G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring’s “Ms. Marvel” #2 gets even better with a strong second issue as Kamala Khan deals with her uncontrollable powers and gets her first crack at (and taste for) superheroing.
Wilson makes incredibly smart story decisions in this second issue, allowing the focus to stay small as Kamala tries to figure out what’s wrong with her. Since Wilson’s voice for Kamala is pitch perfect, effortless and consistent, her internal confusion and anxiety tinged with excitement works like gangbusters — feeling both real and emotionally resonant. At the same time, Wilson gives Kamala a small heroic feat, saving one student in mortal danger; the perfect attainable set up for the themes and tones of the book to come.
In fact, Kamala directly quotes the Quran (or her father’s quoting of the Quran): “Whoever kills one person, it is as if he has killed all of mankind and whoever saves one person, it is if he has saved all of mankind” — and it is that perfect moment that a superhero book finds its footing. Kamala’s actions feel both organic and earned thanks to fine character work by Wilson and finely honed plotting that does not try to do too much while still aiming for inspirational and magnificent.
Alphona is an exceptional choice as an artist for this book, due to his take on both the unique and specific look for Kamala and the supporting cast — realistic, but cartoonish and well-fitting the tone of the book — and the weird shape shifting aspects of Kamala’s power set. Visually, it’s the best part of the book to see Kamala using her powers in creative ways; even those she’s still not in control and figuring things out. The combination of Alphona drawing a giant hand that Kamala can’t figure out how to “de-embiggen” and Wilson’s words as Kamala struggles with it are magic — good, funny magic! Together, the two creators make “Ms. Marvel” funny, relatable and slightly tragic in Kamala’s exploration of her weird powers, her responsibilities and the world at large.
Ian Herring’s colors are a soft muted palette that well fits the tone. There’s no bright “superheroic pop” and that feels right. The issue takes place at night and for the most part there’s a wonderful consideration of light and shadow to evoke that feeling, rather than dragging the book deep into incomprehensible darks. Sometimes I wished for a stronger line to anchor some of the art, but the softness and almost buoyancy of the work is right where it should be given the work’s tone.
“Ms. Marvel” is a superhero comic book long overdue, but even for those that haven’t been waiting for something like this, it’s hard to argue against it. It’s fun, it’s smart, it’s beautiful, heroic and inspiring. Here’s to a long future for “Ms. Marvel” and Kamala, hopefully with Wilson and Alphona at the helm.