Reading “No Normal (4 of 5)”

This is a great cover, but there is, unfortunately, no Aamir in this issue to act as surprised as he looks inside the diner. (Image credit: Comic Vine, cover by Jamie McKelvie)

The fourth issue of Ms. Marvel is a little weaker than the previous issues; the main reason for this is that there’s less of the fun stuff surrounding Kamala’s personal life and more straightforward superheroics.  It’s possible this is primarily a personal preference; I enjoy reading about Kamala’s troubles trying to manage the logistics of being a superhero with a personal life more than I do reading about a person being a superhero.

The best part of Kamala’s conversation with Bruno is her series of expressions while she’s searching for the bullet that fell out of her when she shifted back to her default shape. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

The issue can be broken down into three broad scenes: Kamala telling her secret to Bruno and getting his help protecting her secret identity from the police, Kamala gathering the basics to make her final superhero costume, and Kamala breaking into the hideout of some kids who are working for the as yet unseen Big Bad, the Inventor.  The stuff between Kamala and Bruno is good, as they hash out the complicated feelings that arise from the fact that Bruno was a total snitch about the party, but he did it because he was worried about Kamala’s safety, but also he’s sad that she didn’t tell him right away about her superpowers (keep in mind that we’re still only three days out from the incident, and Kamala has spent most of that time figuring out the implications of her powers, managing her own feelings about what’s happened, and also getting into ever more trouble with her parents).  We also get more romantic drama as it continues to be painfully apparent that Bruno is super into Kamala even though she’s totally unaware.  This will be a long-running subplot of the first twenty or so issues of Ms. Marvel (leading all the way up to the Secret Wars relaunch), and I have to say that I really appreciate Wilson putting a slow burn on it; we won’t even see Kamala begin to deal with this aspect of her relationship with Bruno until well into the third major arc of the series some time from now.

The fanny pack is a delightful throwback, and I regret to inform you all that it does not remain a permanent part of Kamala’s costume. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

The middle segment of the issue where Kamala scrounges up materials to make her superhero costume (after the laughable impromptu costume she uses to hide her identity from the police after recovering from her gunshot wound) is cute, and it gives Kamala a chance to interact directly with her mother, who has played a slightly background role during other family scenes.  Kamala’s mom constantly frets over the influence American culture has over her children, and here that comes out when she whinges that Kamala is being sarcastic in a way that isn’t appropriate for talking to her mother.  There’s also a warning that Kamala’s mom is totally going to set her alarm for one in the morning just so she can check to make sure Kamala hasn’t snuck out of the house following her incredibly suspicious, inexplicable interest in her burkini on a school night when she’s still grounded (this exchange is remarkably true to life; teenagers, particularly the ones who usually try to please adults, are terrible at coming up with lies on the spot to cover for doing something they know that adults don’t want them doing).  I like Kamala’s mom a lot, and her suspicions here highlight the regular tension that Kamala will have to deal with balancing doing something that makes her uncomfortable, like lying to her parents, with doing something that’s genuinely helpful to others, like being a newbie superhero.

The final act of the issue sees Kamala staging a rescue of Bruno’s brother, Vick, who through a series of stupid decisions has apparently gotten tangled up working for the Inventor.  After Vick botched the robbery of the Circle Q, he ran away to his gang’s hideout, and now Bruno is worried that his baby brother needs help.  It’s a bit of a rocky transition here (we know that Bruno is worried about Vick, but there’s nothing to indicate that he and Kamala understand that Vick is now being held hostage; still we’re getting to Kamala’s first outing as Ms. Marvel for real, so some things can slide).  Nevertheless, we get to see Kamala owning her superhero identity for the first time; she doesn’t try to hide behind someone else’s face and she takes the opportunity to claim the Ms. Marvel moniker as her own (she did this earlier with the police, but that time it feels more born out of necessity and a need for a silly moment than as serious character development).  Kamala’s interaction with the kids guarding Vick is a lot of fun because it’s so good-natured.  Instead of just whupping the kids, Kamala gives them a gentle toss to let them know she can overpower them, and then she asks them to tie themselves up instead of trying to tangle with her.  The kids, to their credit, go along with this plan, even as they warn Kamala that she’s getting in over her head with the Inventor.  The ending pages, where Kamala fights off a bunch of skittering mechanical spiders with frickin’ laser beams before finding herself trapped by the sudden appearance of the gang’s local leader (sporting a very menacing laser pistol), are good, fun action with lots of emphasis on the way that Kamala is relying more on her brute strength than finesse to deal with the emergency.

The costume still needs some work. (Artwork by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring, letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna)

Overall this issue is probably the narratively weakest one out of the first arc, but I think much of that can be attributed to the need to devote a decent amount of space to Kamala’s first real superhero action sequence.  I’m more of an interpersonal drama lover at heart, so the lack of more interactions with the supporting characters disappoints me, but I understand that this is the last bit of setup before the series hits its first big climax in issue #5.

ABC’s

  • Asian Wedding Leftovers (Yowza)
  • On th’ Adobo Filipino Takeout
  • Torpedoes: Half Price!
  • “Ooh La La”
  • Roundhouse Cola
  • Orphan Farms OJ
  • Asian River Water
  • Blech
  • Nuclear Clean
  • Birdy Num Nums
  • Coma Chameleon super Comfy Sleepmask: Prolonged use may cause nightmares
  • Tape Worm
  • Fair & Pastey
  • Grin & Bear It
  • “Grin & Bear It toothpaste 2 for 1”
  • Bruce Lee Wataaa
  • Speshal Soda
  • Smushee
  • A bystander jumping out of the way of an empty ambulance speeding away from the scene of a crime
  • “Self Destruct Magazine”
  • “Eating Underwater”
  • “BboyKoi”
  • “The Joy of Cooking Rare Animals”
  • “Say Yes to Lobotomies”
  • “Momjitsu”
  • “Superhero Paparazzi”
  • “Dropkick Enthusiast”
  • “Karachi Chop Jones”
  • Auntie’s Modest Swimwear
  • The Birdman Cometh
  • Property of the Inventor
  • Ima Bad Guy
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