Ms. Marvel #14

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I’ve been waiting every week for new issues of Ms. Marvel. This is my new favorite comic from Marvel today. The story just keeps getting better and better each issue. This one is no different.

This picks up from last issue when Kamala discovers the boy she has a crush on is an Inhuman as well. Before they really have a chance to commiserate about everything Kamala’s brother catches up with them. At this point he is their chaperone. I really appreciated how Kamala’s brother was portrayed in this issue. In the hands of a less skilled writer he could have come across as heavy handed and stern for the sake of being stern. Yet in G. Willow Wilson’s hands he comes across as nothing more than a brother who loves his sister and is concerned about her well being.

The beauty of this comic is the light it shines on an average American Islamic family. Guess what? They’re just like every other family out there. Kamala, like any teenager, goes through the same insecurities anyone else would go through. And like many folks, her faith helps guide her decisions. It also helps her realize that sometimes the decisions she makes may not be the best decisions but her heart forces her to go through it anyway. Like when Kamran, the boy she is interested in who is also an Inhuman, shows up at her window in the middle of the night and takes her out to talk.

Kamala has struggled through the series to balance both her duties as a superhero, as someone with power who owes it to the public to protect them from threats they may not be able to face on their own, as well as her duty to her family and her faith. So when she encounters a boy she is interested in she struggles like anyone would with the new feelings that rush over her like a tidal wave.

I remember being in love for the first time. The girl was nice enough and all and deep down I think I knew we had no future but I fell head over heels for her and got smacked in the head with reality quite quick. It was just…a relationship that should not have happened. I am glad it did in the grand scheme of things because this particular relationship I feel helped me wisen up and eventually find the right woman for me (Almost 13 years of marriage!). But again, I overlooked things that if they were happening to a friend I would have been screaming my voice hoarse that they were getting screwed over and making a horrible mistake.

Over the course of the issue we discover that Kamran is not all he is cracked up to be. By issues end he’s revealed himself to be in league with other Inhumans who, similar to Magneto in X-Men, feel that they deserve to be rulers of humanity, not its savior like Kamala is trying to be.

Kamala’s brother has another great scene when he tries his best to let Bruno, another boy who has a crush on Kamala down by telling him that he should not try and pursue a relationship with her. Whether you agree with what Aamir has to say or not is irrelevant. The issue is not trying to be a pamphlet for Islam. It’s just stating what immigrant families the world over would consider to be fact. I don’t see Aamir’s actions as being negative. I see him trying to do what Italian families or Irish families said to their kin back in the day. As immigrants, they want to be able to keep their culture alive despite being in a new country. I never got the sense that Aamir was trying to insult Bruno. Apart from religion, I think Kamala’s family would probably not have much of a problem with Bruno. But immigrant families can be quite protective. Being in a new country, they still find themselves wanting to keep their old ways and traditions. Hell, I’m originally from Michigan and am now living in Oregon and I find myself feeling similar feelings. While I am a citizen of Oregon, my home will always be Michigan. It pains me a bit for my kids to not like the same sports teams or call Pepsi Pop (when they call it soda I want to send them to the door. It’s not soda. It’s POP damn it!) You don’t want your vision of home to disappear. If you added in religion into that mix, I am quite sure that my feelings of sadness would probably border on despair. The future can be a harsh bitch. Not knowing how things turn out can be a motherfucker for control freaks like me.

The art was pretty solid. One feature I really liked was one little feature they dealt with in regards to Kamran. Throughout the story when he exhibits his powers the action lines on his powers show themselves to be white. Yet when he reveals himself to be not as nice as Kamala thought he was, he knocks her out with his powers. The action lines for his powers are drawn black. I know, a very small detail. But it’s little things like this that make this comic so good. As I stated in a review I wrote for the previous issue, I love how this comic really does come across as if Kamala is drawing it herself. It has that simplistic quality you expect from a beginning artist but it has such power in the small things like the action lines that you know there is real skill at work here. Well done.

Bottom Line:

If you are not reading Ms. Marvel you are missing out on one of the best comics going today. The characters are all well done and quite realistic. You can picture these people actually existing. In fact, I said it before that the superhero parts of the story end up being more of a distraction from the real story at hand which is a wonderful story about a young girl from an immigrant family trying to adjust to life in a new country while her family is trying their best to raise her in the old traditions. This is an important comic too because it portrays Muslims as people. Nothing more, nothing less. You don’t have the Afterschool Special type of lecturing some stories can give when they’re trying to create an “important” story. I think of 80’s sitcoms that had that very special episode. That one episode that dealt with a very serious topic but was dealt with in such a ham fisted way that the point they were trying to make was lost in the cheesiness of the garbage you were seeing. (Like Diff’rent Strokes and the bike molester episode.)

