In “Ms. Marvel” #4, Kamala is forced to come out to her best friend after she’s accidentally shot during a robbery in his store. The result of that revelation, thanks to strong work by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, is both classic and refreshingly new, as is the second half of the plot which finds Ms. Marvel and Bruno head off to rescue her shooter — since it’s Bruno’s brother.
Wilson expertly captures a lightness and sense of fun of Kamala, while building the stakes expertly. Little things, like the fact that even with a serious injury, Kamala can make a hilarious suggestion that her friend Bruno continue saying nice things about her, feel deliciously human, and perhaps more important in this case, decidedly young adult. The result of Wilson’s balancing act is a strong book that captures that beautiful symmetry of superheroes and teen angst.
Kamala’s powers develop further in this issue as she learns more about their lengths and limitations. She also officially picks a name (spoiler alert: it’s Ms. Marvel), and designs her first costume. Because the book is steeped in quite a bit of reality, the costume is an interesting choice; it resembles what we’ve seen on the more iconic covers, but it’s not quite there, in the way that would and should be true to a teenager without much design skill pulling together a costume from her closet. It’s another example of clever line straddling. Kamala’s costume makes sense for her and for a teenager, which is why it’s a bit silly but has potential. All of these things happen incredibly organically, and with more than a little humor. Kamala’s world has become very intense of late, but the way she approaches it, with equal parts joy and fear, is a delight to experience.
Alphona’s work, from the aforementioned costume to the continued visual execution of Kamala’s powers to making sure that all the characters are both consistent and well designed while being expressive and engaging, is top notch. The art plays a lot with the book’s sense of humor, especially through Alphona’s very fun and visual powerset — giant hands are a favorite, and he makes the most of them in a fantastic action scene which finds Kamala awkwardly using her powers to defeat serious foes. But Alphona also makes the most of smaller story elements — in this issue, Bruno gives Kamala a sleep mask with holes poked in it to hide her identity from the police when she realizes she can’t shape change because of her injury. The sleep mask could have looked nearly identical to any traditional domino/super hero mask, but instead Alphona makes it hilarious by making the holes minuscule, the mask a quilted pink and, of course, making it askew for the entire scene.
The storytelling throughout the issue is very strong, with character acting at a particularly high level — every scene just sings with emotion, and always exactly the right one. Character design also remains a strength as Alphona never phones it in, even for the extras. Everyone is thoughtfully designed, presenting a vivid tapestry for the book — one in which realistic variety is indeed the spice of life. Ian Herring’s color palette remains soft and muted in a tone-appropriate and lovely way, with solid respect for lighting a scene. A page from Kamala’s POV on the floor, looking up at Bruno and her shooter, is bathed in faded blues. Later, during a mission outside of town, the night is clouded and feels murky and dangerous. It’s just another great example of a creative team working in wonderful sync toward a common goal — great comics.
Four issues in, and “Ms. Marvel” shows no signs of letting up. It’s the definition of a well-constructed comic book with the perfect creative team, one with not only incredible talent, but an obvious passion for their subject material. If you’re not reading it, you’re making a mistake.