Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Scanned Thoughts: Ms. Marvel #18
Some combinations just feel so wright. Peanut butter and jelly, Jack and Coke, and Wolverine and Captain America are just a few that come to mind. Well with the current shit storm unfolding in Secret Wars, G. Willow Wilson is trying to add Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers to the mix. And so far, I'm ready to put it in the same category as Jack and Coke. This team-up between Kamala Khan and the idol who inspired her has been brewing for a long time now. And like that first bite into a steak that's been slow-cooking for hours, it's pretty damn delicious. However, the feast isn't over just yet.
The initial meeting between Kamala and Carol was already more memorable than the first time Spider-Man got dumped by a pretty girl. I'm still waiting for Marvel to make an "Everything sucks except for you!" t-shirt. They had a chance to help Kamala's neighborhood before going after her asshole ex-crush who decided that he wasn't a big enough asshole so he abducted Kamala's brother. Now, they've reached him, but they're too late. This creates a pretty volatile situation in Ms. Marvel #18, even as the final incursion is about to destroy the universe. Volatile or not, it still gives me that warm and tingly feelings that I usually get with Jack and Coke.
On the other side of the spectrum, assholes like Kamran give me that cold and stabbing feeling I usually get whenever I receive a letter from the IRS. Carol and Kamala went through a lot of trouble to find his miserable ass in the previous issue, hoping to kick it before he could get his hands on Amir, Kamala's older brother. Unfortunately, they were too late. They arrived just in time to see Kamran give Amir a healthy dose of purified Terrigen Mist. That's like the Inhuman equivalent of moonshine. Unless it's a bachelor party in Kentucky, it's not appropriate for use. For Kamala, this guy just keeps finding ways to warrant his entry into the asshole ex-boyfriend Hall of Fame.
It makes for a tense moment, which Karman utilizes to make himself sound like even more of an asshole. To be fair, he's not so much an asshole as he is uber-pro Inhuman. He wants to prop up those with Inhuman potential the same way the Koch brothers want to prop up the oil industry. So it's not like he's being an asshole just for the sake of it. He does have an agenda and one that's probably going to make him a huge target for X-men fans.
However, the process of making Amir an Inhuman doesn't go as smoothly as he hopes. Kamala and Carol try to warn him that these mists aren't the same mists that Kamala encountered when she got her powers. Being an asshole, he doesn't listen. It leads to Amir manifesting his powers erratically. And by erratically, I mean shit starts glowing and blowing up. It's like a bad LSD trip and a shitty rock concert. While it shuts Kamran up, it makes everything a bit more volatile and it gives Kamala even more reason to worry about her older brother.
The volatility gets so bad that it knocks Kamala and Carol on their asses for a moment. This gives Kamran just enough time to confront Amir. He surmises that his powers are some kind of psychic force fields, which is basically a ripoff of Amanda Sefton's powers. I guess Agents of SHIELD shouldn't be the only thing that rips off X-men these days, but that's besides the point.
What makes this moment powerful (and awesome for that matter) isn't that Kamala rushes into save her brother. She actually doesn't have to. Kamran's plan, in addition to making himself a terrible ex-boyfriend, was to recruit Amir by giving him awesome superpowers. Even I admit that's a pretty awesome recruiting tool. A cult once tried to recruit me by promising I could talk to aliens. I told them unless those aliens have big tits, I'll pass. But Amir can't just brush these powers aside. So what does he do?
He does what anyone who doesn't like assholes would do. He tells Kamran to fuck off in the most polite way possible. But what makes it even more powerful is that he says he doesn't want these powers. He was perfectly happy the way he was before, being this devout young Muslim in Jersey City. And Kamran, along with the Ted Cruzes and Glen Becks of the world, can't wrap his head around how a guy could be happy being that way. But he is. I know a guy who's happy collecting Ninja Turtles toys. Why is that so hard for people to accept?
It leads to a brief, but very satisfying clash. It's actually the first time in this series where Amir establishes himself as someone other than Kamala's devout and overprotective older brother. He's one of those rare characters who really isn't swayed by the promise of new powers. He doesn't want to be changed or have his life upended. He doesn't want to be a superhero or part of some crazy Inhuman cult. He just wants to live his life as he's always lived it. And if someone like Kamran tries to "improve" it in his own fucked up way, then he's going to kick his ass.
Again, it's not a wholly epic fight, but it's a fight that gets across all the right emotions. It's also a fight that makes Amir one of the most likable older brothers anyone will see outside a Full House rerun. Considering how small his role has been to this point, it's both refreshing and satisfying.
While Amir didn't need to be rescued from Kamran, he still ends up needing to be rescued. This guy just got Inhuman powers and beat up his younger sister's ex. That would make any guy exhausted. I think he earned a breather. So after the fight, he passes out. Then, Kamala and Carol carry him back through the chaos of Jersey City and towards the school. Keep in mind, the final incursion is still approaching. The world is still ending. So there's still a hell of a shit storm going on.
