Book Review: X-Men: Evolution #5-9

[This is the second part of my two-part review of the X-Men: Evolution comic book series. To read my review of issues #1-4, click here.]

WRITERS: Devin Grayson with Faerber

ART & COLORS: UDON with Long Vo, Charles Park & Saka of Studio XD; Art, Issue #9: J.J. Kirby; Colors, Issue #9: Chris Walker

LETTERS: Randy Gentile

COVER ART: Kia Asamiya

EDITORS: Brian Smith, C.B. Cebulski, Ralph Macchio, Jeff Youngquist, Cory Sedlmeier, Jennifer Grünwald

BOOK DESIGNER: Jeof Vita

“You have certified teachers here? I mean, besides yourself?”

“Technically, you’ll be my first. However—I have roped my more senior residents into various tutoring positions.”

(Hank McCoy/Beast and Professor Charles Xavier, X-Men: Evolution #7)[1]

Issue #5 “Untouchable” focuses on Rogue and her considering leaving the X-Men to join the Brotherhood. Rogue is one of my favorite characters, but I don’t think this story did her justice. This story arc is one that required more time and space to develop properly; one would expect it to take up several issues, but the creators tried to fit it all into twenty-one pages. Because of that, everything happens very suddenly. Rogue leaves the X-Men very suddenly, as the result of a rather contrived plot on the part of Mystique and the Brotherhood; conversations between Mystique (disguised as the other X-Men) and Rogue, in addition to some actual arguments Rogue already had with her friends, lead to Rogue running away. One gets the feeling a conversation between Rogue and the other X-Men could have prevented the whole situation, as they wouldn’t have remembered having the conversations in which Mystique was impersonating them. Indeed, Rogue even suspects in the beginning that her friends are acting oddly, not as they usually do. (As a side note, the frustration Rogue feels when Logan is teaching the teen X-Men how to do CPR felt forced; the explanation given is that Rogue is frustrated that she can’t learn it due to her powers, but it’s not actually necessary to touch someone’s skin to perform CPR. Contrary to popular media depictions, mouth-to-mouth is not the only way to provide air to the unconscious person.) Rogue’s return to the X-Men is also very sudden, happening mere moments after setting foot in the Brotherhood headquarters, due to a rather amateurish slip-up on Mystique’s part. The saving grace of this issue is the friendship: the interactions between Rogue and Kurt and the panel of Rogue looking at a picture of her friends. If the creators wanted to continue their theme of having each of these beginning issues focus on a particular character, they could have either told this story in a different way or focused on a different part of Rogue’s story that could be better-told in a single issue.

Issue #6 “Just Like You” shows us Evan Daniels/Spyke (Ororo’s nephew), who has a new friend named Calvin Rankin/Mimic. As Cal’s pseudonym would indicate, he is able to mimic the powers of those around him. During the course of the issue, we find out that Cal is not actually a mutant, but got his powers due to scientific experiments his father was conducting. This felt a bit like a “villain of the month” issue.[2] There’s an interesting scenario in which the X-Men have to work together when faced with someone who has all their powers but can’t control them. There’s also a moment when Scott is distracted during the fight due to his concern for Jean and gets told off by Logan. I get the impression this was meant to set up some drama in which Scott and Jean break up for a rather contrived reason and then get back together. Cal ends up leaving the Xavier Institute, without waiting to see if the X-Men will accept him as a new member, despite him not being a mutant. We get a nice moment at the end when Evan realizes who his real friends are, because they accept him as he is (not only if he is just like them). It would have been nice to get to know Evan a little better here. This issue and previous one seem to be the point when the series started moving away from just the origin stories and character introductions, bringing in rivals who the X-Men have to fight against.

Issue #7 “Beat of Burden” is when Hank McCoy, previously a teacher at Bayville High School (a job he cannot continue to his mutant transformation), joins the X-Men. We see him take over the gym class, where Logan is being really tough on the students. McCoy instead has them play baseball, and they have much more fun. It works very well to show the kind of teacher McCoy is, and even Logan starts to have a good time. Jean, who plays sports at school, gets to demonstrate her athletic skills. During the game, we also get to see some of the younger students who have just joined the X-Men. There are passages that are meant to set up Scott becoming the new field leader of the X-Men, which will be relevant in the next issue, and this point is why the baseball game is so drawn out (so Scott can demonstrate his skills as a team leader). I found this bit rather confusing and unnecessary, as I thought he was already the field leader. (He was the first student and had shown his leadership skills previously.) At the end of the issue, McCoy receives a mysterious email that was probably intended to set up a future story that was never published.

