In G. Willow Wilson and Nico Leon’s “Ms. Marvel” #4, Kamala’s workload gets so bad she admits that she can’t do it all, but — instead of cutting back — she reaches for a solution that is destined to fail spectacularly.
Wilson is to be commended for bringing Kamala’s overloaded schedule to a head with the new “Army of One” storyline. Even though Kamala is smart and full of beans, it would be crazy if she could do it all or have it all, all of the time. Most of the Avengers and superheroes in general have a cardboard-like family life. At the most, there’s a bland romantic partner or family member waiting patiently at home. There might be squabbles and questions, but superhero work always takes precedence. No superhero takes kids to daycare, has a convincing and demanding day job and still beats up villains all night. (And no, Peter Parker, Clark Kent and Matt Murdock’s day jobs do not clear the realism bar.) Wilson gives Kamala’s family and school commitments much more weight.
The structure and moral of “Army of One” is taken from “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice,” originally a poem by Goethe, but more commonly known as the plot from Disney’s “Fantasia.” While the unraveling of Kamala’s hopes is inevitable, the details in “Ms. Marvel” #4 are already memorable.
While the reader can sympathize with Kamala’s decision to choose her dream of being an Avenger over school and family duties, it’s also clear Wilson won’t let Kamala get away it — and that’s a good thing. So far, Kamala’s superhero activities have been fun but without depth. Her foes have been creative but not complex. By comparison, the scenes and situations with her family and friends have been much richer, full of life and warmth. These are irreplaceable parts of Kamala’s identity. Along with her unusually enthusiastic high spirits, they set her apart from other superheroes.
Nico Leon’s style isn’t as distinctive as Takeshi Miyazawa or Adrian Alphona’s, but it’s attractive and not too big a jump from his predecessors. Ian Herring has been the colorist all along, and his palette of muted but rich hues for “Ms. Marvel” is also instantly familiar.
Leon’s art doesn’t have Miyazawa’s beauty of line variation or match Adrian Alphona’s confident flair and spunk in playing with proportions, but he holds his own. His facial expressions and body language are more understated than Alphona’s in the opening scene, but the first full-page spread in “Ms. Marvel” #4 shows off his comic skills in composition. Herring’s exceptionally detailed color work also gives the scene more depth and dramatic weight. The school scenes are even better. In the science lab, several panels — with their matching facial expressions and body postures — are wonderfully funny, starting from the moment Kamala and Bruno’s lightning golem pinch each other’s cheeks.
As usual, Wilson’s dialogue is delightful to read, like when Bruno laments that he’s “created a monster. Literally. Un-figuratively literally.” Leon eloquently conveys Bruno’s worry and dismay
and Kamala’s irrepressible can-do attitude in their faces and postures. His page compositions and transitions also complement Wilson’s dialogue with perfect timing. It’s pretty much a requirement that any artist working with Wilson on “Ms. Marvel” needs to have strong comedy skills, and Leon proves himself more than capable on that score here.
Leon draws a zany, well-balanced panel for the last page cliffhanger and leads up to it with strong visual pacing. The cliffhanger itself isn’t a big surprise; Wilson foreshadows in the title, “Army of One” and there are numerous precedents for this kind of experiment gone amok.
So far, Kamala’s new status as an Avenger hasn’t added much to her character. With the exception of Wolverine’s two-issue cameo in the original ongoing series, her pre-existing social network has been much more fruitful for characterization and chemistry. I’m still not convinced Ms. Marvel needs to be on a superhero team, even though it’s fun to see her in other books. That said, Avengers membership is a good launching pad for the themes about growing up, compromises and priorities that Kamala faces in “Army of One.”