Book Review: S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 3 #2 “The Animator” (By Mark Waid, Humberto Ramos, Victor Olazaba, Edgar Delgado, et al)

“I lurk on every super-hero fan site there is. I admin on two. I know my stuff.”

“Clearly.”

(Kamala Khan and Phil Coulson, S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 3 #2)[1]

“It’s all right. Don’t panic. I can guess what you were about to say, anyway. Your family doesn’t know about your…other life, right? I can respect the position that puts you in.”

(Jemma Simmons to Kamala Khan, S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 3 #2)[2]

Our intrepid young heroine Kamala Khan makes a guest appearance in yet another book, after her visit with Peter Parker/Spider-Man[3] and her time teaming up with Logan/Wolverine in issue #6[4] and issue #7[5] of her own book. This time, Kamala teams up with Agent Jemma Simmons[6] and Agent Phil Coulson[7] of the Strategic Homeland Intervention Enforcement Logistic Division (S.H.I.E.L.D.) when they are on a mission at Coles Academic High School, where she is a student. This volume of the S.H.I.E.L.D. comics,[8] though set on Earth-616 (the Mainstream Continuity of Marvel Comics),[9] is very much inspired by the television show Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.[10] set on Earth-199999 (better known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe).[11] Issue #2 “The Animator” was released on 14 January 2015, technically in between Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 issue #10 and issue #11. Since Ms. Marvel was in the middle of a story arc at the time, this seemed a better time to review it, since issue #12 (the topic of my previous Ms. Marvel review)[12] was a one-part story and issue #13 begins a three-part story arc.

Agent Jemma Simmons goes undercover as substitute teacher Ms. Stenanko in Kamala’s AP Biology class. It becomes apparent rather soon that there are some mysterious things going on at Coles Academic High School, involving supervillain gadget contraband, including animated pizza dough. There’s plenty of action, but the best parts are the character moments, which are both hilarious and touching, as Kamala interacts with the agents. Kamala gets to use her nerdy superhero knowledge and superheroics to contribute to the mission after the S.H.I.E.L.D. agents are initially reluctant to let her participate in the fight due to her age. Readers also find out some more about Jemma Simmons, whose Earth-199999 counterpart[13] is one of my favorite characters on the Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. television show. She and Kamala have a touching moment at the end of the issue, regarding their need to hide their secret jobs from their families. I love it when new superheroes meet adults who have had similar experiences, and when the adults can provide some advice to their younger counterparts.

The writing and artwork in the book are fun. It’s enjoyable to see Kamala having a chance to explore some more of the Marvel universe in which she lives, earning notches in her belt and having the opportunities to meet with other heroes. There were certain parts that resonated due to my familiarity with the television show with alternate-universe versions of the S.H.I.E.L.D. characters, but I don’t know how this issue ties in with the other issues in this series. We don’t get to see how this story might influence the overall storyline or other relevant information; I’m especially curious about S.H.I.E.L.D.’s knowledge regarding Kamala, which Agent Coulson mentions briefly. Overall, it was a fun side story.

I’m really enjoying reading about Kamala meeting different characters in the Marvel Universe. I’d recommend this issue to fans of Kamala Khan, even those who may not be reading the rest of the S.H.I.E.L.D. series. I’m looking forward to reading the books Kamala visits next.

###

References

[1] Waid, Mark; Ramos, Humberto; Olazaba, Victor; Delgado, Edgar; et al. S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 3 #2 “The Animator”. Marvel, 14 January 2015.

[2] Waid, Mark; Ramos, Humberto; Olazaba, Victor; Delgado, Edgar; et al. S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol. 3 #2 “The Animator”. Marvel, 14 January 2015.

[3] Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #7 ‘Ms. Marvel Team-Up; and #8 ‘Ms. Adventures in Babysitting’ (By Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Antonio Fabella, et al)”. Posted on 21 December 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 19 April 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/book-review-amazing-spider-man-vol-3-7-and-8/.

[4] Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #6 ‘Healing Factor, Part One’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 13 September 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 19 April 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-6-healing-factor-part-one-by-wilson-wyatt-herring-et-al/.

[5] Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #7 ‘Healing Factor, Part Two’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 26 September 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 19 April 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-7-healing-factor-part-two-by-wilson-wyatt-herring-et-al/

[6] Jemma Simmons (Earth-616). Marvel Database. Retrieved on 20 April 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Jemma_Simmons_(Earth-616).

[7] Phillip Coulson (Earth-616). Marvel Database. Retrieved on 20 April 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Phillip_Coulson_(Earth-616).

[8] S.H.I.E.L.D. Vol 3. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 19 April 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/S.H.I.E.L.D._Vol_3.

[9] Earth-616. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 19 April 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Earth-616.

[10] Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 19 April 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Marvel’s_Agents_of_S.H.I.E.L.D.

[11] Earth-199999. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 19 April 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Earth-199999.

[12] Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #12 ‘Loki in Love’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Elmo Bondoc, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 10 March 2015 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 19 April 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2015/03/10/book-review-ms-marvel-3-12-by-wilson-bondoc-herring-et-al/.

[13] Jemma Simmons (Earth-199999). Marvel Database. Retrieved on 20 April 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Jemma_Simmons_(Earth-199999).

Book Review: Siddhartha Mukherjee’s “The Emperor of All Maladies”

“In a sense, this is a military history—one in which the adversary is formless, timeless, and pervasive. Here, too, there are victories and losses, campaigns upon campaigns, heroes and hubris, survival and resilience—and inevitably, the wounded, the condemned, the forgotten, the dead. In the end, cancer truly emerges, as a nineteenth-century physician once wrote in a book’s frontispiece, as the ‘emperor of all maladies, the king of terrors.’” (Siddhartha Mukherjee, The Emperor of All Maladies)[1]

There are some books in each reader’s life which leave a great impression, touching various aspects of the reader’s life and becoming entwined with certain experiences and memories. Siddhartha Mukherjee’s The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer is one such book for me. A non-fiction history of science book about cancer, it’s a volume that gives one of the most dreaded diseases that humans face its due. I decided I absolutely had to write a review of this.

Mukherjee covers a very long range of time and a variety of topics. For the most part, the book focuses on the history of the scientific research and discoveries made about cancer, but there are also sections focusing on political discussions about cancer, the War on Cancer, and advocacy by various groups. Interspersed throughout are stories about Mukherjee’s oncology fellowship and some of his patients. The book is just as much about the actions of human beings as it is about the disease. These illnesses, after all, affect and are fought by human beings. We see how people have been greatly motivated to figure out this mysterious group of illnesses over the years. We see how human fallibility affects the decisions of all humans, even those who are incredibly intelligent. There are triumphs and failures and the human ability to persevere. There’s also a generous amount of epigraphs throughout the book, at the beginning of each part and chapter. Mukherjee manages to make all of these passages fit together beautifully. I became teary several times while reading this book, both due to sadness and happiness, grief and inspiration.