Issue #8 “Angel Underground” begins with Jean seeing a vision of an angel, who turns out to be Warren Worthington III/Angel, who has been kidnapped and is being held captive. The X-Men must go into the sewers to rescue Warren from the Morlocks (a group of mutants who live underground, separate from the society that despises them). Storm’s claustrophobia make it difficult for her to tolerate being underground, but she is able to overcome it and fight anyway. We see the various members of the team working together, with the teens making responsible decisions even when the adult who’s with them is having a difficult time. The X-Men invite the Morlocks to join them, but the Morlocks refuse. Of course, they end up rescuing Warren and bring him back to the Xavier Institute. He decides not to join the X-Men at this time, though he does seem interested in seeing Jean again.

Issue #9 “House Party” shows our teenage X-Men throwing a party while Professor Xavier and the other adults are away. The immediately jarring thing in this issue was the artwork, which was drawn by a different artist. After reading eight issues (and watching fifty-two episodes) in which the characters are drawn a certain way, reading this single issue was odd. The difference wasn’t slight either, not a case of a different hand drawing the characters in a similar style, but completely changed. I spent some time trying to figure out who some of the characters were. The concept had the potential to be a fun family-and-friendship story and a nice send-off to the series, but the plot was rather generic without much character development or moments that would leave an impact on the reader.

Overall, for what it is, the X-Men: Evolution comic series has some decent portions and had some potential to go somewhere interesting, if it’d had the chance. I don’t know when the writers and artists knew that their run was over; at some point, they must have been told. The earlier issues are meant to introduce or provide some backstory for some of the characters, and they had some good moments. Starting with issue #5, the series tries to condense too many story arcs and plots into single issues and ended up not doing them justice. The series may have benefited from focusing on one story arc developed over several issues with more interactions between the X-Men to develop their friendships, which were easily some of the better parts of the stories.

The X-Men: Evolution comic book series is probably only going to be of interest to either a die-had completionist or someone like me who remembers the television series. There isn’t much of a story outside of the introductions to the characters, and there are some problems with the writing and plot. It’s not a necessary read, but there are enough funny moments that the nostalgia factor made it a nice trip down memory lane on a quiet afternoon (Issue #2 even managed to inspire a short fan fiction that I wrote recently.)[3] If you’re a fan of the show and happen to come across a used copy somewhere, maybe pick it up for a look through, but it’s not something to seek out.

[Originally Written: 10 July 2014]

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References

[1] Grayson, Devin; Udon Studios; et al. #7: “Beast of Burden”. 2002. X-Men: Evolution. Marvel, 2003.

[2] “Monster of the Week”. TV Tropes entry. Retrieved on 10 July 2014 from http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/MonsterOfTheWeek.

[3] Geek Squared 1307. “Certified Do-Gooder”. Posted on 5 June 2014 at FanFiction.Net. Retrieved on 10 July 2014 from https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10417052/1/Certified-Do-Gooder.

Book Review: X-Men: Evolution #1-4

WRITER: Devin Grayson

ARTWORK & COLORS: UDON with Long Vo, Charles Park & Saka of Studio XD

LETTERS: Randy Gentile

EDITORS: Ralph Macchio, Brian Smith, Joe Quesada, Jeff Youngquist, Jennifer Grünwald

PUBLISHER: Dan Buckley

BOOK DESIGN: Patrick McGrath

“You have no idea what it means to me to be a part of something like this.”

“Maybe I do, kid … maybe I do.”

(Scott Summers/Cyclops and Logan/Wolverine, X-Men: Evolution #2)[1]

“At first when I got to the Institute, I liked being at school better, because that’s where I felt smart and competent … and at the Institute, I’m always kind of intimidated by how amazing and cool everyone is. But I’ve decided I like having people around me to look up to. I think it makes me a better person, and there’s so much to learn.”

