Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Ms. Marvel #8: Nuff Said!

Let's face it. At some point, our idols are going to have days where they'll be total assholes. I'm sure Mother Teresa herself had days where she woke up and wanted to punch the first person she saw. It's a big part of reality that sucks elephant balls. We're all painfully human and that includes our idols. Eventually, we all learn this and if we're exceedingly unlucky, we learn it the hard way.

Kamala Khan has a lot going for her. She's both a popular new hero and an Inhuman, which means she gets the kind of preferential treatment usually reserved for members of the Hilton family. However, even her inherent luck has to run out at some point and it looks like Civil War II is that point. The shit storm is already in full force. The stench finally reaches Ms. Marvel's doorstep in Ms. Marvel #8. How will she handle the kind of shitty luck usually reserved for mutants and the Fantastic Four? That's what I'm here to discern in as sober(ish) way I can manage.

Flashback to Captain America's time for a quick history lesson. For those who didn't sleep through history class or show up stoned, this probably won't reveal much. For those of us who had great weed connections in high school, it helps to provide context.

It involves the formation of Pakistan after India gained its Independence from snooty British types who got tired of riding elephants to compensate for the size of their dicks. Why is this important for Ms. Marvel? Well, she's Pakistani. Her entire family came from Pakistan and anyone who watches CNN sober for more than a few moments understands that Pakistan has its share of problems. A lot of them start with its founding and a lot of innocent people who just wanted some distance from snooty British types got caught in the crossfire. Kamala's family is one of them.

Without revisiting the complex politics of India and Pakistan, most of which require more Adderall and weed than I'm willing to take, there is a relevant purpose to this flashback. It depicts a time when people could no longer trust the friends and neighbors they've always known because they MIGHT screw them over. They MIGHT decide to be petty, vindictive assholes for no good reason. It's the basis behind almost every kind of racism, border clash, flame war on message boards. It's one of mankind's less attractive birthmarks to say the least.

There's a nice bit of genuine human drama, something G. Willow Wilson loves to inject in all her stories. It adds a genuine personal touch that will resonate with all non-racist types. It's also fittingly relevant, given how the events of Civil War II is built around what some asshole MIGHT do rather than what they actually do. It's a bad sign for Kamala. For those of us who like to see Kamala confront tough situations and punch them in the dick, it's as good a sign as any.

Flash forward several decades, sift through a few stock market crashes and Presidential scandals, and we catch up with Ms. Marvel. At the moment, she's as happy as a stoner in a potato chip factory. She just got called to Alpha Flights awesome space station base by her idol, Carol Danvers. It's the equivalent of Jennifer Lawrence asking me to have a beer with her. She's understandably giddy.

Then, she learns about brewing shit storm from Civil War II. This is before it gets so bad that Iron Man and Captain Marvel want to choke each other out in the least sexy way possible. This is when the idea of having someone who can accurately predict the future seems like such a good thing. To Carol, it is and she wants to make use of it. Moreover, she wants Ms. Marvel to be at the front of the line in turning Ulysses' predictions into results that save lives. Naturally, Ms. Marvel has almost no reservations. Her idol is asking her to save lives and be more awesome. That's like Ryan Reynolds asking me to smoke weed with him. You just don't say no to something like that.

Captain Marvel doesn't send Ms. Marvel into the shit storm without some rubber boots either. To make use of Ulysses' predictions, she assembles a team for her. Granted, that team isn't exactly an army of Wolverine clones, but it's better than nothing. Ms. Marvel loves it because it means she has graduated to having side-kicks. Unlike Aquaman, hers don't include talking dolphins. They're basically a bunch of idealistic, hipster types with only a fraction of the douche-baggery. They're willing to work with her to actually make a meaningful difference in places like Jersey City, which is more than 99 percent of most hipster types can say.

Their first assignment involves the leader of the Canadian Ninja Syndicate, Hijinx. No, that's not a joke from Family Guy. Apparently, he's a real character. Even at my most stoned, I could never come up with something like that so whoever is selling weed to Marvel, please keep selling because this leads to Canadian Ninjas stealing tanks. It's every bit as awesome and fucked up as it sounds.

A ninja in a tank is like killer cyborg with a built-in flamethrower. It combines two kinds of deadly shit and makes both more deadly. However, Ms. Marvel and her sidekicks have the edge. They learn from Ulysses that this guy is doing to do a lot of crazy shit, as is to be expected with any mentally unstable asshole in a tank. They also learn that this tank will explode in the middle of Jersey City if they don't stop it. On paper, it's a perfect use of Ulysses' powers. They're not trying to win the lottery or create some Back to the Future II scenario. They're trying to save lives.

