of this comic to be competent and rely on one of its outstanding factors to carry readers. There’s no element of this book that is slacking besides the multiple misspellings in dialogue that slipped by editorial. From its jam packed pages to its inventive humor to the construction of some very compelling teenage superhero metaphors, Ms. Marvel #5 provides everything this series has promised from its debut in 2016.
Nico Leon’s takeover of artistic duties in the series second volume has been a surprising success given the very high bar set by his predecessor. The backgrounds and spreads in Ms. Marvel #5 are stuffed with details. Leon utilizes minor gags like a “Chewed Gum Floor” in a high school gymnasium obstacle course to more shocking ones like a Kamala-Clone lighting herself on fire. There’s never a page that can be read only on its most superficial level. Leon carefully layers each element, pushing readers eyes to what is most relevant in the foreground before allowing them to drill into the rest of any given panel to find further rewards.
Take the above panel for instance. Leon does not choose to take the most exciting single moment of a chase or consume extra page space with an unnamed collection of ninjas running after Ms. Marvel. Instead he composes a complete chase sequence including a variety of visual gags into a single panel. From Ms. Marvel stopping to pet a cat to the tipping of a ladder, this long distance shot of a suburban street contains loads of entertaining and exciting information. It’s instances like this that allow a comic like Ms. Marvel #5 to pack such a wallop even at only 20 pages long.
As much fun as the ninja action and humor may be, it is entertainment that balances with the very big heart of this story. Like so many teenage superhero series to precede it, Ms. Marvel takes the exaggerated premises of the genre to enhance mundane problems into fantastical ones. In Ms. Marvel #5 Kamala Khan is learning that she cannot avoid her responsibilities by plugging in barely functioning clones of herself. This Kamala-Clone story tacks right to the heart of one of the most important lessons of adolescence. That is the difficulties of being many things to many people and the consequences of failing in even one of those roles.
Choosing to focus on her life as a superhero is having direct ramifications on her school and family. Some of those may come in the form of zombie-like clones overrunning her school or a literal meltdown at an engagement event, but it’s not hard to imagine these as the results of slacking off or failing to show up at all. What makes it even more difficult, and in turn compelling, is that none of these are people Kamala wants to fail. When she is told by her family that she is an important part of this wedding it stuns her. The failure lies not only in the Kamala-Clone menace, but hurting those she loves.
It’s a complicated lesson and one with no easy answers (as reflected by the difficulty of stopping the Kamala-Clones), but it must be learned. G. Willow Wilson’s vibrant depiction and construction of Kamala Khan’s supporting cast over the past two years makes all of this as effective as it is. Kamala’s brother Aamir is a complicated character who can be equally irksome and lovable. Seeing his great joy damaged by indifference is understandably painful. Wilson has made it so the problems of a marriage ceremony are just as upsetting as a horde of Kamala-Clones descending on New Jersey (a problem that is more visually compelling than anything else I’ve reviewed in this Inhumans series).
It’s no surprise that Ms. Marvel #5 is great; it’s no surprise that Ms. Marvel #5 is this great. This is a comic that utilizes its medium and genre well in order to tell a story that feels personal and meaningful in an entertaining fashion. That’s more than you can typically expect from superhero comics, but it is delivered in almost every installment of this series. Someone cared about every aspect of this book from its core to the most minute details (again excluding proofreading) and it shows in a tremendous reading experience.