(Kitty Pride/Shadowcat, X-Men Evolution #4)[2]

I grew up watching X-Men: Evolution; it’s to that show and to the X-Men films that I owe my love of this superhero team. The series aired from 4 November 2000 to 25 October 2003 and lasted for four seasons (consisting of a total of fifty-two episodes), and it was a regular part of my Saturday mornings. Less well known is the comic book series based on the show, which was released in 2002; there were only ever nine issues released. I read the first four issues (which are collected into one book) years ago and decided to find and read the last five recently out of nostalgia. This review contains my thoughts on issues #1-4. The next will contain my thoughts on issues #5-9 and overall impression.

Issue #1 “Lines in the Sand” introduces us to the characters Professor Charles Xavier, Ororo Munroe/Storm, Logan/Wolverine, Magneto, and Mystique. Ororo is Professor Xavier’s first recruit, after he sees her using her powers to help someone. Logan is approached by both Professor X and Magneto and decides to go with Xavier and Ororo. Professor X, Ororo, and Logan build the school and look for their first student. It’s a nice introduction, and we immediately see some of the disagreements between Professor X and Magneto that have become a staple of the X-Men stories. We get some sweet moments from Ororo and Logan that make us immediately like them. Everything happened a little too quickly, perhaps because the creators were in a rush to get the school open and start adding students.

Issue #2 “Seeing Clearly” is when we meet Scott Summers, the first teenage student at the Xavier Institute. He’s at a hospital in Alaska, after accidentally blowing the roof off the orphanage where he lives. Professor Xavier shows up, pays the cost of the damage, gives Scott his signature ruby quartz visor that helps him control his powers, and takes him to the Institute to become one of the X-Men. This issue is really sweet, as we see the ever-optimistic Scott having hope for a better future despite being targeted for suspicion and fear, as well as being grateful for the chance to live at the Institute and have a future. There’s a nice moment when Logan, who had previously been skeptical about Scott’s ability to be an X-Men (calling him “that ridiculously polite pollyanna who won’t last a week”), realizes he was wrong after the two of them stop a crime together. These two characters, often depicted as rivals and reluctant allies with very different personalities and values, are shown to have something in common, as being part of the X-Men means a lot to both of them.

Issues #3 “Hearing Things” introduces us to Jean Grey, who is having trouble controlling her telepathic and telekinetic powers. The X-Men welcome her to join them and Professor Xavier starts tutoring her on how to control her abilities. There’s an odd moment when Logan think that Jean is beautiful (perhaps a reference to him liking her in other X-Men stories) but it’s thankfully not brought up again. We see Jean go to her first day at Bayville High School, where Scott (who clearly has a crush on her) is showing her around. She starts reading everyone’s thoughts unintentionally and runs home. There’s a nice conversation between Jean and Ororo, with them talking about their experiences with their powers, and then a funny scene with Jean and Scott flirting while the professor is in the same room. Later, Jean and Scott go on a field trip and have to save everyone when Todd causes the school bus to crash. In the processes, Jean has to try to control her powers to figure out what’s going on. The field trip was a bit of an odd choice, I thought; the same effect (Jean having an experience in which she had to control her powers) could have been done in a different way, in a different scenario. Overall, it was an alright introduction to Jean, showing her getting used to her powers and making new friends who understand her.

Issue #4 “Am I Blue” starts with the six teenage main characters (Scott, Jean, Rogue, Kitty, Kurt, and Evan) already living at the Institute and focuses on Kurt’s acceptance of his mutation. It was nice to see the characters together. There’s a training session in the Danger Room that was attempting to incorporate some serious and funny elements, but it came across as trying a little too hard. Later conversations between Kurt and Kitty were sweet and got the same points across much better. The ending shows Kurt handing in a school assignment and is rather amusing. Accepting oneself as a mutant is one of the staples of the X-Men stories, and Kurt is an appropriate choice for that plot. There is also a random but hilarious yoga session (taught by Ororo and Logan) towards the end of the issue.

Overall, in the first four issues, we mostly meet some of the characters for the first time with fun moments. There are moments of unintentional hilarity in some of the passages that are trying too hard, but also some genuinely sweet moments that make the characters interesting.