One of the things conveyed well in this book is the way that science progresses, with people making discoveries that build upon the discoveries of the past. The book covers the efforts to understand the causes and characteristics of cancer as well as the efforts to invent treatments for it, including explanations of how these are all intertwined. There are also explanations of how scientific discoveries in other areas, from clothing dyes to weapons of war, inspired scientists to look into topics that led to discoveries related to cancer. Humans have been affected by cancer and trying to figure it out for a very long time, and the book gives an appreciation of this lengthy struggle, from thousands of years ago today.

Mukherjee’s writing in this book is absolutely amazing; it is of that quality that makes me despair of never writing anything equal to it. The many topics discussed in the book are tied together beautifully, with one section leading to the next in a way that obviously required a lot of planning and work but seems inevitable due to the way it’s written. It’s a wonderful thing, to read a book that discusses such an important topic and that is also so beautifully written that I wanted to keep reading more. It’s also great to find well-written books that discuss non-fiction topics, such as science or history, in a way that is as enjoyable to read as literature as it is educational. It’s my hope that books combining non-fiction topics with good writing will increase interest in and knowledge of important topics.

This book is moderately accessible to a lay audience. There is a glossary of scientific terms at the back of the book; readers may or may not need to refer to the glossary depending on their background knowledge. One need not be an expert in oncology or even a healthcare professional to understand the book, and the author knows he’s explaining a subject that he knows a great deal about to those who are not experts in it. However, having some basic understanding about science, especially biology, is helpful in understanding some of the content and may help add some depth to some of the passages. Those with a passion for science or history should definitely read this book, and even those who may not have a prior interest may find that this book inspires them to read more.

To be human is to be faced with our mortality, and one of the most feared causes of death is cancer. In this book, Mukherjee writes about cancer in a way that shows an appreciation of its complexity and its affect on humanity.

This book is fantastic, and I definitely recommend reading it.

###

References

[1] Mukherjee, Siddhartha. The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. New York: Scribner, 2010, Author’s Note, p. xiv.

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #12 “Loki in Love” (By G. Willow Wilson, Elmo Bondoc, Ian Herring, et al)

“Friendship is something real and good and anybody who doesn’t understand that needs a dictionary.” (Bruno Carrelli, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #12)[1]

“I can’t believe I let you drag me to this patriarchal capitalist display of fake affection.” (Nakia Bahadir, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #12)[2]

Contrary to the title of this Valentine’s Day issue, the story actually does not focus on Loki being in love with anyone. After the end of the previous story arc,[3] Freyja, the All-Mother of Asgard, sends Loki to Midgard (Earth) to investigate and find out if any of the students at Coles Academic High School are still allied with the Inventor. (There’s a hilarious bit of dialogue about New Jersey having been “too long neglected by the gods”.[4] I think this is likely related to G. Willow Wilson’s comments about Kamala feeling like she’s a second-string superhero from Jersey City, NJ which is in the shadow of New York, NY.[5]) Loki shows up in Jersey City right before the Valentine’s Day Dance at the high school and proceeds to interfere in people’s love lives rather than working on the mission he was sent there to complete.

This issue was hilarious. From Kamala claiming she should get extra credit for physical education (which she’s failing) because of her superheroics to Bruno calling Loki a “Hipster Viking” to Kamala and Nakia’s conversations,[6] this issue kept me smiling all the way through. Despite my enjoyment of the previous issue of the series, I genuinely wasn’t expecting this and was pleasantly surprised. There’s always the issue of how to handle a Valentine’s Day story without being too cliché – either by creating a bland love story without anything to distinguish it from the many other similar ones or by being so cynical that even some people who don’t celebrate the holiday will think it’s a bit much. On top of all of this, in a story with a Muslim protagonist whose parents don’t let her date, there are a lot of ways the story can go wrong. I was kind of nervous about how this would be handled.

The creators deal with this by situation by focusing a great deal on friendship in this story. There’s lots of interaction between Kamala and Nakia and Kamala and Bruno. Although Bruno likes Kamala and wants to ask her to the dance, he still defends friendship when his brother Vick brings up the “friend zone” argument. Kamala and Nakia are hanging out together and discussing the mysterious love letter (written by Loki on behalf of Bruno, despite Bruno’s protests) that Kamala received. We get to see these two friends talk about boys and dating in a relatable way, their experiences obviously influenced by their families’ religious beliefs but also similar to teenagers of other religions as well. When they sneak out to the dance, Loki is spiking the punch with truth serum, and Kamala has to become Ms. Marvel to fight him. I feel I should add that there are also a nice couple of panels showing a same-sex couple at the dance, which I thought was nice; as always, I hope that there are more LGBTQ+ in more stories. My only criticism of the way the story in this issue is handled is that the issue of Kamala’s differences with her parents regarding relationships cannot be put off forever. However, it does seem like the upcoming story may deal with this,[7] and I hope that it’s addressed well there. Overall, I really liked the creators’ approach to this issue, because they took what could have been a boring or frustrating concept (a holiday issue) and made it fun.

This issue has artwork by Elmo Bondoc, and I really liked the way that the artist drew the story. Though I often get used to seeing the characters drawn a certain way by the main artist, the artwork in the issue immediately pulled me into the narrative and fascinated me. The coloring was by the usual colorist for the series, Ian Herring, so the artwork still had similarities with the previous issues. I wasn’t as big a fan of the cover art by Kris Anka, mostly due to the way that the characters’ faces are drawn. The writing was lots of fun, and G. Willow Wilson’s work continues to be among my favorites.

This issue was a one-shot holiday story, and as far as holiday stories go, it was rather impressive. I enjoyed the focus on character development, fun moments between friends, and a storyline that was connected with previous development. I’m definitely looking forward to the next issue, which is due out tomorrow.[8]

###

References

[1] Wilson, G. Willow; Bondoc, Elmo; Herring, Ian; et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #12 “Loki in Love”. Marvel, 18 February 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #12.

[3] Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #11 ‘Generation Why, Part Four’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 9 March 2015 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 9 March 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2015/03/09/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-11-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

[4] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #12.

[5] Arrant, Chris. “G. Willow Wilson’s New MS. MARVEL – Teen, Muslim, Jersey Girl, Fan Girl!” Posted on 6 November 2013 at Newsarama. Retrieved on 9 March 2015 from http://www.newsarama.com/19488-g-willow-wilson-s-new-ms-marvel-teen-muslim-jersey-girl-fangirl.html.

[6] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #12.

[7] “Ms. Marvel Vol 3 13”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 10 March 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Ms._Marvel_Vol_3_13.

[8] “Ms. Marvel Vol 3 13”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 10 March 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Ms._Marvel_Vol_3_13.

