Monday, August 14, 2017

REVIEW: Ms. Marvel Vol. 7

Ms. Marvel is currently the only ongoing series we pay a lot of attention too, the only one we regularly buy trades for. Over the past year, we’ve fallen in love with Kamala Kahn and her rise to walk in Carol Danvers’s footsteps and protect Jersey City while also building her own identity as an Inhuman and an Avenger. She’s gradually become our favorite superhero with writing and art that only gets better and better.

Damage Per Second is the newest collection from Ms. Marvel’s main book (she’s also a member of the new Champions team) and sees Kamala rebounding from the events of Civil War II, where she lost the trust and respect of her mentors Iron Man and Captain Marvel. She’s also been dealing with her best friend Bruno’s sudden more to Wakanda - a move he made to get away from her.

Issue #13 is a standalone story all about Kamala using her superhero persona to rally the people of Jersey City to get out and vote for their mayor amid a shady move of gerrymandering that would put Ms. Marvel’s Vol. 5 villain, a Hydra run gentrifying hipster weasel, in control of her turf. That’s really all there is to it. I’m usually okay with these kinds of stories, ones that are more about their message than the superhero aspect. However, this one wasn’t my cup of tea. A lot of Ms. Marvel’s dialogue seemed like it was ripped from voting guides and websites. Also, while I usually view trade paperbacks as a single entity, I looked up this particular issue’s release date. Apparently, it came out after the election, so its message was a bit late.

Issues #14 through #17 covers the main story of this collection, Damage Per Second. Here we see Ms. Marvel take a less physical approach to a completely non-physical enemy. When an avatar from Kamala’s favorite MMO begins to wreak havoc on Jersey City, Ms. Marvel has to take to the net to defeat a digital supervillain.

This should have been my favorite Ms. Marvel story so far. I’m a sucker for cyberpunk, virtual reality, let’s go inside a video game type storylines. But something about this one didn’t click with me. It felt like a classic case of people who know nothing about X writing about X. The twist that the villain was really an A.I. computer virus was laughably obvious, I didn’t even know it was supposed to be a surprise.

But! There is a positive here. This was not a story about Ms. Marvel fighting a computer virus. The title, Damage Per Second, has a double meaning in a story about Kamala Kahn dealing with real damage in her daily life. Bruno’s departure to Wakanda damaged both Kamala and Mike, Bruno’s girlfriend, and so they’re both reeling from that loss. In Bruno’s absence, Kamala turns to Mike for technical support and the two form a new friendship in the process.

The computer virus also threatens to reveal two major secrets that could cause major damage to Kamala’s social life. For starters, the virus has easily deduced that she is Ms. Marvel, and points out some rookie mistakes she made in her attempts to hide her identity. Similar phone patterns, IP addresses - mistakes only a computer virus would catch. Additionally, the virus has deduced that Kamala’s bully-turned-friend Zoe is totally in love with Nakia, and threatens to reveal this to the student body. Kamala seems more worried about Zoe’s reputation than her own secret identity, showing how much she cares for her community at her school and in her city. Zoe’s unrequited coming out to Nakia and the school’s reaction to the virus’s outing really shows the struggles LGBT youth - even ones in living in mostly liberal, multicultural communities - have to go through on a daily basis.

So while Ms. Marvel’s adventures in the digital world may not be as cool as I would’ve hoped, she kicked ass in her adventures navigating social anxieties and having personal information being plastered all over the world. Even as a kid watching Power Rangers, I was always more interested in the stuff that happened after the giant monster fights. I believe great characters can save a weak story, and that’s exactly what happened here.

Issue #18 is all about Bruno, Kamala’s guy in the chair who left Jersey, his girlfriend, and his job as Ms. Marvel’s sidekick to go study in Wakanda. Living with permanent injuries he sustained in his final adventure, Bruno now tries to live a normal life in a super high tech African royal private school. Agreeing to help his roommate seemed like a simple task until Bruno finds himself swept up in another crazy superhero adventure. This is a nice side story, especially considering Kamala has such a great supporting cast. The peek into modern daily life in Wakanda is awesome too, as was the inevitable yet still surprising cameo.

Ms. Marvel Vol. 7 may have been lacking in superhero awesomeness, but it did give us some of the best character interactions we’ve had so far. Between Zoe’s outing and Kamala meeting her MMO guild IRL, Damage Per Second gave us plenty of great moments. Get your copy of Ms. Marvel Vol. 7 here.