Kamala Khan’s brave transition from plucky teen into burgeoning superhero continues in Ms. Marvel #5.
Last issue ended with an abrupt stoppage to Kamala’s attempted rescue of the very person who shot her.
Yes, it’s been a very eventful four issues for the new Ms. Marvel. After having her Inhuman powers awakened by the Terragenesis event, Khan came to the rescue of her high school rival, Zoe, thrusting the shy and insecure teen into the spotlight. Kamala has had a difficult time juggling being one of Earth’s newest superheroes and maintaining a low-key existence at home where she’s been grounded by her protective parents.
Being shot complicated things further, especially when the shooter turned out to be BFF Bruno’s younger brother Vick who’s been working for a mysterious entity called The Inventor. Not only did Kamala learn she has healing powers, Vick’s cellphone gave her information on his last whereabouts which prompted her to plan a rescue mission.
After taking out some of the young guards at the abandoned house, Kamala ran into Doyle, one of The Inventor’s lackeys. And that’s where Ms. Marvel #3 left off.
Ms. Marvel #5 begins with a shootout as Doyle plays target practice with his laser gun while a horde of killer robots backs him up. Ms. Marvel puts up a good fight only to get shot again, forcing a retreat.
Without a victory, Kamala goes home to figure out what went wrong and to think of a better plan. The battle has given her a huge appetite, and her post-battle feast is interrupted when her parents come out to talk to their strangely-behaving daughter.
What follows is a montage of training and costume design that preps Kamala for a return trip to Doyle’s hideout where she busts Vick out in superhero fashion. The aftermath is escalation — with Kamala now acting as a very public defender, The Inventor decides it’s in his best interest to get rid of the legendary Ms. Marvel.
While it’s easy enough to follow along, Ms. Marvel #5 is the weakest issue thus far for the series because it seems so rote. G. Willow Wilson has done an excellent job so far in laying down a character-driven foundation with a story portraying the quirks and quibbles of an atypically typical — and in some ways just plain atypical — teenage upbringing.
What we get in Ms. Marvel #5 is more of the same in some ways and to its detriment. Plot elements that felt so fresh before feel forced with some scenes feeling like a return to form rather than forward progress. When Kamala’s parents come to talk to her — the impact feels dulled because we’ve seen this before. Even though the conversation moves the plot forward, it comes at an awkward time with a predictability quotient that pulls the rug out of the moment, so to speak.
And that leads us to the issue’s biggest flaw: A lack of tension.
Though we’ve gotten several scenes of parents trying to talk some sense into Kamala, the aforementioned discussion that happens this issue occurs after Kamala has come home from a failed mission. While superheroes often return to their base of operations to lick their wounds, recover, and develop a better plan, it just doesn’t seem right for Kamala to go home as nonchalantly as she does. Yes, there’s some concern, but being shot twice in as many days should add to her stress levels and induce more than just a session of stress eating. There’s also a lack of real concern for Vick who’s still trapped in Doyle’s house.
It also doesn’t feel right that Kamala gets an entire day to train and work on her superhero suit in time for another go. The more I think about it, the more implausible it seems that a kidnapper wouldn’t change locations after being discovered. And why didn’t Doyle just take Vick to The Inventor immediately after the battle with Ms. Marvel — it’s not like The Inventor is on a trip somewhere as it appears he has a physical location he operates out of.
For all of its foibles, Ms. Marvel #5 is still a quality issue that scores high points in other areas.
Adrian Alphona’s artwork continues to provide great panels with lots of personality. Kamala sneaking up on Bruno and giving him a wet-willy from the dumpster she’s hiding in stands out as a great comical moment, and Ms. Marvel’s wild ride on a Karate Kid bandana-wearing robot is pretty epic. Ian Herring’s colors are soft and attractive, and the atmospheric shifts from indoor and outdoor, daylight and nighttime, are wonderful examples worth studying for future colorists.
While it’s a lull in an awesome streak of issues, Ms. Marvel #5 isn’t a throwaway issue. The late-night talk with her father brings us back to what’s lovable about this title — the nature of heroism and the acceptance of self. In the case of Spider-Man, we’ve heard it over and over: With great power comes great responsibility. Some of us read into that the requirement that those who can should do.
But I read into it the nature of power itself — and the capacity it has for destroying the one who wields it. What separates villains from heroes are the choices they make, and for Kamala, the will to become a hero comes from within. It’s an innate thing, and Kamala is a willing participant of this journey. On the one hand, we have the hopes and dreams of a father who wants only the best for and from his daughter. That comes into conflict with the result — a daughter who chooses to put her life on the line for others. It complicates the relationship in an almost paradoxical way, and Ms. Marvel as a series has provided those types of observations. Some of us have dreamed of having superpowers — but it’s been said: Be careful what you wish for.
Ms. Marvel #5 (2014)
Words: G. Willow Wilson
Art: Adrian Alphona
Colors: Ian Herring
Letters: Joe Caramagna