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #11 “Generation Why, Part Four” (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)

“It’s handy to have friends who are as weird as you are.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #11)[1]

“The world comes at you fast. You gotta stay light on your feet. Know who your friends are. And never be afraid to ask for help. Nobody has the right to give up on a whole generation before it’s even had a chance to prove itself. We’re all in this together, and we gotta remember that.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #11)[2]

In this, the last chapter of the “Generation Why” story arc, Kamala Khan and her crew of teenage allies (recruited to her cause in the previous issue)[3] face off against the Inventor in order to save the teenagers he has kidnapped and tricked into joining his cause. Readers find out with Kamala that her friend Nakia Bahadir is one of the teenagers who have been kidnapped by the Inventor, and Kamala must think of a clever strategy to fight against the Inventor’s robots. This issue was mostly a fight scene, but with lot of quiet moments as well.

I’ve been enjoying the way that the creators of Ms. Marvel handle the fight scenes. There’s an emphasis on coming up with a clever way to fight the villains, including teamwork and strategy, not just going in punching everybody. Kamala uses the strategy she learned previously, making herself smaller instead of making herself bigger, in order to fight the robot from the inside out.[4] As with the previous issue, there’s a nice message of people working together. Kamala and the other teens work together and also get assistance from the police and paramedics in the end. I love superhero stories in which it’s not all about the main character always saving the day and instead about people and their choices. Most important is people’s decisions to do the right thing. It’s more about helping people instead of about detailed and lengthy fight scenes. Personally, I do sometimes enjoy the longer fight scenes in other books, as long as the book also has an actual story with character development,[5] but I also enjoy books like Ms. Marvel that focus moreso on other aspects.

This issue also continues to show the difficulties in the life of a superhero. There’s a heartbreaking moment when the paramedics are taking the captured teenagers to provide them the medical care they need. In a panel with a close up of Nakia unconscious on a stretcher, Kamala realizes, “I can’t go to the hospital with my best friend. She’ll recognize me. And that’s when it hits me. This isn’t just a costume anymore. This is a parallel life.”[6] Superheroes with secret identities always have this problem of having to live two lives, keeping secrets from the people closest to them. It’s a very touching moment that acknowledges this theme with a young character for whom this is a new experience.

One of the things I love about the Ms. Marvel series is how unabashed and thoughtful it is in its inclusion of positive messages for readers. There will be moments in the story that are obviously intended to have a positive message, especially for teenaged readers. This is done in a way that seems true and relatable, with Kamala’s internal monologue narration containing many observations that are similar to things that I remember thinking as well. The reason I love superhero stories is because of those positive messages, and so I appreciate that they are delivered in an effective way in a good story.

The ending of the story suggests that (of course) there will be more stories to come – because as any fan of stories about heroes vs. villains knows, evil never dies. There’s always another fight, another obstacle to overcome, and another chance to do the right thing. This book was a nice ending to this story arc and tied together various elements that were set up earlier in the story. As always, I would definitely recommend reading this series.

###

References

[1] Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #11 “Generation Why, Part Four”. Marvel, 4 February 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #11.

[3] Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #10 ‘Generation Why, Part Three’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 19 January 2015 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 9 March 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2015/01/19/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-10-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

[4] Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #5 ‘Urban Legend’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 8 September 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 9 March 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-5-urban-legend-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

[5] Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1 #1-5 (By Rick Remender, John Cassaday, Oliver Coipel, Laura Martin, et al)”. Posted on 25 November 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 9 March 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/book-review-uncanny-avengers-vol-1-1-to-5-by-remender-cassaday-coipel-martin-et-al/.

[6] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #11.

Book Review: Thor Vol. 4 #1-5 (By Jason Aaron, Russell Dauterman, Matthew Wilson, Jorge Molina, et al)

“Whosoever holds this hammer, if she be worthy, shall possess the power of … Thor.” (Mjölnir’s enchantment, Thor Vol. 4 #1)[1]

“Do not just be worthy of the hammer. You are not the first to wield it, and no matter your fate, you will not be the last. Be worthy of the name. Long after every hammer in creation has crumbled to dust, the name of Thor will echo still. That is the true honor you bear. That is the burden you must carry.” (Freyja, Thor Vol. 4 #5)[2]

There’s a new Thor wielding the mighty hammer Mjölnir, and she won’t let anything stand in her way — not the frost giants, not a CEO of an energy corporation, and not even Odin the All-Father himself. After Thor Odinson is no longer able to wield Mjölnir, the hammer rests immovably on the moon until a mysterious woman picks it up. The new Thor is a legacy character, and it can be a challenge to introduce such a character when so many fans are devoted to the original. The creators do so in a way that is intriguing and makes me want to read more.

After picking up Mjölnir and endearingly figuring how to fly with it, Thor heads to Midgard (Earth) and fights the Frost Giants, who are working together to retrieve the skull of Laufey (King of Jotunheim) which was found by Roxxon Energy Corporation, a company whose CEO Darrio Agger turns out to be a Minotaur. There’s plenty of action and plenty of opportunity for the new Thor to use her new powers and figure out what she’s capable of. The main character figuring out how to be the new Thor adds a certain meaning to fight scenes that may have otherwise just been generic. I loved seeing her improving her ability to fight with the hammer and trying to come up with witty and confidant responses to her opponents’ insults.

Gender is definitely a theme in this story, and it is mostly handled well, though with some odd choices and missteps. There are villains who don’t believe that she could possibly be the new Thor, and she proves them wrong by defeating them. There’s even a passage in issue five in which Thor fights Carl Creel/Absorbing Man, who is committing a robbery. The creators put the arguments of some of the real-world fans who oppose the new female Thor into Creel’s dialogue. Thor proceeds to punch him. I have to admit that, after seeing so many stories which focus on cisgender men (and don’t give enough focus to how women might feel about the portrayal of female characters), it was nice to see a passage that was clearly there to stand up for those who are angry at those who oppose feminism. There was also a moment in which Mary MacPherran/Titania, who is also a criminal and working together with with Carl, acknowledges that she and Thor have something in common in that they are trying to succeed in what they’re doing in a world while facing sexism. Unfortunately, there was a passage in this story that didn’t make much sense, as Mary was willing to go to jail and hits Carl. It seemed odd and seems to fit the stereotype that women who care about gender equality will randomly hurt men for no reason. It’s not just the expected villains who oppose Thor. Even Odin Borson, the All-Father, is against the new her. He resents that she wields Mjölnir and wants to figure out who she is. His opposition to her is foreshadowed from the beginning of the story, during an argument between him and Freyja, the All-Mother. I liked this aspect, because it shows how discrimination is not just something that is supported by evil villains. It is also supported by people who may be good in other ways, because they (like Odin) are so used to being the ones with more power than others that they resent the idea of someone else being equal to them and having the same opportunity to gain similar power. Odin is a symbol of the established society and culture of Asgard, and he therefore reflects the problems of that society, as well as ours. By contrast, Freyja, the All-Mother of Asgard, supports the new Thor. Right from the beginning of the series, we see Freyja and Odin arguing about the rule of Asgard. The series initially hints that Freyja might be the new Thor, but it turns out that she’s not. I have not read many Thor stories, so I don’t know much about Freyja, but she seems to be a fascinating character. I hope that the theme of addressing gender issues continues in the series.