They manage to reach the school where they meet up with Bruno, who looks at Carol Danvers the same way I would look at Jennifer Lawrence if she showed up at my front door in a bikini. It's a nice scene and one that allows them to hand off Amir for treatment. But it's also a scene that effectively completes what Kamala and Carol set out to do in their first crossover adventure together. While it wasn't a complete success, they still got to see Kamran get his ass kicked. That alone warrants some level of success.
But with asshole ex-boyfriends out of the way, this means that it's time for Carol and Kamala to part way. Carol still has a role to play in the final incursion and in Secret Wars. And since she's among the few Marvel heroes awesome enough to confront this universe-crushing shit storm, she has to go. But before she leaves, she has a fitting yet overdue heart-to-heart with Kamala.
It's a powerful moment in the sense that she basically tells Kamala that she has earned the right to call herself Ms. Marvel. She gives her old necklace and a hug, which I guess is her way of officially bestowing on her the mantel of Ms. Marvel. It's a great moment, one generation of hero passing the torch onto another generation. Usually, this requires that one generation get shamelessly killed off. But Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel avoided that mess. While the battle against Kamran wasn't quite as epic, the pep talk Carol gives Kamala more than makes up for it. The feels in this scene are every bit as potent as any fight.
So it's really official now. Captain Marvel has passed on her old mantel to Kamala Khan. It took 18 issues, but Kamala used every one of those issues to become more awesome. You can't ask much more of a character aside from kicking Dr. Doom in the balls.
It has all the makings of Kamala Khan's ultimate triumph. She teamed up with her idol, watched her ex-boyfriend get his ass kicked, and earned the blessing of said idol. Then she had to go and have a chat with her brother outside her costume. It goes about as well as the last time I tried to argue myself out of a speeding ticket. At least this time, neither Kamala nor Amir got pepper sprayed.
Amir basically chides her for being involved with Kamran. Then, he chides her for not understanding what it's like to wake up with powers he didn't ask for. The dramatic irony here couldn't be more potent if the entire Eagles offensive line hadn't farted it out. Needless to say, Kamala can't exactly reveal just how much she understands so she opts to just be overly pissed. She's still a teenage girl. That's always a viable option.
She stays pissed, even as her parents catch up with them. There's no heartfelt family reunion just yet. It's more of a bittersweet moment. Kamala's parents are more concerned about Amir than they are with her. They don't know she just teamed up with Captain Marvel and kicked the asses of some Inhumans led by her ex. And it's not like she can tell them any more than I can tell my land lord that my rent money is in a strippers g-string. It's not a pleasant position to be in. Plus, the world is still ending outside so that's not helping her mood.
Eventually, her mother does confront her. But this ends up leading to a moment that almost sobered me up in a way that doesn't usually happen without putting a bag of ice down my pants. Since the world is ending, Kamala decides to come clean to her mother about her powers and her role as Ms. Marvel. After what happened to Amir, it sounds like it would be pouring napalm on a grease fire. Then, Kamala's mother reveals something that makes the end of the world a bit less pressing. She says she already knew Kamala was Ms. Marvel.
Let that sink in for a moment. Kamala's mother knew her daughter was running out at night and being a superhero. And she didn't have a massive seizure like every other parent to every other teenage hero. It's a shocking yet intriguing moment and one that'll make the end of the world for Kamala's family even more memorable.
Since the very first issue of this series, G. Willow Wilson has found all sorts of ways to make me squee at a level not usually seen outside a house full of puppies and kittens. This issue is no exception. Not only did it definitively make a Carol Danvers/Kamala Khan crossover the greatest crossover since Deadpool and tacos. It did so while expanding on the unique family dynamic of the Khan family that has helped make this series so enjoyable. While I would've liked to see Kamran get his ass kicked just a little harder, the sheer breadth of heart in this story and this series makes me feel warm and fuzzy in ways only whiskey and weed have matched.
We all know the world is still going to end. We know that it's going to begin anew with Kamala Khan taking her place in the Avengers. But what this issue did to make that transition more meaningful is have Carol Danvers officially pass the torch. That's the defining moment in this issue and this series as a whole. Carol sees that Kamala is worthy of the title of Ms. Marvel and officially grants her blessing. It's a powerful moment that puts a smile on my face, a boner in my pants, and a cold beer in my hand. I give Ms. Marvel #18 a 9 out of 10. Between Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan, Marvel has found a winning formula for making female heroes awesome without making breasts and butts bigger. I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't sobered up and seen it for myself. And the fact that I admit sobering up for it was worth it is a testament to just how potent this formula can be. Nuff said!