Thursday, October 18, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #291: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 7: Damage Per Second by Wilson, Andolfo, Miyazawa, and Herring

This will probably be the last time you see me grumble about Ms. Marvel. I just checked the local library system, and they do not have the next volume -- the NYPL might, since it is vast and contains multitudes, but I don't have the easy access to that system that I had when I actually worked in NYC. [1]

And that's fine, because Ms. Marvel seems to have lost whatever was particularly distinctive about it in the beginning, aside from the bare fact that the heroine is brown and Muslim. (And even that is mostly stated at this point, rather than actually being germane to the plots and characterization.) Yes, Kamala Khan is officially a teenage Muslim girl from Jersey City, but the stories here don't feature her family at all, her community is shown in very generic ways, and it's leaning much more into the teenager-ness than anything else -- which, as you know Bob, does not particularly distinguish Kamala from other teen-genius heroes like Nova and Spider-Man.

Anyway: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 7: Damage Per Second. Written as always by G. Willow Wilson, and collecting issues 13-18 of the 2016 series, with art by Mirka Andolfo (#13), Takeshi Miyazawa (#14-17) and Francesco Gaston (#18).

In which the stretchy Jersey girl drives voter turnout (in an issue cover-dated January 2017?), battles the ultimate Internet troll, and then briefly cedes the spotlight to her former best friend Bruno Carrelli.

That first story...well, it means well, I suppose, but it is very comic-booky in all of the bad ways, from a transparently villainous plot by transparently villainous actors to a happy ending based entirely on the fact that Kamala is the title star of the book. And its message -- that you can stop all of the bad political things you hate and get the perfect snowflake candidate you absolutely love -- is stupid and wrong-headed and entirely contrary to the actual world of real politics. But, yeah, vote for the librarian who has no chance of winning if a girl in a mask tells you to....

The long title story is one of those standard superhero exercises: how do you fight someone you can't punch? And for a girl who is supposedly really smart and going to a super-sciencey school, Kamala has a really hard time coming up with any strategies to fight this new dastardly villain (a sentient computer virus, basically). Of course it all works out in the end, and of course it will have no effects on anything -- it is a superhero story.

And then the book wraps up with a solo adventure of Bruno at Golden City Polytechnic Prep, Wakanda, where he is apparently both the token White Guy and the token Dumb Guy. Sadly, this issue tends to argue against my fervent hope that Bruno will turn up in another dozen issues as a super-villain with a gripe against Kamala, but I suppose I can keep hoping for a lucky lab accident. Instead, he learns Lessons About Life, mostly that every important character in a superhero comic is rich, powerful, connected, or some combination thereof.

With this volume, we see that Ms. Marvel can be dull and mediocre even without a crossover, which had been the initial source of the dullness in the title. I suspect, at this point, the stories inherent in this setup have been exhausted, and it's time to actually let life move on for Kamala and her friends and family. But, since this is a Big Two comic, I'm sure instead we'll get a Shocking Reversal, with someone dead or depowered or Superhero No More! or gender-swapped. But it'll have to happen without me; I think I'm done here.

[1] I do still have a NYPL card, because every self-respecting reader knows that you never give up a library card unless forced to.

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