An armed robbery gone bad puts Kamala Khan, her second-best friend Bruno, and Bruno’s brother Vick in a pretty precarious position.
Ms. Marvel #4 starts where last issue ended — with Kamala wounded from an accidental shooting. Walking the thinnest tightrope ever, Bruno sends his brother away and calls an ambulance to pick up the injured Ms. Marvel, not knowing it’s Kamala in disguise.
But that’s all about to change. Khan, not wanting to bring attention to herself, decides to reveal her real identity to Bruno’s surprise — after all, the two weren’t on speaking terms after Bruno’s supposed betrayal.
Friends again, the two have to figure out how to get the authorities off their backs which prompts Kamala to show off her abilities shape-shift at will to prove to the police that she’s a superhero.
From there on we see Kamala take on a more purposeful mindset, gathering materials for a new costume as she preps for a rescue mission to save Vick from the mysterious Inventor. Sneaking out of the house won’t be easy with her strict mother setting her alarm clock for a 1:00 am check-in to make sure Kamala’s still in bed.
It’s apparent — at least to me — that we’re in a very familiar place, and it’s great, especially for new comic fans. We’ve seen Spider-Man in his various iterations go through the phases of gaining his superpower, testing it out, then creating a costume. Kamala’s journey is remarkably similar, but it doesn’t feel derivative or copycat as much as it just makes sense.
Don’t mistake that to mean G. Willow Wilson’s script just goes through the motions of an origin story. Wilson’s approach brings with it a natural wonder which gives the story and characters a sweet spark. We see things unfold as if we were there and living precariously through the lives of Kamala and her friends.
There’s also a lot of background that gives the environment more dimensions. This is a world where superheroes and supervillains can work wonders or create mass destruction within plain sight of the general population forced to accept the superpowers in their midst.
We get to see what life is like for everyday crimefighting cops who are the first at the scene after Bruno calls 911. We also get great reactions from two teens whose wide-eyed stares express how they feel in the presence of someone who wields gigantic fists.
And this is where we get to talk about Adrian Alphona’s artwork which doesn’t take anything for granted. Facial expressions are key for a title as sincere as this one, and Alphona’s style lends itself to beautiful visuals that capture the curiosity and characters. There’s a lot of storytelling just in the faces, and we don’t have to look far and wide to get the visual representation of Wilson’s scripts.
That shouldn’t discount Ian Herring’s place in the creative team. With colors that layer the panels with bright yellows and soft-focus shades, Herring gives Ms. Marvel #4 distinct textures that elevates the artwork. Herring knows his lighting, and the mood of the panels changes depending on location, time of day, and weather.
The continuous ebbs and flows of the title keep it fresh and as changing as Ms. Marvel’s shape-shifting powers.
I’m thoroughly impressed with the direction of Ms. Marvel, and I think it’s cementing its place as a modern classic. Kamala’s superhero journey doesn’t feel generic or gimmicky, and while we don’t have a clear supervillain yet, we do have topics that are pertinent to our modern day society.
This is an adventure for the young and old to share, and while Kamala is learning the ropes, it seems, so are we.
Ms. Marvel #4 (2014)
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Words: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Adrian Alphona
Colors: Ian Herring
Letters: Joe Caramagna