[To read the second part of my two-part review of the X-Men: Evolution comic book series, click here.]

[Originally Written: 10 July 2014]

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References

[1] Grayson, Devin; Udon Studios; et al. #2: “Seeing Clearly”. 2002. In: X-Men: Evolution, Vol. 1. Marvel, 2003.

[2] Grayson, Devin; Udon Studios; et al. #4: “Am I Blue”. 2002. In: X-Men: Evolution, Vol. 2. Marvel, 2003.

For Kamala Khan

Kamala Khan, the superhero known as Ms. Marvel, has gone from being a curious announcement to one of the most beloved characters in the superhero pantheon. For more than a year now, I’ve been reading and reviewing the third (now forth) volume of the Ms. Marvel comic series, in which Kamala Khan[1] is the title character.

There are myriad reasons why I love Kamala, many of which I’ve detailed in my reviews. But one of the most important is this: Kamala’s story is her own story; she is the main character in her own life. This may not seem particularly revolutionary or different, but it is for a character from multiple marginalized demographics. It’s good representation precisely because she gets to have an individual story that treats her as a person. An important part of this is that her story gives her (and by extension, many of us) a voice. The story isn’t being used to do apologetics for those who want Muslim teenage girls to act in a certain way (whether non-Muslims who want Muslims to assimilate or conservative Muslims who want Muslims to follow their interpretation without challenging problems within the religion). Kamala’s story calls out everyone. Her family, religious leader, classmates, and fellow Inhumans all have certain expectations of her and have opinions on what decisions she should make. In this story, when someone’s actions affect Kamala, we see the situation from her point of view and are meant to empathize with her, showing the experience of a groups that is often talked about but rarely get to have their say in conversations that are about them.

For this reason, I think this is a good book for challenging the status quo among both Muslims and non-Muslims with regards to Muslim girls and women. Much of the media coverage about the series has focused (understandably) on the fact that Kamala is Muslim, and the potential for this book to give representation to Muslims and hopefully help non-Muslims understand Muslims better. For me, my feeling of relating to Kamala is even more specific than that: Part of the reason why she’s so important to me is specifically because she’s a female South-Asian American Muslim teenage child of immigrant parents who has experiences similar to my own experiences growing up – including being a fangirl, among many other things. There are the many different challenges teenagers face. Stories that only address one aspect of this complicated experience only address a small fraction of my life. Ms. Marvel has storylines and themes that address anti-Muslim bigotry and racism, sexism within outside of the Muslim community, the challenges of being part of the Millennial generation, disagreements with parents on culture, finding inspiration in popular culture, and so many other things. There are expectations that we face from both the larger society of never-Muslims in the United States and also from our own parents and religious communities. This is a good book to read to get an idea of what it’s like to be in this situation that so many of us are in: different groups of people have certain expectations of us, because they want us to agree with their culture entirely and reject others’ culture entirely. We’re trying to find our own way and make our own decisions when our choices are seen as a battlefield in a competition between the people who are trying to influence us in their fight with each other. Somehow, in all this, we have to try to figure out who we want to be.

I’m a nerd who processes things in my own life by reading stories. Kamala has given me a story that has helped me think about and deal with some of my own experiences, including things that happened in my life more than a decade ago. There are parts of my life that I’m seeing portrayed for the first time in Ms. Marvel. This series has literally made me tear up, because Kamala thinks and feels things that I’ve thought and felt. She is braver than I ever was, standing up for herself in ways that I wish I had the courage to do when I was her age; she is more than a decade younger than me, and yet she is my hero. Kamala has given me the words to express things I’d never said. My reviews of this series contain thoughts I’ve long had but often struggled to explain; Kamala’s story gave me a way to say, This is what it’s like. This is what I mean.

Kamala, like all of us, is simultaneously similar to and different from her peers. She gets to have fun and participate in fun retellings of common superhero tropes. She gets to participate in the traditions of the genre and the medium and reinvent them at the same time. There are so many superhero tropes that we fans have seen many times over the years, but to see characters from marginalized demographics have those experiences sends a message of inclusion. There are parts of her story that people of any demographic will be able to relate to and also parts which are specifically related to her own background – often in the same passage of the story. She is simultaneously an individual and a character who so many can see themselves in. The creative team treated Kamala and her story with respect, with excellent writing and artwork that convey so much in each and every issue.

