Home » Book Reviews » Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #5 “Urban Legend”

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #5 “Urban Legend”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTISTS: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Devin Lewis, Sana Amanat, Nick Lowe, Axel Alonso

“I’m not here to be a watered-down version of some other hero … I’m here to be the best version of Kamala. And it starts now.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #5)[1]

“Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #5)[2]

“This guy thinks he can threaten us where we live? Ms. Marvel has a message for him … This is Jersey City. We talk loud, we walk fast, and we don’t take any disrespect. Don’t mess.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #5)[3]

Issue #5 “Urban Legend” begins after the cliffhanger of the previous issue,[4] as Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel is about to face off with the Inventor’s supporters who are at the abandoned house where Vic is being held. She fights them but ends up losing. Being a superhero is not turning out the way she expected it to. Realizing she shouldn’t have just barged in without preparing, Kamala abandons the fight but promises herself she’ll return and won’t fail again.

After returning home, Kamala heads straight to the fridge, hoping her mother didn’t set an alarm after all. While Kamala’s eating, feeling tired and saddened (but still determined) after her defeat, she wants her mom to be there. Then, her mom walks into the kitchen and starts yelling at her. Her father comes in as well, and he and Kamala have a heartfelt chat (including a really sweet explanation of why her parents named her Kamala), after which he grounds her and tells her she has to speak to Sheikh Abdullah. Readers can probably relate to the situation Kamala is in, knowing that one’s parents have legitimate reasons for being worried and genuinely loving them, but also being upset about being in trouble.

Following Kamala’s defeat and getting into (further) trouble with her parents, there’s a training montage as Kamala and Bruno are working on improving Kamala’s superhero skills. While Kamala is practicing using her powers, I can almost hear upbeat exercise music in the back of my mind while reading. I really enjoyed the interactions between Kamala and Bruno in this section, showing more of their friendship and how much fun they have together. Kamala also convinces Bruno to let her use the biokinetic polymer (or super snot, as they refer to it) from his scholarship project to improve the stretchiness of her superhero costume (which she redesigns — adding a yellow lightning bolt, blue boots, scarf, and golden-colored bracelets while getting rid of the fanny pack and changing domino mask from black to blue — making her outfit look like the one that’s been on the covers for the past few issues). Ready for battle, she and Bruno head back to the abandoned house in Greenville, and this time, Kamala wins and rescues Vick successfully. I thought it was nice to add an element in the story indicating that it takes hard work, perseverance, determination, and practice to succeed. After all, Kamala is young and inexperienced, so it makes sense that she’d have to try again before achieving victory. It’s a nice message for young readers and for people in general, showing once again that even someone with superpowers still has to work hard and that it’s the person behind the mask who makes the superhero.

Later, when the Circle Q’s renovations (after it was damaged during Vick’s robbery) are complete, Bruno and Bob are about to re-open the store, but when they get there, there’s a large doll of Ms. Marvel hanging in front of the store with writing on the door which reads “The Birdman Cometh”. The issue ends with a full-page image of a mysterious figure who looks like a bird, setting up the next story arc.

Once again, both the writing and artwork are wonderful in this issue. There are lots of fun and sweet moments. This definitely felt like both a conclusion to one storyline as well as a transitional issue to show Kamala’s development in character and powers before her next adventure. Basically, this is the conclusion of Kamala’s first planned superhero mission, with an emphasis on her being inexperienced and learning how to do things. Her confidence at the end of the issue is the culmination of the experiences she’s had, as she finally feels ready to truly be Ms. Marvel and protect Jersey City. There is a good mixture of humor, adventure, and character relationships in the story.

This issue is the conclusion of the first story arc of Kamala Khan, her origin story. When I reviewed the short story “Garden State”, which was a preview of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, I was excited but cautious about this series.[5] I’ve been so happy to find that this story is so amazing. Issues #1-3 especially did a great job of setting up the story and getting readers interested in the characters. By issues #4-5, we’re already intrigued and invested in the story, enjoying Kamala’s first mission. Stories like this one are why are why I love origin stories.

There are many elements in Kamala’s origin story that are common tropes, but they make sense. As I mentioned in my review of Young Avengers, Volume 2 (by Kieron Gillen, Jamie McKelvie, et al), story elements that may be tropes for characters of certain demographics can be very welcome when included in the stories of characters of underrepresented demographics.[6] For instance, creating a character who is a fan of superheroes and then becomes a superhero, a character who is dealing with strict parents and has to sneak out, a character who is dealing with bullies at school (and so on) may all seem cliché, but they are tropes that we rarely see for female, South Asian-American, Muslim, teenage characters like Kamala Khan. Showing that she also has these experiences shows that people in minority demographics are just as human as everyone else. At the same time, integrating aspects of Kamala’s life that are influenced by her being in particular demographics provides a way to show experiences that aren’t often portrayed in media here in the United States. Finding the right balance of all of these elements makes her story both universal and specific, relatable for a great many readers.

Overall, the creators manage to fit so much into the origin story that readers fall in love with Kamala’s story right from the start. We find out about her relationships with various family members and friends, her hobbies and interests, her views about morality, her sense of humor, her bravery both in and out of superhero costume, and so much more. Everything seems very deliberate and well-thought-out, with not a page or panel wasted. The creators likely knew (as Joseph Hughes writes in his review of Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #1)[7] that introducing a superhero character who is both new and part of several marginalized demographics meant that they’d have to exceed expectations, create books that were better than books about an already-beloved character. They managed to find the right balance of many aspects of life in order to make Kamala feel like a real person, so much so that this series quickly became the one I most look forward to every month.

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Note/Recommended Reading

The first trade paperback of Kamala’s story (containing issues #1-5 and the short story “Garden State of Mind”) will be released on 28 October 2014. If you’ve been wondering whether to read this series, it’s a great chance to get the beginning of the story all in one book and try it out.

[Originally Written 8 September 2014]

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References

[1] Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3, #5 “Urban Legend”. Marvel, 25 June 2014.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #5.

[3] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #5.

[4] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #4 “Past Curfew. Homeworld Journal, 24 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-4-past-curfew/

[5] EAS. Story Review: Ms. Marvel “Garden State of Mind” (Vol. 3 Preview)”. Homeworld Journal, 2 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/02/story-review-ms-marvel-garden-state-of-mind-vol-3-preview/

[6] EAS. Book Review: Young Avengers, Volume 2. Homeworld Journal, 16 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/16/book-review-young-avengers-volume-two/

[7] Hughes, Joseph. “‘Ms. Marvel’ #1: Embracing the Paradox [Review]”. Posted on 10 February 2014 at Comics Alliance. Retrieved on 8 September 2014 from http://comicsalliance.com/ms-marvel-embracing-the-paradox/.

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