Thor Odinson is also a major character in the series. We see him deal with the realization that he is no longer Thor, God of Thunder. Mjölnir considers him unworthy. The one thing that I think wasn’t done well (in a different series) was the explanation of how Thor Odinson became unworthy of Mjölnir in the first place.[3] In this series, Thor is originally furious that someone else has Mjölnir. He finds the new Thor and fights her. During the fight, he realizes that the hammer really does consider her worthy and that she truly is the new Thor. I mostly like the way that the creators have handled the inclusion of his story. The kiss between the new Thor and Thor Odinson seemed unnecessary, but I did like their interaction otherwise (including him coming to accept her as the new Thor and her feeling compassion for him when she sees how upset he is about losing the hammer). Generally, I think the way their stories are interspersed is done in a way that keeps Thor Odinson, a beloved character, in the series but still keeps the focus on the new Thor, who is the protagonist.

Part of the story in this arc was the hidden identity of the new Thor; although we know that she’s Thor, we do not yet know who she was before she picked up the hammer. Even Odin is not able to figure it out, despite his efforts to find her with magic. There’s a fun passage in which Thor Odinson is making a list of the people he thinks she might be. It seems that upcoming issues will continue this theme of the mystery of Thor’s identity and that readers will find out who she is in issue #8.[4] I’m especially eager to find out if she is a new character in the multiverse, or if she is a character who was in other stories previously.

The writing and art are mostly really great. The writing has passages that make us feel for Thor as she is having a great time using her new powers and also showing determination when others don’t believe that she can be the real Thor. There are fun, funny, and serious moments. Similarly, the artwork has very memorable panels that worked well with the story. There were some moments that I thought could have been done differently, but I really enjoyed this story.

The new Thor is amazing. Despite never reading a Thor series before, I decided to try reading this series due to the new female Thor and am really glad that I did. I would recommend the series and look forward to reading more.

###

References

[1] Aaron, Jason; Dauterman, Russell; Wilson Matthew; et al. Thor Vol. 4 #1 “If He Be Worthy”. Marvel, 1 October 2014.

[2] Aaron, Jason; Molina, Jorge; et al. Thor Vol. 4 #5 “Behold, A New Age of Thunder”. Marvel, 11 February 2015.

[3] Aaron, Jason; Deodato, Mike; Martin, Frank; et al. Original Sin Vol. 1 #7. Marvel, 13 August 2014.

[Link goes to: “Original Sin Vol 1 7”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 4 March 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Original_Sin_Vol_1_7. ]

[4] “Thor Vol 4 8”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 4 March 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Thor_Vol_4_8.

Book Review: Storm Vol. 3 #1-5 (By Greg Pak, Victor Ibañez, Scott Hepburn, et al) #SaveStorm

“Ororo Munroe…a.k.a. Windrider…a.k.a. Princess of N’Dare…a.k.a. Queen of Wakanda (former)…a.k.a. Headmistress of the Jean Grey School for Higher Learning…a.k.a.…Storm” (Storm Vol. 3 #1)⁠1

“I started off picking pockets in Cairo. And then I became a queen, Logan. I tried to stay true to myself…but I had to think about everything I did with a few million other people in mind. And those gowns are tight. I just don’t feel like getting pushed back into anyone’s box again.” (Storm Vol. 3 #2)⁠2

Ororo Munroe, the X-Man known as Storm,⁠3 is one of the most well-known superheroes in the pantheon. First introduced in Giant Size X-Men #1 (1975),⁠4 she’s been an important character for decades, as an essential part of the X-Men and as a character in her own right. She was also one of the earliest female African-American superheroes. Now, about forty years later, she finally has an ongoing solo comics series.⁠5 The first five issues of this series serve to introduce the title character to the readers; in three one-shot stories followed by a two-part story, Storm is in situations and interacts with characters in ways which are reminiscent of some of her famous storylines from decades ago. As becomes obvious from the series, even to readers like myself who may only be familiar with certain parts of Ororo’s history based on which X-Men stories we’re familiar with, Ororo has done many things and had many roles in her life.

In issue #1, we see Ororo using her powers to save Santo Marco from a tsunami. There’s a great series of panels in which a whole bunch of people, including a kid, run up to her and are excited to see her. However, the government tells her to leave. Later in the issue, we get to see Ororo in her role as a teacher, as aspect of her character that I’m particularly fond of, having grown up with X-Men: Evolution. There’s an interesting character named Marisol who’s having a difficult time at the Jean Grey School due to bullying and what she sees as the X-Men’s attempts to brainwash students. She wants to leave the school to go back home. What I really loved about this issue was getting to see exactly what makes Ororo a superhero. She uses her powers for good. Given the abilities she has, she can avert some of the most deadly and destructive natural disasters, which can kill on a massive scale. We also see the difficulty of trying to help others when people’s discriminatory beliefs are so severe that they will reject someone who just saved the lives of innocent people, just because the person who saved them is part of a minority group (in this case, mutants). My only criticism is that I was really fascinated by the character of Marisol and was sad to see her go. It’s rare to see non-white characters in stories, and I’ve become frustrated by the trope in which a minority characters’ culture is used as a reason why they can’t or won’t do something (like joining a superhero team, for instance) when characters who are part of the majority are inspired to do the same thing. Her leaving seemed to me the kind of thing that is trying to portray diversity but ends up taking away a minority character instead of actually increasing diversity by adding one. I’m really hoping that this is just the beginning of Marisol’s story and that she will hopefully become a recurring secondary character in the series.

In issue #2, Ororo is reunite with Callisto of the Morlocks while investigating the disappearance of a young woman. I was somewhat familiar with the alternate-universe Earth-11052 version of the Morlocks⁠6 due to X-Men: Evolution⁠7 and the podcast Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men.⁠8 What I love about this issue is that it’s a story about a superhero who’s trying to help someone but then realizes that the situation is different than what she initially thought it was. Although the X-Men have disagreements with the Morlocks and even fight against them, it’s clear that they’re a group that readers are meant to have some sympathy for, due to the circumstances of discrimination against mutants that have caused them to live underground. In this issue, the Morlocks underground home become a place where people can escape to when they’re trying to get away from a bad situation. A group that has often been antagonists for our heroes turns out to be doing something good, and it’s a nice message showing that people are complicated and capable of a wide range of actions.

In issue #3, Ororo returns to Kenya and works together with her old friend Forge, who is working on a machine to help an area that has been plagued by drought. Using her powers, she helps him calibrate the machine in order to change the weather in an effective and accurate way that will be helpful to the people. This was an issue which also had a good message, but I think I might have enjoyed it even more if I knew more about the previous storylines about Ororo and Forge and more about Ororo’s time as a goddess. The good part of the issue is the message: Ororo is helping people once again, and it’s help with a problem that’s very real and happens in the real world. There is also a message about the importance of working together to make things better instead of seeking revenge.