Falling in love with this book series has been such a wonderful experience. Growing up, I desperately wanted to love characters who were from the same demographics as me, but they rarely ended up being my favorite characters; this was often because they were (at best) side characters who didn’t get much of a story. How could I count them among my favorites when I knew almost nothing about them? There were rare exceptions to this (several female characters or nerds or fangirls among them) – but until Kamala, no female South Asian-American Muslim fangirl (or even Muslim or South-Asian American) characters were on that list. Growing up part of a demographic that is often underrepresented and poorly represented in media, one learns to accept steps in the right direction while hoping for better books at a later date. There are often stories of which one can say that it’s great they were created, since they’re an improvement compared to previous efforts. One can appreciate the creators who worked on them and took a chance by portraying a character of a marginalized demographic, even if the stories weren’t great. One starts to get the feeling that the truly great stories are reserved for the white, straight, male characters and that the best the rest of us can hope for is a somewhat decent portrayal. Recommendations often come with the caveat of: It’s not great, but it’s a step forward; it’s better than previous portrayals. Being able to say, of the Ms. Marvel series, This is totally frakking awesome – that’s so great. I can say, for the first time, that a character who is like me in so many ways is one of my favorite characters ever.

For Kamala, who is the embodiment and symbol of so many of our hopes and dreams, I’ll say: “We will be the stars we were always meant to be”[2] – and you are one of the stars who lights the way.

[Originally written: 6 December 2015]

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References

[1] Essays in the “Kamala Khan” category at Homeworld Journal can be found at https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/category/kamala-khan/.

[2] DeConnick KS, Rios E, Lopez A, Bellaire J, Caramagna J, et al. Captain Marvel Vol. 7 #6. Marvel, 31 October 2012.

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #19 “Last Days, Part Four”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Charles Beacham, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso

“If the world thing you do is sneak out to help suffering people – then I thank God for having raised a righteous child.” (Disha Khan to Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3 #19)[1]

“Like, even if things are profoundly not okay … at least we’re not okay together.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #19)[2]

It’s the end of Marvel Multiverse as we knew it, and also the end of Kamala Khan’s first story volume. This issue starts with the conversation that started at the end of the previous issue.[3] Kamala’s mom has managed to do what so many parents in fantasy and superhero stories often don’t: noticed that her child’s sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. Let’s be honest: for many of us with conservative parents, they’d totally figure it out if we were superheroes. We can hope that our parents would be as supportive as Kamala’s mom.

Kamala has conversations and interactions with most of the other major characters in the story, to wrap up plot threads that started at the beginning of the series. She speaks with her parents first. Her mother is really adorable, and there’s a cute hug. Her father, who does not know that she’s Ms. Marvel and who plays the part of the character who says that it’s not like the world is ending when the world is about to end). Zoe Zimmer apologizes for her behavior earlier in the series and admits that she was jealous of Kamala – a nice passage showing that even the people who were popular and might have been mean to us in school had their own insecurities. People can grow up and reflect on their earlier actions. Kamala reconnects with her best friend Nakia Bahadir, who was upset that Kamala’s been busy and ignoring their friendship. They hug, and it’s adorable. Kamala even has a moment of mutual connection with her brother. The ending reveals that Bruno and Kamala are both romantically interested in each other, but Kamala says she doesn’t want to be in a romantic relationship right now so she can focus on being a superhero. This seemed to me both convenient and relatable. It’s a convenient way to split the difference between those who wouldn’t want a female Muslim character to date a non-Muslim and those who want the character to challenge her conservative family’s views. At the same time, it was incredibly relatable to me, as someone who is interested in dating and romantic relationships but never acted on those feelings. There are many girls and women from conservative families who focus on education and careers (and in the Marvel Multiverse, being a superhero is Kamala’s career) in order to gain independence first, before getting into romantic relationships. The characters are at Coles Academic High School, which has been set up with resources for those taking shelter including: a welcome booth, a random assortment of food supplies (coffee but no evaporated milk), a non-denominational nonjudgmental prayer area (which I found really sweet), water, blankets, medical assessment, and a dance party to face to the end of the world.

