You’d need a pretty tough heart to resist “Ms. Marvel” #6. Kamala Khan’s anticipated team-up with Wolverine is funny, imaginative, and enthusiastic — altogether, almost irresistibly loveable. G. Willow Wilson still writes one of the winningest protagonists on the shelves, and new artist Jacob Wyatt draws a whimsical, wacky version of the Jersey City sewers that’s so fun to look at. “Ms. Marvel” #6 is everything I love about teen superheroes and more.
The pitch of the issue is that Kamala finally meets her superhero mentor, Wolverine, and gets to live out a geek fantasy of teaming up with one of her idols. However, first she has to meet with a mentor she’s decidedly less enthusiastic about: Sheikh Abdullah. Their talk is refreshingly stereotype-bucking. While Wilson still shows the ways that Kamala has to play-act around Sheikh Abdullah — the performatively devout behavior that all teens in religious communities use to pass under the radar — she also treats Abdullah as a real person in Kamala’s life, not a stand-in for organized religion. I thought I knew how this scene was going to go, but it surprised me with its humanity and nuance. Their interaction has a believable mix of tension and warmth, characteristic of two people trying to understand where the other is coming from.
Once Kamala enters the Jersey City sewers, though, it’s no more nuance and full-scale nutty. From camera-wearing gators to Thomas Edison as a waistcoated cockatiel, the second half of the issue is delightfully off-kilter. I’ll admit that I’m pretty attached to series regular artist Adrian Alphona, but Wyatt and Herring excel in creating this environment. Rather than the dark and creepy sewer lair, they go full-on underground swamp-lab, with the colors to match. Wyatt also shows a playful versatility that contributes to the zany pace of the story. He switches easily from a graceful frame-by-frame rendering of Wolverine’s descent to a cartoony, arms-whirling rendering of Kamala’s. I’m excited to see what he does with the alligator fight in issue #7.
In their first adventure, Wolverine and Kamala make a fun team. His gruffness collides with her enthusiasm in interesting ways that are neither patronizing nor antagonizing. It’s not simply Wolverine teaching Kamala to be less optimistic and kind; it’s also Kamala surprising Wolverine with her creativity (and her fanfic, of course).
Ultimately, though, Wilson’s dialogue is what keeps me coming back. She has a nearly impeccable ear. From Kamala calling her and Wolverine, “super-powered twinsies,” to her thinking “I need theme music,” to dungeon boss and doge memes references, Wilson knows to inject cute character moments into a scene. Even more impressive, she knows how to balance the cutesy with the serious. Kamala displays a believable mix of optimism and self-doubt. Wilson smartly centers that doubt on the world around her, rather than on the responsibility of being a hero. Kamala isn’t worried about being a superhero; she’s worried about being a teenage girl.
Six issues in, “Ms. Marvel” is living up to all its promises. If you haven’t given this series a chance, you’re missing out.