Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Ms. Marvel #17

In the same way every teenager has their awkward coming of age moments, superheroes often go through certain phases. It's not as awkward as popping your first pimple, cutting yourself shaving, or hiding an erection in the middle of algebra class. But it can still be just as daunting. Kamala Khan is still an infant in terms of superhero years, but she's already gone through a number of phases. She's already had her first crossover story with Wolverine. She hasn't gotten to a point where one of Wolverine's enemies tries to kill her to get to him. But like I said, she's still young.

She's in the midst of another important phase. She's facing her first (and probably not her last) end of the world type battle. Between Ages of Apocalypse and Ages of Ultron, this sort of cataclysmic shit storm happens at least once a year in the Marvel universe. Kamala Khan is finding that out first-hand with the lead-up to Secret Wars. But it's not all doom and god-powered Dr. Dooms. Before the world ends, she gets to team up with Captain Marvel, her favorite hero in Ms. Marvel #17. Like going on a date with Jennifer Lawrence the day before the Earth explodes, it's not a bad way to go.

Naturally, Kamala's reaction to Captain Marvel's presence isn't wholly rational. She's not like a teenage girl who unexpectedly meets Justin Bieber. She manages to maintain at least some of her dignity. But one of the first things she says to Carol Danvers is, "Everything sucks except for you!" I don't know who is responsible for merchandising at Marvel, but somebody better have that on a fucking T-shirt by the time I sober up because it's one of the greatest moments in Marvel comics of the past decade and it didn't involve Emma Frost's boobs.

Beyond Ms. Marvel's memorable geek out, it's a great moment that isn't rushed or glossed over. Kamala has spent the past 16 issues establishing that she looks up to Captain Marvel the same way I look up to Jack Daniels. And Carol is remarkably understanding of Kamala's reaction. If I did that with Jennifer Lawrence, I'm pretty sure her body guards would crack my skull. She even approves of Kamala's choice of costume and moniker. For Kamala, that's like me getting a high five from Hugh Hefner. It's a beautiful moment.

Sadly, it's a moment made possible by the end of the fucking world. This is still taking place as an incursion is set to end the Marvel universe and everything in it that Dr. Doom doesn't feel is worth saving, which isn't saying much. Captain Marvel is able to give Ms. Marvel the explanation that others would find too pants-shittingly horrifying to hear. She takes it pretty well in that she doesn't curl up into a fetal position and ask for ice cream.

But Kamala being Kamala, she still wants to help. And she wants to do it without someone having killed her uncle or getting shrapnel in her heart. So yeah, Spider-Man and Iron Man got nothing on her. And Carol Danvers does a nice job of nurturing that lovable altruism that makes Kamala so awesome. She also tells her that nobody is going to come to Jersey City to save her friends and family. They're all focusing on the big fucking universe that's about to collide with theirs. And right now, the only one who can protect this place is Ms. Marvel. And once again, she shows she has balls that put mine to shame and says she wants to keep fighting. Part of that includes kicking the ass of Kamran, the boy who broke her heart and abducted her brother.

Marvel, remember that shirt I mentioned? Yeah, I'm going to need it even sooner.

Since helping her biggest fan is probably more satisfying than waiting for an incursion to destroy the universe, Captain Marvel agrees to help. It's every jaded exes dream, getting a superhero to help them kick the ass of the asshole that shit all over their heart. I'm still waiting for Jean Grey to show up and help me with some of my ex-girlfriends. But for Kamala, the wait is over.

They start making their way across Jersey City in search of Kamran. It's at this point Kamala informs Captain Marvel that she has no fucking clue where he is. She doesn't exactly have SHIELD or NSA resources at her disposal. She's a teenage girl. She has Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. They're close, but they're not going to help her find an evil ex. So they're already at a disadvantage, as is often the case with unexpected team-ups. But unlike most teenagers and adults, Kamala and Carol are not discouraged.

However, coming across looters certainly doesn't help. As they try to figure out how they're going to find an evil ex-crush while the world is coming to an end, they come across a pack of looters that think the end of the world is an excuse to steal shit and dress like idiots. Not saying they're entirely wrong, but it's still a shitty excuse that warrants an ass-kicking.

That's exactly what Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel do. It's not the most epic fight they could have at the end of the world. There's no alien ship crashing into a major city or anything. But it's still pretty damn satisfying. And Ms. Marvel helps set herself apart from other heroes who would just turn them over to the police or render them unconscious. She finds out that these guys are actually electricians. Because I guess being an asshole looter knows no occupation. And instead of roughing them up, she tells them to go to the school where her friends and family are hiding out and help them. It's either that or she uses Wolverine's approach, which she learned earlier in the series.

It may sound cheesy, but it's an amazing moment that goes beyond the whole "good guys kicking the asses of the bad guys" bit that we've seen for the past century. Marvel, I'm going to need that T-shirt even sooner now.