It’s all incredibly heartwarming. I’m glad the finale focuses on the relationships between the characters and Kamala as person, rather than on a big fight scene. When you’ve done all you can do, fought the good fight, and now the Multiverse is about to end, how do superheroes cope? By being there for each other. Superhero comics, for all their fun fantastical elements, are appealing because of the themes of doing the right thing; persevering in the face of daunting odds; finding bravery that you didn’t know you had; and working together with other people when you can’t do something alone. Kamala’s story contains those themes throughout.

Reading this series has been such a wonderful journey for me, and I’m very excited for more of Kamala Khan’s story in the years to come.

[Originally written: 6 December 2015]

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References

[1] Wilson GW, Alphona A, Herring I, et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 19 “Last Days, Part Four”. Marvel, 14 October 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #19.

[3] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18 “Last Days, Part Four”. Homeworld Journal, 5 September 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-18-last-days-part-three/

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18 “Last Days, Part Three”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Charles Beacham, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso

“A lot of people think you’re something special, and now I see why.” (Carol Danvers to Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18)[1]

“Good luck, Ms. Marvel. For what it’s worth – I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks, Captain. For everything.”

(Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18)[2]

“I have something to tell you. I’m telling you now because I might not ever have a chance to tell you again, and I don’t want – I don’t want to die without telling my Ammi. I don’t want the last thing the angels write in my book to be a lie…I am Ms. Marvel.”

“Oh, beta…I know.”

(Kamala Khan and Aisha Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18)[3]

I love stories about mentorship, and this issue was such a wonderful portrayal of a mentor-and-student story. Stating where the previous issue left off,[4] Kamala and Carol rescue Aamir from Kamran’s experimental attempt to activate his genetic Inhuman powers. After escaping from Kamran’s gang, the three of them head back to Coles Academic High School to try to get help for Aamir and to wait for the end of the world to occur.

There’s a passage in this issue, near the beginning, in which Aamir says to Kamran that he doesn’t blame Kamala for Kamran’s actions. Kamala is surprised, because she thought that Aamir hated her, but Carol reminds her that Aamir’s her brother. The reader can tell that this scene was an attempt at the usual resolution of sibling rivalry that often happens in family stories, and in some ways, it was incredibly sweet. On the other hand, it does sidestep the issues that were a source of disagreement between the two of them. Aamir is a self-described Salafi (an adherent of a very conservative interpretation of Islam).[5] Aamir and Kamala’s rivalry earlier in the series was not just a couple of kids arguing over some silly disagreements that siblings have; they were due to his interpretation of Islam, including his views on gender[6] and religion[7] in relationships. There’s also this moment in the issue when Aamir says he doesn’t want superpowers, since he’s happy as he is, and that he will turn to his faith to help deal with these new powers that he has due to Kamran’s actions. It was an odd blend of respectable and also sadly reminiscent of people trying to pray away aspects of themselves they don’t like. As a reader of superhero comics, one can’t help siding with Kamala on this one. Still, their interactions in some ways were very relatable, as even siblings can be very different from each other. One of the things I really appreciate about this series is that it shows Muslim characters with differing views. It also shows how dedicated people can be to defending family members who are in danger, even though they might disagree with each other.

Fortunately, the interactions between Kamala and Carol in this issue are incredibly heart-warming and made this one of my favorite issue of the series. Kamala gets to meet the person she admires for the first time. This issue shows how much it means to kids and teenagers to have adults in their lives who understand what they’re going through and who are willing to be on their side. When Carol tells Kamala that a lot of people think she’s special, one can’t help thinking that it has a double meaning: referring both to the readership that Kamala has gained since her debut and (because of that readership) the place she’s earned among her fellow heroes in her universe. There’s also a nice acknowledgement in the issue that the mentors and students both gain something from the relationship. Carol gives Kamala a gift (a necklace that also functions as a GPS locator), and it’s a touching gesture that Kamala really appreciates. With the end of the world about to happen, the reader can’t hope that somehow the superheroes will be able to find each other, and especially that the adult superheroes might be able to help out the younger generation heroes. Kamala’s going to join the Avengers after Secret Wars,[8] and I’m incredibly excited to see further interactions between her and her favorite superheroes.

