Home » Book Reviews » Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2 “All Mankind”

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2 “All Mankind”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Devin Lewis, Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, Axel Alonso

“Okay. So. I passed out in the fog and had a dream that I asked Captain Marvel to make me like her. Apparently she took me literally.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2)[1]

“Maybe this is what I’ve been waiting for. Maybe I’m finally part of something … bigger.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2)[2]

We left off at the end of issue #1 with Kamala receiving her powers after being exposed to the Terrigen Mists. Her Terrigenesis involved a conversation (possibly part of a hallucination or vision or dream) with Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers/Captain America, and Tony Stark/Iron Man, which was followed by Kamala emerging from a cocoon looking like Carol Danvers, with shape-shifting powers.[3] Issue #2, titled “All Mankind”, starts with Kamala outside on the sidewalk, looking like Carol Danvers and wondering what in the world is going on. At first, she thinks that the whole experience she just had was a dream. As the story continues, Kamala is walking back home and trying to figure out what’s making her shape-shift. On the way, she manages to use her powers intentionally and then inevitably gets into trouble with her parents for sneaking out.

Issue #2 is a continuation of the origin story that started in issue #1, which I loved.[4] Superheroes can get their powers in many ways, often requiring impressive suspension of disbelief on the part of readers, but it’s their decisions about what to do with their powers and their motivations for their choices that make them really interesting. During this issue, we see Kamala’s first intentional use of her powers to save another person. I thought that this passage in the story was really well-done.

The scenario that necessitated Kamala’s intervention was appropriate and allowed for further character development. Kamala sees Zoe and Josh (two of her classmates, who were also in the previous issue) on a pier over the river, after the party that just ended. Josh is incredibly drunk and trying to get Zoe to dance with him, while she is trying to keep him away from her. When this passage first started, I was wondering where the creators were going to go with it. Would the two of them be attacked by a criminal? Would Josh try to force himself onto Zoe, with her trying to fight him off? What ends up happening is this: Josh, in his drunken state, accidentally pushes Zoe into the water. When he realizes what has happened, he’s about to jump in to save her. Kamala intervenes, realizing that if a drunk Josh jumps in to save a panicking Zoe, both of them will drown. Kamala uses her shape-shifting powers to make her hand really large and scoop Zoe out of the water, along with what looks like the some of the detritus from the bottom of the river. I thought this scenario was a good decision on the writers’ part, because Kamala has just gotten her powers and doesn’t quite know what’s going on yet. For her to defeat a criminal or villain right away would seem odd and not allow for her to get used to her powers. It made sense to start with a situation (saving someone from drowning) that a non-superhero could have also intervened in, though Kamala’s powers make it easier for her. This sets the stage for her to learn how to better control her powers and later go out to intentionally fight villains, in addition to stepping in when she happens to see an accident. It fits in well with an origin story, about a character who is figuring out what’s happening and taking her first steps into superheroics.

Kamala’s motivations for her actions were really interesting, incorporating her religion but written in a way that any reader can relate to. When Kamala sees Zoe in trouble, she remembers an ayah (verse) from the Qur’an that her father sometimes quotes. The title of this issue is a reference to that Qur’anic verse, which is partially quoted in the comic as follows: “Whoever kills one person, it is as if he has killed all of mankind — and whoever saves one person, it is as if he has saved all of mankind.”[5] Kamala thinks of this verse, “When I was a little kid, that always made me feel better. Because no matter how bad things get … there are always people who rush in to help. And according to my dad … they are blessed.”[6] I found this part incredibly relatable and inspiring. Not all readers of this comic are Muslim, and most of us haven’t been in a situation when we could have saved someone’s life. However, many of us have certain beliefs and ideals that we hold dear, sometimes expressed in favorite quotations (whether from a religious text, a novel, a TV show, a comic, or other cherished canon). We hold these ideas close to our hearts, and they’re a part of who we are. Then, a difficult situation arises: We are challenged to follow those ideals. Our favorite quotes ring in our minds and we ask ourselves, Will I actually act on what I’ve been claiming to believe? This is Kamala’s moment when she has to decide what she believes and whether she has the courage of her convictions. The fact that the quote which inspired her is from the Qur’an is important, because there aren’t a lot of stories showing the Qur’an inspiring people to do good things in the media of Muslim-minority countries. There are lots of stories that have (both overt and more subtle) references to Christianity, but Islam is usually referenced as the motivation for villains, not heroes. In addition, Kamala is inspired throughout the story by both her religion and her admiration of superheroes, showing that a character can be inspired by their faith without that being the only defining factor about them. There’s an added layer to the morality of her decision to save Zoe, because she’s not only saving someone life, but saving the life of a person who made fun of her just recently. It all fits very well with the idea that what makes a superhero a hero are not the superpowers or the costume but the decision to the do the right thing.

After rescuing Zoe, Kamala makes her way back home; by the time she reaches Grove Street, it’s “Midnight, a.k.a., Way After Curfew”.[7] She sees that the lights are on and realizes that her parents must be awake and furious at her for sneaking out to go to a party. She climbs up the tree conveniently located outside her bedroom window (an apparent necessity for teenaged heroic fictional characters) and sneaks back inside. Here, there’s a hilarious bit of narration from Kamala as she’s climbing the tree: “Okay, this is where I admit that I’ve only ever snuck out twice before in my life. One when I was ten, just to see if I could actually get down the tree in one piece. And then once freshman year to see the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows with Nakia and Bruno.”[8] (This is where I’m reminded that Kamala Khan is about a decade younger than me and already so awesome.) Her brother and parents are awake, and she gets into trouble. Teenaged superheroes getting grounded by their parents is a common trope of the genre, providing an obstacle to their superheroics (not to mention a trope of pretty much any genre including teenaged characters), but the situation and reactions of her family members are also very relatable. Her parents are understandably worried, but we the readers (knowing what Kamala knows) feel inclined to be on her side.

Overall, I really enjoyed issue #2. It’s a good follow-up to the first issue, and I like the creators’ decision to develop the story and characters slowly, instead of getting into the action right away. Both the writing and artwork are great, working together very well to pull readers into the story. Now that Kamala knows she actually has powers and feels motivated to use them to do good, we’ll see what she does next in her journey.

[Originally Written: 3 July 2014]

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References

[1] Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. “All Mankind”. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2. Marvel, 19 March 2014.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2.

[3] Wilson, G. Willow, Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian, et al. “Metamorphosis”. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #1. Marvel, 5 February 2014.

[4] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #1 “Metamorphosis”. Homeworld Journal, 16 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-1-meta-morphosis/

[5] This is part of Qur’an 5:32. The entire verse reads, “On account of [his deed], We decreed to the Children of Israel that if anyone kills a person—unless in retribution for murder or spreading corruption in the land—it is as if he kills all mankind, while if any saves a life it is as if he saves the lives of all mankind” (M.A.S. Abdel Haleem translation, The Qur’an, Oxford World Classics).

[6] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2.

[7] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2.

[8] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2.

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