In issues #4 and #5, the story ties in with the death of Logan/Wolverine, who has been an X-Man for as long as Ororo has. Ororo and Logan were romantically involved before his death, and there’s an incredibly touching passage in which Ororo, in her grief over Logan’s death, created an Aurora. The story which follows is one in which Ororo finds out that her and Logan’s longtime friend Yukio has gotten involved in some very questionable activities. This story was, in a way, the opposite of issue #2. In this story, Ororo finds out that someone who she actually really likes and considers a friend is doing something wrong. Ororo realizes that she can’t help her friend if her friend doesn’t want to change her situation. All she can do is live up to her own code of morality and not do something immoral, even when she’s put into a difficult situation. The story was obviously a tie-in with the Death of Wolverine event⁠9 which was happening at the time, and therefore set up a situation in which Ororo finds out something Logan was doing that she didn’t know about (working together with Yukio, trying to help her get out of the dangerous life that she had gotten herself into). This two-part story also shows Ororo’s morality and the difficult situation that people have to face when they find out that a friend is doing something wrong and asking them to do something wrong to help them.

Ororo Munroe is a great character and her solo series has been a long time coming. The content in these five introductory issues ranged from good to great, and I generally thought that most of the issues had some content that I really loved and some content that I thought was rather good. The story definitely made me interested in reading more of the series.

#

Notes

I’ll end my review with a request that readers try out this book. Fans have started the hashtag #SaveStorm out of concern that if the sales of the series don’t increase, it may be canceled as some series with similar sales numbers have recently been. As I’ve already written, Ororo is a great character and there’s great potential for stories about her in a solo series.

###

References

1 Pak, Greg; Ibañez, Victor; Redmond, Ruth; et al. Storm Vol. 3 #1. Marvel, 23 July 2014.

2 Pak, Greg; Ibañez, Victor; Redmond, Ruth; et al. Storm Vol. 3 #2. Marvel, 20 August 2014.

3 “Ororo Munroe (Earth-616)”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 15 February 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Ororo_Munroe_(Earth-616).

4 “Giant-Size X-Men Vol 1 1”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 15 February 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Giant-Size_X-Men_Vol_1_1.

5 “Storm Vol 3”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 22 February 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Storm_Vol_3.

6 “Morlocks (Earth-11052)”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 22 February 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Morlocks_(Earth-11052).

7 “X-Men: Evolution”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 22 February 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/X-Men:_Evolution.

8 The Rachel and Miles X-Plain the X-Men website can be found at http://www.rachelandmiles.com/xmen/.

9 “Death of Wolverine”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 22 February 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Death_of_Wolverine.

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #10 “Generation Why, Part Three” (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)

“This is what heroism comes down to, Ms. Marvel. In the end, you’re all alone.”

“You’re wrong. A hero is just somebody who tries to do the right thing even when it’s hard. There are more of us than you think.”

(The Inventor and Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #10 “Generation Why, Part Three”)⁠1

“Yeah, we’ve gotta do something drastic. But not this. This is not saving the world. This is admitting the world is over. This is saying our generation will never matter. But we have to matter. If we don’t, there is no future worth saving.”

(Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #10 “Generation Why, Part Three”)⁠2

After the cliffhanger of the previous issue,⁠3 Kamala Khan learns why the teenagers at the Greenville house have been voluntarily helping the mysterious villain known as the Inventor. He has formed what Kamala refers to as the “the Inventor’s indie band of doom”⁠4 and convinced these teenagers to sacrifice their lives to provide an energy source from their electrical fields and usable body heat. The teenagers at the Greenville house have become convinced that the world is doomed, that the kids and teens of their generation are parasites, and that participating in the Inventor’s plan is the only way for them to do something good with their lives. Kamala proceeds to motivate the teenagers to have some hope for a better future that they can be part of and then convinces them to help her fight against the Inventor.

Similar to issue #8,⁠5 there is content in this story which addresses negative attitudes towards teenagers. Some of it is a bit heavy-handed, but it’s balanced with amusing sections. There’s a sweet and funny passage in which Kamala is trying to motivate the other teenagers by telling them how their skills and traits could help them in certain jobs. They create a plan to fight against the Inventor, to stop his plot and to rescue Lockjaw. It’s nice to see Kamala working together with other teenagers to fight the villain; even a book with a solo superhero should have stories in which the hero works together with other people. With Kamala being from various demographics that are underrepresented and discriminated against, I found it interesting that the creators chose to use her age (rather than her race, gender, or religion) as the topic for this story arc. I’ve very much enjoyed the stories attempts to address racial, gender, and religious issues and hope that there will be more story arcs focused on them. However, it’s also nice to see a theme in Kamala’s story that teenagers in general will be able to relate to: the feeling that adults in power don’t seem to care about the state of the world they leave behind for future generations. I also like the idea of a hero motivating others to change their minds, instead of charing in and being the only one doing the right thing.

The question of people sacrificing themselves for a cause immediately reminded me the real-world question of how best to address problems. Heroes are often in dangerous situation when they try to fight the villains and do the right thing. However, there’s a difference between begin willing to die while doing the right thing to make the world better and intentionally killing oneself due to a belief that things cannot get better. The story shows how villains take away others’ hope and then try to manipulate them into doing something that is actually harmful to themselves and to society. The fact that Kamala was leading and working together with a bunch of other teenagers (who seem to be from various backgrounds) was a nice way to show that the best way to move forward is for everyone to work together and have hope for a better future.

So, the group of teenagers go to fight the Inventor. It turns out at the end of the issue that the Inventor is holding a whole bunch of teenagers prisoner. These prisoners are seemingly floating unconscious in the type of fluid-filled cylinders which are so common in the secret laboratories of speculative fiction. We have a dire scenario set up, and our team of teenagers will have to figure out a way to free the prisoners and defeat the Inventor. There’s also the question in my mind of whether the Inventor has some ulterior motive or unknown goal behind his action; does he actually believe that the planet is doomed if teenagers do not sacrifice themselves as an energy source, or is that just something he told them to achieve some other end? (As an aside, one character who I’ve been very curious about is Knox. He’s the one who, according to his own words in issue #6, synthesized the Inventor from the DNA of Thomas Edison, with some contamination due to his cockatiel’s DNA.⁠6 This makes me wonder if Knox is somehow the mastermind behind all of this, or if he is the Peter Pettigrew figure who gave his master a new body. If it’s the latter, who told him to clone the Inventor? Did the Inventor exist in some other form prior to the cloning of Thomas Edison? There’s a possibility I’ve overanalyzing this, but that’s what fandom is about.) The Inventor’s operation has been shrouded in mystery, and I’m hoping we find out more about what’s going on, either in the next issue or later in the future.

Most of this issue is setup for the final battle at the end of the story arc. There’s a lot of conversation between the characters, including motivational speeches by Kamala and diabolical speeches by the Inventor. (The Inventor is one of those villains who apparently likes to go on explanatory monologues for the readers’ benefit.) I’m really looking forward to issue #11 of this series. I’m wondering how much will actually be explained and to what degree it will be just one fight with a recurring villain who will show up again in later story arcs. I’m also wondering if any any of the teenagers will become new recurring characters, perhaps allies of Ms. Marvel or friends of Kamala Khan.