While this clash did side-track them and the plot for a bit, Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel eventually make their way to the Jersey City Wharf, which is the only clue Ms. Marvel had to work with. Because I guess all villains and evil exes hide out in old warehouses. I think it's a rule or something. Along the way Ms. Marvel geeks out even more, asking all the kinds of questions to Captain Marvel that a lot of us have asked on message boards at one time or another. She doesn't ask about the Hulk shitting or Nick Fury's eye-patch, but she does make clear that she's a fangirl at heart and we love her for it.

But beyond the geek-out, they really don't have much to go on. And remember, the world is kind of ending so SHIELD is busy. Even if Carol flashed Tony Stark her tits, he probably wouldn't be able to help her. He'd do a lot of things, but he couldn't help her. Kamala also explains that in addition to being her ex-crush, Kamran was part of an asshole brand of Inhumans. So kicking his ass isn't going to be easy as kicking the asses of looters, but it'll be a lot more satisfying.

As they start searching, the plot gets side-tracked again. There aren't any looters this time though. Instead, it's kittens. No, I'm not THAT high. I'm serious. They get side-tracked after finding a bunch of kittens that have been left behind in a building. Not saying kittens aren't important, but I'm pretty sure an asshole ex should take priority. Unless that cat is playing a piano, I don't think they should derail a Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel team-up.

That said, it still makes for a nice, dramatic moment that helps reinforce some of Kamala Khan's most awesome traits. She takes a moment to channel her inner Japanese schoolgirl. Naturally, she wants to save them. But Captain Marvel reminds her that every hero has to learn at some point that they can't save everybody. It's a lesson that's important to learn when the world is ending. It makes for an overly fluffy moment that might or might not bring a tear to your eye. Not going to say what it did to me, but let's just say I now feel bad about feeding that stray cat some of my weed.

When they finally do get back on track, they finally find their first clue towards Kamran's location. Or more accurately, it finds them. One of the asshole Inhumans that Ms. Marvel fought before, Kaboom, decides she's a bit too close to finding them. So what's her solution? Take on Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel by herself. To be fair, I doubt she thought she would have to be facing Captain Marvel. For her, it's like getting into a bar fight with a midget, only to find out that this midget is friends with Mike Tyson. That said, I don't feel bad for her in the slightest. She's helping an evil ex. That disqualifies her from any sympathy whatsoever.

Again, the fight here isn't all that epic compared to the looters, but it's not meant to be. Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel up against one asshole Inhuman? That's not even a fair fight on paper. It's amazing it lasted as long as it did. And unlike the looters, it's a lot more satisfying when she loses. But this time, Ms. Marvel doesn't give Kaboom a chance to make up for being an asshole. She gives Kaboom a simple choice. Tell her where her brother is or she has to deal with a pissed off Captain Marvel. It would've been less intimidating if she threatened to gouge her eyes out. So fuck yes she's going to cooperate. Hell, she'll probably tell her where her weed stash is as well and how many times she wet the bed as a kid.

They find out where Kamran is and they leave Kaboom behind to shit herself in peace. However, Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel arrive just in time to find out that maybe they shouldn't have gone on that side-quest with the cats. I know cuteness is difficult to resist, but it has consequences. In this instance, the Terrigen Mists are already doing their thing, turning Kamala's brother into an Inhuman. She doesn't listen to her idol's advice that they be careful. For her, saving her brother is right up there with hugging cute cats. But she arrives only to see that her brother is about to become an Inhuman. Yes, he's going to become yet another part of Marvel's elaborate plan to undermine the X-men or some shit like that. It's still a powerful moment where Kamala, despite her best efforts, is unable to save one of her loved ones from her ex-crush's assholery. It's further proof that even when the world is coming to an end, an asshole ex will find a way to make it even worse.

The world may be ending (for now), but Ms. Marvel is making the most of it. Why spend her last day lamenting about all the ice cream she didn't eat and all the shows on Netflix she didn't binge watch? She's got Captain fucking Marvel at her side, ready to kick the asses of anyone who dares fuck with her brother or Jersey City as a whole. They both do plenty of that, but they never loose sight of the little picture. That's what gives this story its strength. It never becomes a bad Roland Emerich movie where most of their time is spent navigating shitty CGI to save the world. They spend time coming to terms with just how bad shit has gotten. It feels genuine and fitting, the exact opposite of every apology ever issued by Mel Gibson.

What makes Ms. Marvel such a great series and a great character is how it stays grounded, yet still incorporates alien dogs and killer robots. Kamala Khan never stops being a teenage girl. She never becomes the unlikable prick that Peter Parker has been for nearly a decade now. She still has that adorable, wide-eyed optimism that a lot of teenagers have, minus the goth crowd. But unlike a lot of those teenagers, she tries to fight for those ideals, even when the world is coming to an end. While some of that fight gets sidetracked in this issue, the story still hits all the right notes. I give Ms. Marvel #17 an 8 out of 10. Now, Kamala Khan can say she's teamed up with both her idol and Wolverine. She's at the point now where if I ever meet her, I'll be the one saying, "Everything sucks except for you!" I might not be totally sober when I say it, but it'll be every bit as sincere. Nuff said!


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