That Ol’ Canucklehead.
He sure ain’t what he used to be.
It was one thing when Wolverine lost his adamanatium, but now that his healing factor is gone, the self-proclaimed “Best There Is at What He Does (But What He Does Best Isn’t Very Nice)” has found himself a bit worse for the wear.
Going up against a gigantic mutated alligator in the sewers of New Jersey might have been a walk in the park before — compared to battling the likes of Magneto or even Sabretooth — but “Still Pretty Freaking Good at Stabby Stabby” manages to stay intact with Ms. Marvel’s help.
Last issue, Kamala Khan went down the proverbial rabbit hole, only to come face to face with her very own arch-nemesis: The Inventor, a mad scientist with the head of a cockatiel who’s decided to study Ms. Marvel’s abilities.
In addition to navigating herself through a swath of alligators enhanced with varying bits of technology, Khan lunged at a mysterious shadow who turned out to be one of her favorite heroes: The Avenger, Wolverine.
Their team-up kept them safe but not sound — Logan managed to get injured during the sewer crawl, and the timing couldn’t have been worse. The issue ended with Ms. Marvel checking score just as a giant set of teeth appeared to do them in.
In Ms. Marvel #7, Headmaster Logan gives Ms. Marvel a crash course on Battling 101 — to great comic effect — and Khan proves herself a very able student, saving her mentor’s life and creating an opening for him to come at the megagator claws first.
The fight over, Kamala feels a sense of guilt at having to “hurt stuff,” and it becomes a teachable moment for Logan as he gives her some advice from his point of view which provides for an interesting dynamic. The elder Logan is Marvel’s most famous killer — and one of the good guys. Kamala as Ms. Marvel is the character’s newest incarnation and one of the universe’s younger heroes. Their motivations might be similar, but their approaches couldn’t be further off.
After a short break, the two continue their journey and discover another one of Wolverine’s weaknesses: Swimming. It’s not so much the torn ligaments, but Logan’s heavy skeletal frame doesn’t make floating any easier, though it might come in handy against the Inventor’s trap — a reference to the Star Wars trash compactor.
That leads to the most dynamic of duos in the Marvel universe discovering the power source being used for the trap, and things suddenly get serious when the stakes are realized.
In terms of story and scripting, G. Willow Wilson doesn’t just get Khan right — she does an excellent job with Wolverine as well. Wilson’s approach to her characters allows them room to breathe and exist in a capacity that makes them very real. When Wolverine talks about being a lousy swimmer, it makes all the sense in the world. And when Khan comes up with a plan to hoist him on her back, the response isn’t great just for being a natural one — the chemistry allows for some awesome comedic bits.
It’s a keen example of the phrase, “It’s funny because it’s true,” and Wilson’s characters are very true to form and personality.
The art, however, isn’t as great as the writing and for several reasons. Though Jacob Wyatt proved last issue that he’s plenty capable of filling in for the series’ first artist Adrian Alphona, some of the panels in Ms. Marvel #7 felt a little lackluster.
During the battle with the megagator, Wolverine’s near-death experience lacks the kind of suspense you’d expect to feel because the artwork becomes too static. There’s also too much distance as the panels zoom out just when the gator goes in for the kill.
Wolverine’s moment to shine when he ends the gator’s life also feels a bit anti-climactic with two sets of claws going into the creature’s gullet. I would have rather seen a slash or something more viable, seeing as how alligators are pretty tough to kill — you’d think they’d require more than a few needle pricks to the chin.
It also seems a little implausible that a passageway made of concrete comes totally undone when Kamala’s blasted by a robot. A few panels before, she shrank in order to walk through a few feet through it. Suddenly, there’s a giant gaping hole large enough for Wolverine to lunge through.
Those few panels don’t undo the entirety of the pages — Wyatt’s Khan is adorkable in her wide-eyed expressions and her awkward movements. The splash page of the sewer crawl up towards the street is amazing — even without panels, the eye is drawn to the movement of the characters from bottom to top, It’s visually stimulating and reminiscent of Jim Steranko’s ground-breaking page work that pushed the limits of comics.
The artwork is beautifully packaged in Ian Herring’s softer palette. There’s a sort of glow in Herring’s colors that shifts according to what tones the story calls for. Herring also creates colorful contrasts that make each panel pop by separating the characters from the various backgrounds.
Ms. Marvel #7 is a winner, and if you’re not already reading the title, it’s worth a look. The run so far has been great — it’s seriously fun with a relevant finger on the modern-day pulse. That doesn’t mean it’s a mimic — Wilson’s characters don’t throw out buzzwords just to hide behind them. Kamala is a lovable teen whose superhero life thus far has been a wonderful vehicle to explore our own dreams of taking up a mantle. In our own everyday lives, we wish we had more power — more control.
But in the event we’re ever soaked in gamma radiation or sent to an alien planet with a power-giving sun, would we be up to the task. Could we give of ourselves?
At what cost?
Ms. Marvel’s greatest strength is in the title’s ability to relate. It’s not a throwaway series that’s meant purely to take up a few minutes of your time and a few bucks out of your wallet. Ms. Marvel registers with its readers on a level that gives it impact. It somehow flies in the face of all the things we expect mainstream comics to be while being, ironically, what comics used to be during its most well-remembered eras.
Kamala Khan is religious, female, non-white, fully-clothed, and a geek at heart.
And she’s awesome.