Overall, this series, even in its setup issues, is still fun to read.

###

References

1 Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #10 “Generation Why, Part Three”. Marvel, 17 December 2014.

2 Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #10 “Generation Why, Part Three”. Marvel, 17 December 2014.

3 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9 ‘Generation Why, Part Two’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)”. The Eternal Bookshelf, 15 December 2014. Retrieved on 19 January 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/12/15/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-9-generation-why-part-two-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

4 Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #10.

5 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #8 ‘Generation Why, Part One’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)”. The Eternal Bookshelf, 19 October 2014. Retrieved on 19 January 2015 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-8-generation-why-part-one-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

6 Wilson, G. Willow; Wyatt, Jacob; Herring, Ian; et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #6 “Healing Factor, Part One”. Marvel, 16 July 2014.

Book Review: Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1 #6-22 (By Rick Remender, Daniel Acuña, Steve McNiven, Salvador Larroca, et al)

“There is a point in the evolution of any species where they must discard their tribal instincts and unite as a people. One cohesive representation of their world on the cosmic stage. This is the test of all life. To see their world relative to the stars. To finally absorb how meaningless their rage at their brothers and sisters truly is!”

“You knew…knew this was coming…”

“If the people of Earth didn’t unite. I had great expectations they would. Yet they continued to war over their trifling differences. Combat, their only means of solution. Too savage to be allowed to join the cosmic community…and the Celestials deemed them unworthy for it. As hard as it will be to accept it…the true fault lies with men. Ragnarok was their choice.”

(Odin and Thor, Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1 #17)⁠1

I recently reviewed the first five issues of Uncanny Avengers, a series in which characters Avengers and X-Men characters form a new team in order to show that mutants and non-mutants can work together to make the world a better place.⁠2 This review covers the next seventeen issues of the story (#6-22), which form a series of arcs that actually fit together to create one long story. I mentioned in my previous review that I perhaps had too high an opinion of the first story arc, and it’s possible that I perhaps have too low an opinion of these ones.

Our new combined superhero team has defeated their first adversary, but things cannot stay peaceful for long, as new troubles quickly arise. Basically, there are multiple villains scheming ways to succeed in their plans and the heroes must find a way to defeat them. Adding to the difficulty is that the heroes realize that their own actions in the past have contributed to some of the problems that are arising. Differences in ideology and other sources of distrust also arise, leading to a splintering of the team. Their inability to work together allows the villains to succeed, leading to the destruction of the Earth and the murder of almost every non-mutant, after which our heroes have to employ some time travel and other measures to make things right again. In other words, there are many things going on.

There were some moments of moving character development for several of the characters, especially earlier in this series of issues. The passages in which they fight the Horsemen of the Apocalypse are incredibly revelatory. We also see the characters disagree with each other about the morality of violence and killing villains, scenes in which the reader can feel sympathetic for each of their points. However, the direction the story goes in prevents much further development for the characters. This is a very plot-driven storyline, in which a certain series of events has to happen, and there is not much quiet time to explore what could have been interesting friendships and rivalries within the group. I noted in my previous review that I thought the first story arc had a good balance of quieter moments and action scenes, but this story was heavy on the action and very light on other elements.

Because of the death of most of the cast, a large part of the storyline focuses on Alex Summers. This point has its merits and problems. Alex Summers is the younger brother of Scott Summers, the famous X-Man known as Cyclops. Due to his well-known older sibling, Alex has often been a secondary character, never able to live up to his brother’s reputation. It’s nice to see Alex in a story in which he gets to be a leader and hero. Even when Scott does show up, it’s still very much Alex’s story, and that’s much appreciated.

That being said, very few of the others on the team receive much focus. The story very much ignores opportunities to develop the other characters, mostly because they are killed off. Even in the end, when time travel allows them to to work together again, the method by which they work together is cool from an action point of view but light on character interaction that could have made it much more meaningful.

Even Janet, the only non-mutant who survives the genocide, doesn’t get as much character development as her partner Alex. One would think she’d be an obvious choice for a viewpoint character. Even though the fate of Alex and Janet’s daughter Katie, and the moral dilemma of saving billions of people when it means your own child will no longer exist, should be of great importance to both parents, Alex receives most of the focus. (I also noticed that Janet, like Rogue in the first arc of the series, has a random section of dialogue when she inexplicably mentions a detail about her sex life. This seems to be an attempt at humorous innuendo for the benefit of the reader, with no narrative purpose.) Janet seems like a genuinely awesome and fun character from the few moments when the story focuses on her, such as the passages when she saves her teammates and when she is conflicted about the use of violence, and I would have liked to get to know her better.

As for characters who are not part of the main superhero team, very few of them receive characterization that would give the story some more depth. Although there’s a whole planet with an entirely mutant population, it seems (inexplicably) that the Uncanny Avengers and a few of the X-Men are the only ones who seem concerned that their new home was built on the deaths of billions of people. For a story that started off by emphasizing the mutant minority metaphor, it ends up oddly reinforcing the bad things that some non-mutants believe about mutants. This is not helped by the decision to focus on the action scenes rather than depicting, for example, some of the citizens on Planet X. There were some moving passage in the first story arc featuring civilians, and this story could have benefited from that.

The plot itself seems to be trying so hard to be complicated and surprising that it forgets to be genuinely fascinating or memorable. I’m usually all for stories in which there are various characters working to achieve their goals, with the reader uncertain about exactly what’s going on, but these types of stories are usually interesting because the reader gets to know the characters as they are going about their plans. When combined with a lack of character development, this type of story lends itself to a book that is fun to read but which does not leave a lasting impression.

What I loved about the beginning of the series, though it had its flaws, was the potential for it to be a series about a team of mutant and non-mutant superheroes working together to fight anti-mutant bigotry, with character development showing how the experiences these characters have lived through influence their views. Instead of continuing this theme, the series takes a turn to become a generic superhero story with only brief mentions of the premise the series was supposed to be about. The problem of discrimination against mutants is removed by a genocidal act of deus ex machina. I’m usually all for stories in which the heroes have to quite literally save the Earth from destruction, but usually these stories contain some sort of theme regarding humanity’s error in fighting amongst ourselves or being irresponsible, instead of working together and showing solidarity. The first story arc, for all its flaws, portrayed the ability of humans to discriminate against each other as the ultimate villain, even if there was a super-powered bad guy influencing their actions by amplifying the tendencies that humans already have inside them. In this story, it’s all about the super-powered bad guys, and what little meaning there is regarding the importance of humanity working together is lost. Odin’s speech in issue #17 is one of the few moments which acknowledge this theme, but most of the story ignores it in favor of action. I think part of the reason I was disappointed was that I was hoping for a story that would more directly address the mutant minority metaphor with some thoughtfulness. Instead, the series started with story arc was a bit heavy-handed about the message, followed by several story arcs that mostly avoided it.

