Reading “No Normal (3 of 5)”

The big development of issue three of Ms. Marvel is that Kamala, after having now done the superhero thing on impulse, reaches the point in her growth into Ms. Marvel where she deliberates and chooses to be a superhero.  We get to see more of her exploring how her powers work (this time through internet research!) and, always delightful, some details about her normal life.

This cover’s the first good look at Kamala’s finished costume; we’ll be getting its origin story in the next issue. (Image credit: Comic Vine; cover by Jamie McKelvie & Matthew Wilson)

We begin the issue the morning after Kamala’s adventures at the party.  Zoe has taken her rescue as an opportunity to become a local celebrity, giving an interview to the news about how she’s learned “so much from [Ms. Marvel] about being responsible and helping people and stuff.”  Apparently Kamala was teaching by example, since she panicked and bolted from the scene once a crowd showed up to question her.  Zoe pops up again later in the issue when Kamala is at school where it becomes clear that she’s been gradually embellishing her account of her rescue all weekend (she’s added a conversation that Kamala definitely didn’t have with Zoe about her potential to do better than getting drunk and falling off a pier).  The key thing to note about Zoe here is that she demonstrates a pattern of centering herself in the narrative.  The difference in demeanor between the television interview, where Zoe appears to be at least mildly aware of her own good fortune, and her telling the story to her high school hangers-on is pretty marked; Zoe would rather elevate her own part in the incident rather than admit that it was all just a bunch of awkward bad luck on the part of pretty much everyone.  I know that Zoe’s arc goes in a generally positive direction, so it’s interesting to track in the early issues how she makes tiny bits of progress before falling backwards into her established patterns.

Kamala reacts to the news that she’s on the news (though no one knows that it’s her) with some understandable trepidation.  She did just do the superheroing, and in the harsh light of the day after that probably seems like a relatively rash decision.

I know that Kamala’s distressed about the news, but that’s not nearly as important as taking a moment to appreciate that Adrian Alphona totally nails bed hair. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Fortunately for us, instead of dwelling on her dismay that her alias is now the talk of Jersey, Kamala bounces back and gets ready to go to mosque (“Yes!  Ready!  Ready for life!“).  This is a really charming section because we get to see more of Kamala and Nakia’s relationship in action, particularly in a setting that’s really only available to them.  The argument that Kamala has with Sheikh Abdullah (and Nakia’s observation that she shouldn’t bother) is especially interesting because it highlights how Muslim religious communities can have the same sorts of disagreements and debates that are common in any other faith (the fact that Abdullah entertains Kamala’s arguments even though he clearly disagrees and finds them a little annoying speaks really well to the atmosphere of the mosque; even though it’s a relatively conservative community, they’re still willing to allow members to question and explore their faith).  With every passing issue it becomes clearer and clearer that Wilson did a lot of work to incorporate elements of everyday life for the Muslim community that Kamala belongs to.

The bulk of the issue follows Kamala muddling through the Monday after the party.  She fastidiously avoids Bruno during her free period (she’s still angry with him for snitching on her about the party, and she’s also too busy doing internet research to see if anyone else has ever had sudden shape shifting powers and the wherewithal to document such strangeness; they apparently haven’t, which is a little weird given it’s the Marvel Universe).  She also has a sudden power spasm that leaves her hand giant sized, forcing her to seek out a hiding place while she tries to get it under control.  Desperation not to be caught turns into elation at the realization that she can apply her understanding of Newtonian physics to her powers and simulate super strength by increasing her size.  The fact that she learns all this while trashing a gym locker room is alternately hilarious and dismaying, but totally believable (teenagers make bad choices, y’all).  When she gets caught (the coach is suitably incurious as to how Kamala could have destroyed a locker room), Kamala gets assigned afternoon detention, which of course compounds her travails with her parents, who are expecting her to come home immediately after school.

I love Kamala’s smile here; Alphona nails the look of “I know there’s no way I’m going to get away with this, but that isn’t going to stop me from trying.” (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Well, technically you’re a first responder, but we get what you’re saying. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Before rushing home though, Kamala decides that she needs to try to hash things out with Bruno.  This is the big turn of the issue, because when Kamala sees that Bruno is apparently being held up at gunpoint by a masked robber, she decides that she’s going to jump into the fray and be the hero she’s been pretending to be all weekend.  This moment is different from the one that Kamala had in the last issue because this is less of a spur of the moment decision.  Where she reacted to the emergency with Zoe because she felt like there was no one else around who was in a position to help, here we see her try to call in the authorities first.  Of course, her phone is dead, so that cuts off 911 as an option, but we’re still seeing a progression in Kamala’s decision-making about when to take these sorts of risks (it’s important to note that this is the first time she deliberately puts herself in danger; with Zoe there wasn’t really any risk to Kamala).

The attempt to stop the robbery goes well enough, though Kamala still breaks a bunch of stuff in the store as she’s pummeling the robber (she’s not yet thinking too much about how to employ her powers in ways that aren’t excessively destructive).  More importantly, the robber, in a panic from being attacked by a giant-fisted Captain Marvel, fires the gun that he thought he didn’t have loaded, shooting Kamala in the stomach.

Alphona Background Coolness (ABC’s)

  • Ye Olde Local News Station
  • “GM-O’s Tasty Cereal: Listen to your gut, not the lawsuits”
  • J.C. Electronics
  • Somewhere on West Side Ave.
  • “Fear the mist”
  • Fluffington Post
  • “Dr. Shnoz: Manhattan Mist Poses Medical Risk”
  • “Manhattan Mist 2014: Public Seeks Answers”
  • “Mist Takes Manhattan”
  • “High School Cannibalism Experiment Proves Disasterous [sic]”
  • Islamic Masjid of Jersey City
  • “Welcome Sisters”
  • Radoslav’s Vietnamese Grocery
  • “Homemade meat”
  • “New! Hot Pepper Bubble Tea”
  • A meat cleaver stuck in a parking meter
  • “Rado’s Glorious Banh Mi”
  • “Roundhouse Cola! Beat down your thirst”
  • Asian River Water Classic
  • “Aunties and Androids”
  • “1001 Weddings”
  • “Fair & Pastey”
  • Smushee
  • “Start a fight! Save our prisons”
  • Coles Acedemic [sic] High School
  • “1. Get the stuff 2. mix the stuff”
  • Bloogle!
  • “So you’ve searched for POLYMORPH”
  • “Did you mean… pocket mouth?”
  • NO TALKING!
  • “MOCK ME I cheated on Mr. De Luca’s math exam”
  • Books an’ Ting Ting an’ Books
  • Coconut Drops
  • “The Ur-Do’s and Ur-Don’ts of Chillin in Pakistan”
  • Jersey Toads
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