I’ve been racking my brain to think of a parallel to what G Willow Wilson does in this last arc of Ms. Marvel volume three, and the best one I can come up with at the moment is the final two episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer season four. For anyone who isn’t familiar or doesn’t remember (that season was more notable for a few standout episodes than for a particularly strong macro plot), at the end of that season of Buffy, the Scoobies band together to raid the base of the season’s Big Bad, Adam, a malicious Frankenstein’s monster pastiche, in the penultimate episode. It’s big and flashy, and it feels like a season finale, but then there’s one more episode left. The finale of that season is a really trippy dream episode that foreshadows some stuff that the writers were setting up for the next season but is mostly just about exploring the weird disjointed nature of dreams. After the big explosions of the previous episode, it’s a really quiet story more about exploring the characters than anything (it’s also not very good, if I remember right).
And the fact that that’s a weak example of a big flashy climax set a little earlier than normal so the final installment of a story can be more meditative in nature very poorly serves what’s going on in Ms. Marvel. There are no superheroics in issue #19; Kamala doesn’t do any super power stuff or even wear her costume. It’s just her taking stock of her relationships and reflecting on what she’s accomplished as Ms. Marvel while she waits for the world to end. The closest thing we get to a conflict is her temporarily avoiding having a serious conversation with Bruno about their feelings (even this isn’t much of a conflict because there’s no real suggestion that it isn’t going to happen; Kamala just wants to get her head straight first, and it makes narrative sense to end the issue with the resolution of the romance subplot).
You can break this issue down broadly into three or four segments, depending on whether you’re thinking in terms of distinct conversations with characters or grouping by their relationship to Kamala (I like the four part organization because Kamala’s conversations with Zoe and Nakia feel like they explore fundamentally different aspects of Kamala’s friendships). There’s the talk with Muneeba about her having known for months that Kamala is Ms. Marvel; you have Zoe’s apology to Kamala; Kamala apologizes to Nakia; and lastly there’s the rooftop conversation between Kamala and Bruno. A few other things happen in between those events, but they’re the major milestones for the issue in my mind.
The first big moment for Kamala is having it out with her mother over the fact that Muneeba knows that she’s Ms. Marvel. The signs were pretty obvious in retrospect (Kamala does ask Muneeba where she can find her burqini late in the evening on a school night without any sort of explanation, and then it’s apparently never discussed again in the Khan family), and Muneeba has come to terms with the fact that her daughter is doing superheroics on the side. She feels like it’s a far sight better than Kamala getting involved with something more in line with typical adult fears, like drugs or friends who would be bad influences. As Muneeba points out, if the worst of Kamala’s “bad behavior” is sneaking out to help others in need, she can be thankful that her daughter has turned out so well (I’m not crying, you’re crying!). Yusuf’s arrival sort of breaks the mood, but there’s still a sweet moment where Kamala and Muneeba try to comfort him after all the stress of Aamir’s kidnapping (it’s also weird how infantilized Yusuf appears in this issue; it’s like his general disconnected demeanor has left him unprepared for the emotional shock of having a family in crisis, which leaves me thinking, “Dude, pay more attention”).
Following a brief exchange with Bruno, Kamala retreats to the gym to see how her community is managing the crisis. Generally, things are going better than you would expect. As Kamala surveys the scene in the gymnatorium, she questions herself about the point of all the work she put in to get people together like this, given the imminent end of the world. The resolution to that question that Wilson offers comes in the form of illustrating how Kamala’s work as Ms. Marvel has impacted and improved the lives of everyone around her. Zoe Zimmer, who was a terrible character meant to be disliked at the series’s beginning, has had a major change of heart following all the times she was saved and protected by Ms. Marvel, both directly and indirectly. She’s a kinder person now, and Zoe offers a genuine apology for the poor treatment Kamala used to receive from her. She used to feel like she had to conform to a specific image that involved being mean to others who were different, and she’s gradually learning that that isn’t the case.
Of course, being a part-time superhero isn’t all great things either. Where Zoe has shown a lot of growth and maturation since the series’s beginning, Kamala’s encounter with Nakia is a little more difficult. Things resolve well here; the two renew their friendship. But Nakia’s complaints that Kamala sort of disappeared from her life over the last few months are valid (we see this as readers from Nakia’s decreased presence within the entire series in its latter half). Unlike Bruno, who learned Kamala’s secret early on and was allowed to remain close to her through involvement with her superheroing, Nakia has been pushed out pretty much every time she’s tried to ask Kamala about what’s going on. We’ve gotten a front row seat to Kamala’s justification for this distancing, but this scene is where Nakia has an opportunity to explain how it’s felt for her. Kamala still doesn’t explain anything about Ms. Marvel to her, but the vibe here is good.
The final scene of the issue finds Kamala and Bruno on the roof of Coles Academic finally hashing out their romantic feelings about each other. This is a fantastic scene, by the way. It finally relieves all that tension between Kamala and Bruno in a way that I find really satisfying. Kamala acknowledges that she’s taken Bruno for granted (he is super dependable to the point of endangering himself unnecessarily), and she apologizes for the way she’s treated him. Bruno confesses that he’s in love with her, but he understands there are all these cultural barriers that make them being together unrealistic. We finally see that Kamala would be willing to reciprocate Bruno’s feelings, but the reason she’s ignored it isn’t because of her family but because she just has way too much going on what with being a superhero. A lot of this moment has echoes of the ending of Sam Raimi’s first Spider-Man movie, which makes sense because Kamala’s story has a lot of the same beats as Peter Parker’s, but it’s better executed here because, y’know, Kamala’s not keeping any secrets from Bruno about why she can’t do the dating thing (honesty’s a good thing, y’all). Having cleared all that up, they reaffirm their friendship as the Incursion finally envelops Jersey City in a bunch of white light. For bonus feels, read this scene while listening to this song (it came up on my Spotify playlist while I was re-reading the issue for this post, and, well, it really works, or at least it did for me).
- Someone hiding in a busted up locker outside the nurse’s office
- All the barnyard livestock hanging out outside the school
- “Water! Blankets!
Zombie ScreeningMedical Assessments!”
- Children climbing into airducts
- Dude butchering a fish in the gymnatorium
- Rat with a bindle
- Girl in hijab with vampire fangs
- Guy complaining to girl with eye patch about a rat in his coffee
- “Fair & Pastey”
- “Gorilla Milk”
- “Quarantine Wagon”
- Pirate lady with a pet pigeon
- Vick holding up a boombox like something out of a John Hughes movie
- “Go Sport”
- Chatty Bob breakdancing
- Mike looking at Bruno
And that’s Ms. Marvel volume three. It’s a brilliant little set of issues, and I’m really excited to get into the stuff from volume four soon. I’ve started reading the most recent trades, and they go in directions I didn’t expect. I’m looking forward to hashing all that out real soon.