The reason I bring this up is this. America has a problem with Islam. Stoked like a campfire by pieces of shit politicians, the actions of a small group of Saudi Arabian men have now turned into a silly religious crusade that is simply being used by big corporations to make money off the lives off poor people around the world. I am not naive in thinking that there are not Muslims in the world who have done and plan to do very bad things. But the fact that I am more likely to die from a white guy who has one too many guns when he should be locked away being fed his medication through an IV instead of at the hands of a terrorist says a lot about our countries priorities. We want to demonize people just for the hell of it. The ONLY way that demonization will come to an end is when folks open their damn eyes and see the world for what it is. It’s filled with people who want to simply live their lives in peace. We may all have different philosophies on how to live life. In the end, most of us just want to be happy. This is a comic about just such a family. You have to read this series.

The art again is beautiful. Drawn as if Kamala herself drew it in a journal, the power in the details really brings out the emotions of the story. Like when Kamala holds Kamran’s hand for the first time. When she almost kisses him. This entire work is so alive. You are reading a series that will be studied for years to come. I love Ms. Marvel.

Spider-Man 9/11 Issue

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On a day like 9/11 you have to take a minute to sit back and reflective not only on the tragedy that everyone alive witnessed that day but on life itself. Now you may ask what the hell does a site dedicated to reviewing comic books have to do with thoughts about one of the worst attacks on American soil? Because like anyone, comic artists and writers had to find a way to rationalize the horrific events they had seen. With Marvel Comics especially, New York City is just as much a character in all of their work that simply ignoring it would have been offensive.

Which brings us to The Amazing Spider-Man #36. Written by J. Michael Straczynski and beautifully drawn by John Romita Jr., it’s a piece about Spider-Man feeling incredibly guilty about the events he has to see.

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The first image, for anyone alive that day and witnessed the tragedy, will kick you in the gut. You’re numb and brought back to that day. Each panel afterwards you get closer and closer to Ground Zero. Spider-Man witnesses the scene as people too afraid to comprehend much of what is going on ask where he and other heroes were. “How could you let this happen?” is asked over and over. While it’s addressed to the heroes in this story, people were asking that of government in real life. How could this happen? How?

I remember that day. I was living with my Mom at the time because she had discovered earlier in the year that she had a brain tumor and needed some in home help after the first of her many surgeries. I woke up at 11:28 am that day. While the television was on in my room I didn’t glance at it. I stepped into the living room to see my Mother crying. Being that she was a couple weeks past a major surgery I asked what was going on and she pointed to the television. NBC News was on and Tom Brokaw was talking over the rubble of the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Numbness spread over me. When you’re encountered with such evil you don’t know how to respond. You wish there was someone like Superman that could rip off his shirt and grab the planes, force them to the ground, and fly the terrorists to prison without anyone losing their life but that is just fantasy. Throughout the rest of that day I witnessed the images on the screen, trying futilely to hold back tears until 8:00 pm on the dot when CBS News showed the first images I saw of people that had jumped from the buildings to avoid the fires. My mother and I wept for what seemed like hours.

As the days passed life slowly got back to normal, as normal as we all could make it. The country had to find ways to deal with everything we saw that day. Comic books had to find ways to deal with what happened as well. One thing some entertainment companies tried to do was erase the image of the World Trade Center from future movies, much like the first Spider-Man movie did.

While I get why they removed it, I think in hindsight it was a bad move. You can’t either ignore or forget that something like that happened. (Now granted for the Spider-Man movie they did have some images from Ground Zero where they interviewed people in the montage where people were talking about Spider-Man.)

The most haunting image from the comic is the brief encounter Spider-Man has with a little boy who is waiting for his Father. Spider-Man tries to get him to safety but the boy says he must stay because then his Father will be ok. Then this.

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The only issue I had with the comic was the inclusion of Magneto and Doctor Doom. I get where they were going by adding those characters, trying to show that even folks we consider bad deep down know that the loss of innocent people is just wrong but they chose the two most unlikely characters that would honestly care. And having Doctor Doom shed a tear when in his native Latveria he’s a brutal dictator doesn’t make much sense. Magneto is a complicated character for sure, not a bad guy in the traditional sense, but he could care less about humans who he views as inferior. I don’t think he’d much care this event happened.

Is this comic a bit corny? Yes. Is it a bit syrupy in terms of the message it is trying to convey? Yes. But we needed to hear this message at the time the comic came out. Marvel did an amazing job in showcasing how their characters would react to a real world tragedy. This issue is why comic books are made, flaws and all. There is no reason to rate this issue because of it’s importance to the industry. I’ll just leave with this thought.

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