Review by Frank Plowright
A neat opening chapter introduces Amulet, an enthusiastic new teen superhero with a form of personal power shield. He’s nicely characterised by Saladin Ahmed as open, honest and well-intentioned, but oblivious to the danger of disclosure. That chapter also rapidly resolves Mr Khan’s illness, although not so quickly that it trivialises the emotional journey of Stormranger.
The reason for the rush is that company-wide events have a great impact on Ms Marvel, title and individual. Kamala ends up in a coma after she and a number of other young superheroes protected a school from attack and it collapsed. She was identified as an innocent casualty, and remains in a coma while a law is passed in her name outlawing younger superheroes. This occurs in a one-shot titled Outlawed. At thirty pages of story, would it have bankrupted Marvel to include those events, even if by a different creative team? Instead they jump from the end of the opening chapter to Kamala comatose via a couple of text paragraphs explaining the situation. It’s another own goal from Marvel prioritising profit over reader interests.
However, back at the story Ahmed takes the plot he’s been landed with and maximises the dramatic tension. Ms Marvel’s a superhero in the first place because she believes she should use her powers to help, and can’t stand by and see people endangered even when she’s aware the authorities are looking for her. Ahmed also highlights continuing disagreements between Kamala and her father well, along with the frustration of her knowing he only wants the best for her. While other aspects of the series have a cultural resonance, these are the worries any parent would have for their daughter’s safety.
Minkyu Jung brings out the fraught emotions in his art, showing the concerns on people’s faces and in their postures, although there’s too much kneeling at the hospital bed. Kamala was never going spend the entire book there, so after a well conceived recovery chapter, Jung’s action scenes are equally good. Given the way Ms Marvel can distort her body shape, Jung needs to draw her in action very carefully, because getting it wrong could result in some bizarre images. There’s also a joyful quality about Ms Marvel in costume, straddling rooftops or letting herself be used as a bridge.
There was a slight dip for Stormranger, but with the caveat that Marvel should have included the story in which Kamala was injured, this is a very enjoyable collection exploring what it’s like to be a teenage superhero. It’s a shame it’s the last by Ahmed and Jung.