Overall, I found this long story that took up most of the first volume of Uncanny Avengers to be generally fun but disappointing, for it’s failure to follow up on the themes that were introduced in the beginning of the series. There are lots of stories about superheroes saving the world from evil supervillains; a story about superheroes saving the world from the evil within the hearts of humanity would have been much more appreciated.

###

References

1 Remender, Rick; Acuña, Daniel; McNiven, Steve; Larocca, Salvador; et al. Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1 #17 “Ragnarok Now”. Marvel, 26 February 2014.

2 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Uncanny Avengers Vol. 1 #1-5 (By Rick Remender, John Cassaday, Oliver Coipel, Laura Martin, et al)”. Posted on 25 November 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 21 December from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/11/25/book-review-uncanny-avengers-vol-1-1-to-5-by-remender-cassaday-coipel-martin-et-al/.

Book Review: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #7 “Ms. Marvel Team-Up” and #8 “Ms. Adventures in Babysitting” (By Dan Slott, Christos Gage, Guiseppe Camuncoli, Cam Smith, Antonio Fabella, et al)

“Man, that woman has some die-hard fans.” (Peter Parker/Spider-Man, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #7 “Ms. Marvel Team-Up”)⁠1

“I can’t believe we beat her by calling the principal.” (Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #8 “Ms. Adventures in Babysitting”)⁠2

“Relax, kiddo, you’ll be fine.”

“As a super hero? Or the whole Inhuman thing?”

“As a teenager. You remind me of a web-headed whippersnapper who always wondered how he was doing. And he thinks you’re doing great.”

(Peter Parker/Spider-Man and Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #8 “Ms. Adventures in Babysitting”)⁠3

Kamala Khan, better known as Ms. Marvel, is one of the newer superheroes, and so she’s been meeting and teaming up with some of her more well-known predecessors. In Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #6 “Healing Factor, Part One”⁠4 and #7 “Healing Factor, Part Two”,⁠5 she teamed up with Logan of the X-Men. It was only a matter of time before she teamed up with the superhero who she’s often compared to: Peter Parker, better known as Spider-Man. In Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #7 and #8, Kamala was a guest in Peter’s series, as one of the most famous former teenage superheroes (who’s now an adult).

To provide some context, each of these two issue contains two stories; the first story in each issue is the team-up between Peter and Kamala and the second story in each is part of Edge of Spider-Verse, the lead-up to the Spider-Verse event. The Edge of Spider-Verse stories were fun to read, but I don’t have much to say about them, as I’ve not been following the Amazing Spider-Man series. This review will focus on the team-up.

Minn-Erva/Dr. Minerva⁠6 is a villain who’s attacking a medical facility along with a group of henchmen in green uniforms. Her criminal activities lead to the team-up between Peter and Kamala, because a member of the Carol Corps posts about a villain who’s committing crimes in Carol Danvers’ old Ms. Marvel costume. Kamala decides to intervene and heads to New York City. Meanwhile, Peter Parker is trying to focus on his non-superhero priorities (such as running Parker Industries) on the advice of Anna Maria Marconi.⁠7 Cindy Moon/Silk⁠8 decides to head out on her own, separate from Peter, to make her own life. The villain’s actions cause the superheroes to meet up and do what superheroes do best, leading to a fun and sweet ending, which includes tricking the villain into leaving Earth and finding out that one of her henchmen wants to turn his life around.⁠9

This story definitely knows who its audience is going to be. The creators seemed to appreciate that Kamala’s fans would be picking up these issues and included some fun references to the Carol Corps, the fans of Carol Danvers.⁠10 Kamala asks Peter questions about Carol Danvers, because she knows that the two of them know each other and once dated. Peter motivates Kamala to stay in the fight by encouraging her to help him with a team-up move that he has previously done with Carol Danvers. There’s a sweet conversation between the two of them at the end of the story, in which Peter tells Kamala he thinks she’s doing great.

The character Cindy, though I don’t know too much about her, is actually really fascinating in this issue, as she’s trying to build up a life for herself and finds that Natalie Long,⁠11 one of her colleagues at Fact Channel,⁠12 wants Silk to be for the Fact Channel what Spider-Man was to the Daily Bugle. As is the way of superhero stories, Natalie Long doesn’t know that the woman she’s talking to is actually the superhero she’s referring to. This story is not developed as much, but it’s a fun reference to an ongoing joke in the Spider-Man universe: the news outlet that doesn’t know that the superhero they’re covering is one their employees.

Another interesting character is Clayton Cole, who’s the henchman who has second thoughts when realizing what’s inside the cocoon that Dr. Minerva has stolen. It’s a sweet moment showing that even those who’ve gone astray can change their lives, and it’s very much in keeping with the positive theme about choosing one’s own destiny that’s been a staple of both Peter and Kamala’s stories.

Despite the fun elements, this story feels a bit like filler because, well, that’s kind of what it is. One of the best things about team-ups is that the characters are in some way affected or changed by meeting or working together with another character; it provides a chance for some character development. There was certainly a lot of character development for Kamala in her team-up with Logan. In this story, one feels that neither Peter nor Kamala are going to leave it changed or affected in a way that will affect their future story arcs. The Ms. Marvel series was (and is) in the middle of a different and unrelated story arc and the Spider-Verse event was about to happen in the Spider-books when this team-up happened.

This is the first story about Kamala Khan that I’ve found decent, but not that great. I don’t regret reading it but it also wasn’t as good as it had the potential to be. The characters don’t get space for a more well-developed story, because it feels very much like a little vignette that was squeezed into a set number of pages while the creators’ focus was on the big Spider-Verse event that was about to happen. Fans of the Amazing Spider-Man series will likely read these issues anyway, and fans of Ms. Marvel will likely read these issues for more stories about a new character who doesn’t have decades of back issues yet. I hope that Peter Parker and Kamala Khan meet again, perhaps along with some of the other Avengers.  Here’s to hoping that meeting will be a more well-developed story.

###

References

1 Slott, Dan; Gage, Christos; Camuncoli, Guiseppe; Smith, Cam; Fabella, Antonio; et al. “Ms. Marvel Team-Up”. In: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #7. Marvel, 8 October 2014.

2 Slott, Dan; Gage, Christos; Camuncoli, Guiseppe; Smith, Cam; Fabella, Antonio; et al. “Ms. Adventures in Babysitting”. In: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #8. Marvel, 22 October 2014.

3 Slott, Dan; Gage, Christos; Camuncoli, Guiseppe; Smith, Cam; Fabella, Antonio; et al. “Ms. Adventures in Babysitting”. In: Amazing Spider-Man Vol. 3 #8. Marvel, 22 October 2014.

4 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #6 ‘Healing Factor, Part One’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 13 September 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 16 September 2014 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/09/13/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-6-healing-factor-part-one-by-wilson-wyatt-herring-et-al/.

5 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #7 ‘Healing Factor, Part Two’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Jacob Wyatt, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 26 September 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 19 October 2014 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/09/26/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-7-healing-factor-part-two-by-wilson-wyatt-herring-et-al/.

