At the start of “Ms. Marvel” #14 by G. Willow Wilson and Takeshi Miyazawa, Kamran seems to be the perfect guy for Kamala.
Her parents have pre-approved, he’s a family friend and a Muslim, he’s a heartthrob, he’s nerdy and shares Kamala’s interests, and — to top it off — he’s also an Inhuman. He even drives a swanky car! There is nothing wrong with him based on her first impressions. The story arc title, “Crushed,” foreshadows too much, and both Kamala’s reaction and her eventual disappointment are a little predictable, though Wilson and Miyazawa continue to make “Ms. Marvel” a star.
Despite a predictable plot, most of “Ms. Marvel” #14 is a joy to read.
Romance is very difficult to get right in any medium, but Wilson and Miyazawa nail it. This is classic young adult stuff: cute guy, sneaking out at night, the thrill of attraction and breaking parents’ rules. Kamran holds Kamala’s shoe and slips it on her foot like she’s Cinderella, he throws pebbles at her window and leans in to kiss her, tipping her chin up gently. With a less skilled creative team, any of these moves would elicit eye-rolls but, instead, they are so well-written and well-drawn that they are squee-inducing. Wilson’s dialogue makes all the conversations funny and natural-feeling, and she gives Kamala such enthusiasm and energy that the character alone drives much of the momentum.
As soon as Kamran is revealed to be less awesome than he seems, however, the dialogue and the action lose some of their zest. Although Kamala remains a strong anchor and voice, the other characters around her are suddenly flatter and less interesting. I’ll be vague to avoid spoilers, but there’s one character that’s an obvious combination of Gambit and Magneto. Those two are great X-Men characters, but this new guy just feels like a pale imitation. Also, when the story pivots, it loses texture. One of the strong parts about “Ms. Marvel” is how Wilson is able to weave in Kamala’s identity as a Muslim into her normal teenage life. Jersey City and Kamala’s family also add a lot of richness, and all those pieces of her life are absent in the last few scenes of “Ms. Marvel” #14.
The biggest surprise in the plot was how Aamir, Kamala’s brother, gets the spotlight briefly. He was only comic relief before and he still plays that role in “Ms. Marvel” #14, but he also gets to make a concerned and sincere speech to Bruno. Miyazama does a virtuosic job with facial expressions, inviting the reader to laugh at Aamir as he practices for his job interview and then showing him to be kind and observant beyond all his bossing and bluster on the next page.
I can’t praise Miyazawa’s art enough and I can’t wait to see more of his work. Adrian Alphona did a superb job on the first “Ms. Marvel” arc and fill-in artist Jake Wyatt was also excellent. Miyazawa is as good or better as his predecessor. He handles both romance and humor with grace. The rooftop scene is charged with sexy tension and Kamala’s Bigfoot drop to the ground is hilarious.
Miyazawa has an exceptionally fine grasp of gesture, body language and expressions, which is so important for a character-driven comic.
The reading experience, at its best, has rhythms like breathing or talking, with natural break points and places where time seems to contract or expand. When Wilson’s script calls for the reader to take a moment to take things in, Miyazawa draws a full-page spread worth pausing for. Details like the three cats are like a cherry that completes the visual sundae of the rooftop scene.
He’s also got a near-perfect grasp of transitions, perspective and narrative timing. In the moments where the dialogue needs to be front and center, Miyazawa never showboats. As Kamala’s reactions and thoughts race along, his visual presence is understated and almost invisible as he concentrates on making the scenes feel fluid. In other panels, like when Aamir and Kamala are waiting for a bus, the sense of space expands and the art feels sharper and crisper, with enough room for beautiful background details like ironwork. Herring’s color work in this panel captures early morning sunlight perfectly, too. Finally, Caramagna’s lettering also deserves a shout-out for how he indicates Kamala is whispering by reducing the text size in the window scene.
Wilson’s talents with dialogue and humor continue to make “Ms. Marvel” a star, but Miyazawa and the rest of the team provide the extra wattage to make her shine even more brightly.