Who hasn’t dreamed of being a superpowered being able to exert supreme control over difficult situations?
Based on Ms. Marvel’s basic premise — a young teenager gains the powers of one of Earth’s mightiest heroes — you wouldn’t be faulted for expecting the title to read like a shopping list of awesome events or an opportunity to live vicariously through a heroine who gains the power to overcome all, reaching a higher level of existence beyond human worries.
And that’s why I think it’s fortunate that G. Willow Wilson doesn’t give us exactly that.
Instead, the story of Kamala Khan’s strange and fascinating odyssey continues in Ms. Marvel #3 with a grounded approach that continues to give readers layers upon layers for background. We aren’t just watching a superhero take her first steps — we’re becoming fast friends with her.
After being grounded last issue after she got caught sneaking back into the house, Kamala deals with the media attention surrounding frienemy Zoe Zimmer, the sudden and inevitable betrayal from bestie Bruno the night before, and questions about the physical barriers between men and women at her mosque.
It gets worse when Kamala’s power begins to act up in the middle of lunch hour at school. It’s a blessing in disguise — Kamala gets some distance from Bruno and uses her alone time to test her newfound abilities. And like something out of Alice in Wonderland, Kamala embiggens and crashes through the ceiling before testing her strength on the gym benches. She also gets to test her shape-shifting powers before the commotion attracts the gym teacher who sentences Kamala to detention.
By fleshing out the peripherals — the characters and locales that Khan exists alongside of — the cliffhanger at the end gets much more traction. We’re also introduced to Bruno’s keen smarts as he shows off an invention that could possibly have an impact somewhere in Kamala’s future.
Ms. Marvel #3 dedicates more pages towards building conflicts and plot threads which changes the pacing a bit as Wilson lays the foundation. Overall, the tone this issue feels a bit heavier, and there’s some semblance of plot structuring with foreboding clues in dialogue and circumstances. It brings with it an element of predictability and expectation, but Wilson’s work so far suggests we shouldn’t sit back and wait for things to just happen.
Same for the art — by now, readers have come to expect great pencils from Adrian Alphona, and Ms. Marvel #3 continues showcasing wonderful panels filled with personality and character. We get a glimpse of Ms. Marvel using her abilities to shape-shift her hands to stop a perceived threat, and the hope is that Alphona is still doing artwork when Ms. Marvel is out in full force.
And if Alphona’s lines give us character, Ian Herring’s colors give us emotion and tone. The layers are visually striking with touches of sunlight, soft textures, and bold reds that draw the eyes. I’m in love with the palette, and Herring’s work is distinct and astonishingly polished.
It all brings us to this month’s cliffhanger ending which raises on the bar on what readers should expect from this monthly series. This is no walk in the park, even for someone with tremendous powers, and Wilson won’t let us forget it. Ms. Marvel continues its streak of great storytelling — words and visuals — with keen insights on the American teen.
If you haven’t picked up this title, you’re sorely missing out on something that could possibly become Marvel’s new wave.
Ms. Marvel #3 (2014)
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Words: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Adrian Alphona
Colors: Ian herring
Letters: Joe Caramagna