I had so much fun reading this issue, and it ends with a nice surprise that made me smile and eagerly anticipate the finale.

[Originally written: 27 November 2015]

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References

[1] Wilson GW, Alphona A, Herring I. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18 “Last Days, Part Three”. Marvel, 9 September 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. #18.

[3] Ms. Marvel Vol. #18.

[4] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17 “Last Days, Part Two”. Homeworld Journal, 4 September 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-17-last-days-part-two/

[5] “Salafi movement”. Wikipedia entry. Retrieved on 27 November 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salafi_movement.

[6] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #13: “Crushed, Part One”. Homeworld Journal, 30 May 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-13-crushed-part-one/

[7] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #14: “Crushed, Part Two”. Homeworld Journal, 30 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-14-crushed-part-two/

[8] EAS. Book Review: FCBD 2015 “All-New, All-Different Avengers”. Homeworld Journal, 5 September 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/book-review-fcbd-2015-all-new-all-different-avengers/

Book Review: FCBD 2015 “All-New, All-Different Avengers”

WRITER: Mark Waid

ARTIST: Mahmud Asrar

COLOR ARTIST: Frank Martin

LETTERER: Joe Sabino

EDITORS: Joe Moisan, Tom Brevoort, Wil Moss

“Our point is, the Avengers exist to protect people. To preserve innocent life. That is job one.” (Sam Wilson/Captain America, FCBC 2015 “All-New All-Different Avengers”)[1]

Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) is a yearly event held on the first Saturday of May. As the name implies, it’s a day when free comic books are available at participating comics shops. Comics publishers often release specific free comic books for the event.[2] This year, one of Marvel’s FCBD books was an issue that contains two short preview stories for upcoming series: The All-New, All-Different Avengers and The Uncanny Inhumans.[3] Since I plan to read the former, I decided to review the first preview story.

Our new Avengers team features seven main characters: Sam Wilson/Captain America, Jane Foster/Thor, Iron Man, Vision, Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales/Spider-Man, and Sam Alexander/Nova. (Whether or not the person inside the Iron Man armor is Tony Stark is unknown and has been the topic of fandom discussion. There’s a side comment in this issue that suggests it may not be him.) The story begins hilariously with Kamala Khan issuing the command “Avengers Assemble!” – followed by Miles Morales wondering if they’re allowed to say that yet. It’s Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, and Sam Alexander’s first day as Avengers.

Our heroes are investigating an attack on Manhattan’s Federal Reserve Bank. Sam Wilson sends the three teenagers inside to find the criminal while the four more-experienced Avengers fight the dragon outside. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned, and the villain Radioactive Man escapes. Initially, Sam is furious at the teenagers, but then they explain that the villain escaped while they rescued a civilian from falling to his death. After hearing this, Sam says that he knows he recruited the right people to join the team, because they gave first priority to saving a person’s life.

It’s a short but sweet story, and one that nicely sums up what it means to be a superhero. It will likely appeal to readers like myself who like superheroes who are trying to be idealistic and do the right thing – characters who are flawed and have seen horrors, but who still believe in good. The younger characters are clearly excited to be Avengers, and the adults are trying to give them advice and train them. The writing is funny and the artwork is bright and colorful. The creators efficiently used the limited space they had (half an issue) to tell a story that does what it’s meant to: get fans excited for the upcoming story about this new team.

The All-New, All-Different Avengers series is going to start after the Marvel Multiverse is finished crashing, burning, and reforming.[4] Despite the fact that the long title makes me laugh, I’m really looking forward to this story. This team consists of characters I’m excited to read more about. I tend to like superhero teams with some adults and some teenagers, because it provides the opportunity for a lot of heart and humor as the older, more experienced superheroes mentor (or try to mentor) the younger ones. This FCBD story has already caused me to start imagining possible stories in my mind.

Avengers Assemble!

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References

[Originally written: 24 May 2015]

[1] Waid M, Asrar M, Martin F, et al. Free Comic Book Day Vol. 2015 “The All-New, All-Different Avengers”. Marvel, 2 May 2015.

[2] “FCBD Site FAQs”. Free Comic Book Day. Retrieved on 24 May 2015 from http://www.freecomicbookday.com/Home/1/1/27/984.