It leads to a fun, colorful clash the likes of which make so many issues of Ms. Marvel memorable. Where else are you going to see a Pakistani American teenage girl beat the shit out of a Canadian ninja? Since Ms. Marvel's team has foresight on their side, Hijinx doesn't stand a chance. In fact, he's genuinely surprised that someone caught up with him before he could do much joyriding. He didn't even know it was set to explode. Thanks to Ms. Marvel, he does no greater damage than a drunk redneck in a pickup truck driving down a deserted road. Given the road conditions in certain parts of New Jersey, most people probably won't notice.

It's another clear epic win, thanks to Ulysses. We saw it in Civil War II. Now, Ms. Marvel gets a taste of it and just like before, it all seems so clean and efficient. It's still kind of fucked up, heroes saving the day without destroying half a city. Maybe it's just a big middle finger to everyone who bitched about Avengers and Man of Steel, but it sends the same powerful message. Having foresight makes kicking ass insanely efficient.

Sadly, Ms. Marvel gets a major buzzkill from her triumph, courtesy of her friend Tyesha. In terms of friends, she strikes me as the kind that flushes your weed down the toilet when the mailman knocks on the door. That said, she brings up a few uncomfortable nuggets with Ms. Marvel. Apparently, Hijinx is going to be tried for shit he might have done with that tank and not just the shit he actually did. Tyesha rightly points out the parallels between this and the whole tough-on-crime shit that certain places endured during a time when Bill Clinton was getting a few too many blowjobs.

It's a relevant issue and one Kamala can't ignore. There are real-world examples of people being charged with shit they might have done and most of that shit is just thinly veiled racism that even the most ardent Trump supporters can see through. Being a minority herself, which is something Captain Marvel can't say being a hot blonde, it bothers Kamala. However, she still sides with her idol and the side of saving lives. That makes sense. She's a teenager. She hasn't yet learned the extent to which authority types will go to screw minorities over.

Ms. Marvel continues to operate Captain Marvel's new team, using Ulysses' predictions to stop crimes before they happen. This includes roughing up some guy who was just thinking about robbing a grocery store. Yeah, he was just thinking about it. As someone who thinks about a lot of dirty shit when I haven't had my coffee, this bothers me. However, Ms. Marvel still isn't bothered enough to step back. Then, her team shows up and says there's a much bigger shit storm on the horizon and it involves her school. Bear in mind, this is the same school that was infested with Loki's golems at one point. They've already endured one too many shit storms and Ms. Marvel isn't about to let another one pass.

That's when she finally gets the kind of dramatic gut punch that every teenager gets at some point. For most, it's being rejected by a prom date or finding out the cost of going to college. For Kamala, it involves one of her friends and classmates being the catalyst for the coming shit storm. Specifically, it's Josh, a recovering douche-bag from the early issues of this series. That means to prevent a crime, Kamala Khan may have to screw over a friend who is actively trying to not be an asshole anymore.

In terms of tough positions, this one couldn't be tougher without grinding against John Cena's chest muscles. It puts Ms. Marvel in the kind of position that brings out the best in her, but it's also the same position that almost guarantees heartbreak. It's a tough lesson for teenagers to learn, heartbreak and tough decisions. At least Kamala Khan gets to confront this situation with her pants on. Some teenagers aren't so lucky. it awesome?

A big part of Ms. Marvel's awesome comes from her lovable, fangirl nature and this issue definitely captures that. More importantly though, it also captures the primary themes of Civil War II and puts them into practice. There's no debate, discussion, or bitching. The setup in Ms. Marvel #8 is that she still trusts her idol, Carol Danvers. She willingly puts her agenda into action and it has results. Then, it gets personal and just like that, she puts herself in a perfect position for a dramatic gut punch that Carol helps set up.

Once again, G. Willow Wilson is masterful in setting up drama and making Kamala Khan the most lovable character that isn't a talking animal or a singing princess. Her interactions with Carol Danvers bring out the best in her, but this time it puts her in a shitty position. It's like Buffalo Bills fans watching a replay of Super Bowl XXV. You know how it's gonna end. You know it's gonna hurt. Yet you still can't look away. Like a flaming pile of shit in the middle of the freeway, it's bound to be a spectacle for all the wrong reasons, but those kinds of spectacles are when Ms. Marvel is at her best.

Final Score: 7 out of 10


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