6 “Minn-Erva (Earth-616)”. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 21 December 2014 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Minn-Erva_(Earth-616).

7 “Anna Maria Marconi (Earth-616)”. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 21 December 2014 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Anna_Maria_Marconi_(Earth-616).

8 “Cindy Moon (Earth-616)”. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 21 December 2014 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Cindy_Moon_(Earth-616).

9 “Clayton Cole (Earth-616)”. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 21 December 2014 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Clayton_Cole_(Earth-616).

10 “Carol Danvers (Earth-616)”. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 21 December 2014 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Carol_Danvers_(Earth-616).

11 “Natalie Long (Earth-616)”. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 21 December 2014 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Natalie_Long_(Earth-616).

12 “Fact Channel News (Earth-616)”. Marvel Database wiki. Retrieved on 21 December 2014 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Fact_Channel_News_(Earth-616).

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9 “Generation Why, Part Two” (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)

“This is all so weird. I thought I was finally starting to figure things out. It seems like anytime you want to learn something, you have to unlearn something else. I thought I was a mutant — now it turns out I’m part alien. I’m a Pak-American, Part-Alien, Morphogenic nerd.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9)⁠1

“I like not being scared. I want to keep not being scared. (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9)⁠2

“You’re from a galaxy far, far away.” (Bruno, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9)⁠3

Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9 “Generation Why, Part Two” is a continuation of the story arc that began in issue #8.⁠4 Kamala Khan is faced with one of the Inventor’s giant robots, which is attacking her school. At this rather inconvenient moment, her shape-shifting powers won’t work the way they used to. If she fights the robot, her fellow classmates and others in the area will realize that she has superpowers. So, she tells Lockjaw to create a distraction while she fights the giant robot, in the hope that no one will recognize her. The fight causes Kamala to use up all of her energy, pushing her healing factor ability to its limit, and Kamala passes out. When Kamala wakes up, she’s in New Attilan, home of the Inhumans, which Bruno refers to as the “art deco alien city in the river”.⁠5 There, Kamala meets Medusa, Queen of the Inhumans, and Vinatos, a physician who’s treating her injuries. It’s here that Kamala finds out that she’s not a mutant; she’s an Inhuman. Despite Queen Medusa’s expectation that Kamala should stay in New Attilan and let someone else deal with the Inventor, Kamala leaves.

One of the things I’m really enjoying about this series is Kamala’s decision to define her own life and destiny, instead of going along with what others expect of her. She has disagreed with and rebelled against her parents,⁠6 realized that she doesn’t want to fit in with classmates who look down at her,⁠7 and argued against Sheikh Abdullah about gender segregation at the masjid.⁠8 In this issue, she refuses to stay in New Attilan, despite Queen Medusa’s demand that she do so. Kamala’s a rebel with a cause — a good cause. She wants to find her own way, instead of following what others tell her to do. The reader can’t help cheering for her. It’s heartening to see a character from underrepresented demographics standing up for herself and making her own choices. It’s much needed in media and and is done very well here. She gets to be herself, and she’s awesome.

When Kamala and Bruno are in New Attilan, Vinatos offers a hypothesis about why Kamala might be having difficulty with her shape-shifting powers. He suggests that the more Kamala uses her healing abilities, the less she might be able to shape-shift. This offers a challenge that might become relevant in Kamala’s future attempts at superheroics. The even more fascinating part is the metaphor, a suggestion that that accepting oneself, instead of pretending to be what others expect, is a part of healing. Part of Kamala’s story is about her looking up to Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, to such a degree that she subconsciously changed her appearance to look like Carol when her powers first emerged. Throughout the story, Kamala has been learning that she herself can be brave and do good things, that she can take actions that are inspired by the superheroes she admires without looking just like them or hiding who she really is.

After returning home to her concerned family, Kamala is still determined to defeat the Inventor and convinces Vick to take her back to the house outside Greenville. It turns out to be a harvest day, when some of the teenagers are taken to the power plant. The artwork shows a person on a stretcher being brought out of the house. At the end of this issue, Kamala receives a big surprise when the teenagers she’s trying to rescue that house are reluctant to go with her. They’re volunteers, not captives. As I wrote in my review of issue #8,⁠9 there were hints in previous issues suggesting that the teenagers had voluntarily joined the Inventor, although their specific plans are still mysterious.

I really hope that this story arc goes in an interesting direction. There have been many times while reading this series that a certain subject matter or theme has been introduced and made me nervous, due to concern about how it would be handled. Every time thus far, the creators have exceeded my expectations in their storytelling. I hope that this development of the teenagers joining the Inventor is similarly handled well. Hopefully, we will find out more about them and their motivations. There are many interesting directions that the story could go in, and the reveal at the end of this issue ties in with the larger theme of teenagers trying to find their way and trying to find something to believe.

Generally, this issue was mostly build-up for the rest of the story arc, but the creators working on this series make it fun nonetheless. Kamala finally finds out the source of her powers and meets more Inhumans. There are some character development moments and introductions of new characters who will likely become more significant later. There are some fun references to Star Wars and Halo, showing Kamala’s fan interests, something that her fans will be able to relate to. This story arc is at the halfway point, so I’m hoping that there will be some important developments in the next two issues. I’m looking forward to seeing Kamala’s further interactions with the teenage followers of the Inventor and find out more about the Inventor himself.

Ms. Marvel is one of the comics that I look forward to the most each month; Kamala has quickly become one of my favorite superheroes. The Kamala Korps⁠10 may be new, but it’s a fandom for one of the best superheroes. I hope her fandom grows and that she is one day counted among the pantheon of the best-loved characters.

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References

1 Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9 “Generation Why, Part Two”. Marvel, 15 October 2014.

2 Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9.

3 Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9.

4 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #8 ‘Generation Why, Part One’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 19 October 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 20 November 2014 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-8-generation-why-part-one-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

5 Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #9.

6 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #1 ‘Metamorphosis’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 26 June 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 20 November 2014 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/06/26/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-1-metamorphosis-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

7 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2 ‘All Mankind’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring)”. Posted on 3 July 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 20 November 2014 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/07/03/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-2-all-mankind-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

8 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3 ‘Side Entrance’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring)”. Posted on 12 July 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 20 November 2014 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/07/12/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-3-side-entrance-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

9 Sharmin, Ani J. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #8 ‘Generation Why, Part One’ (By G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring, et al)”. Posted on 19 October 2014 at The Eternal Bookshelf. Retrieved on 20 November 2014 from https://eternalbookshelf.wordpress.com/2014/10/19/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-8-generation-why-part-one-by-wilson-alphona-herring-et-al/.

10 Oler, Tammy. “Marvelous: Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel are changing the way readers (and publishers) think about who can be a superhero”. Slate, 7 April 2014. Retrieved on 15 December 2014 from http://www.slate.com/articles/arts/books/2014/04/kamala_khan_as_ms_marvel_and_carol_danvers_as_captain_marvel_female_nonwhite.html.