[3] “Free Comic Book Day Vol 2015 Avengers”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 24 May 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Free_Comic_Book_Day_Vol_2015_Avengers.

[4] “Secret Wars”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 24 May 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Secret_Wars.

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17 “Last Days, Part Two”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Charles Beacham, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso

“What she’s saying—weirdly, it makes me think of one of Sheikh Abdullah’s lectures. We all face the end alone, he said. And we alone have to account for our time on Earth. The good and the bad. ‘What will be in the book of your life?’ he used to ask. ‘How will you be remembered?’” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17)[1]

“You seem very…at home in your powers.”

“It took me a long time to get here. For a while, I just kind of felt weird and gross.”

“And now?”

“Now I feel weird and awesome!”

(Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17)[2]

“I know our job sucks sometimes. Sometimes we have to choose between a bad thing and a worse thing. But you have to remember to take care of yourself. You’re important. People need you—people love you. More than you probably realize.” (Carol Danvers to Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17)[3]

“You know what I’ve gotten really sick of over the years? Moral relativism from second-rate bad guys.” (Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17)[4]

What happens when Kamala Khan meets Carol Danvers when the world is about to end? She freaks out with excitement and doesn’t quite know what to say at first, which would probably happen to a lot of us in that situation. Then, the two of them head off to rescue Kamala’s brother Aamir, who was kidnapped by Kamran in the previous issue.[5] During their search, they have some fun conversations together and encounter some challenges.

This is the team-up that fans of Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers have been looking forward to. Carol is Kamala’s hero, and when they finally have a chance to meet (outside of Kamala’s imagination), Carol gives Kamala advice on their journey through the city while looking for Aamir. As was the case in Kamala’s team up with Logan/Wolverine in issue #6[6] and issue #7,[7] Kamala learns from the older hero and has an adventure. During the middle of the issue, Kamala and Carol encounter some people who were going around the city stealing supplies and give them a productive job to do, helping out at the high school, where lots of civilians have gathered for shelter. I liked that the story shows heroes during an emergency situation trying to handle real-world problems (such as civilians becoming fearful). There’s also a sweet moment when they find some cats; Kamala wants to save them, but Carol explains to her that one of the difficult parts about being a superhero is that you can’t always save everyone. We get to see how far Kamala has come in terms of being a superhero and feeling more comfortable being herself, as well as how eager she is to learn even more.

Later in the issue, they encounter Kaboom, one of the people working together with Kamran. I have to admit that, after often hearing people accuse those who believe in equal rights of “moral relativisim”, it was nice to hear a superhero turn the accusation around and use it against the villain Kaboom who’s hypocritically lecturing Kamala about letting Aamir make his own choices when the Inhuman group Kabooms is part of has been using force to try to get people (including Kamal and Aamir) to join their group. It’s a good example of turning the arguments of the bad guys around on them.

This arc is about how superheroes face the end of the world. In the words of Kamala Khan, “Jersey City’s finest are still out in force.”[8] Even at the end of the world, they still have a job to do. Although this issue is more focused on Kamala and Carol looking for Kamran and Aamir, the creators incorporate aspects of Kamala’s faith. The Islamic concept of the angels on each person’s shoulders writing in that person’s book of life[9] is one of the things I actually remember from my sporadic religious classes. Religious or not, I think many of us think about how we’ll look back on our lives at the end. Superheroes like Kamala and Carol inspire us to live a life that we’d be proud to look back on. That is, after all, what superheroes are about.

[Originally written: 27 November 2015]

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References

[1] Wilson GW, Alphona A, Herring I, et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17 “Last Days, Part Two”. Marvel, 5 August 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17.

[3] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17.

[4] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17.

[5] EAS. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #16 “Last Days, Part One”. Homeworld Journal, 4 September 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-16-last-days-part-one/

[6] EAS. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #6 ‘Healing Factor, Part One”. Homeworld Journal, 25 May 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-6-healing-factor-part-one/

[7] EAS. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #7 “Healing Factor, Part Two”. Homeworld Journal, 25 May 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-7-healing-factor-part-two/

[8] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17.

[9] “Kiraman Katibin”. Wikipedia. Retrieved on 12 October 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiraman_Katibin.