Ms. Marvel: Generation Why
by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Jacob Wyatt
2015 (originally published 2014) • 136 pages • Marvel
Ms. Marvel: Generation Why (or issues 6 through 11) finds newly minted Ms. Marvel, Jersey City’s own hometown hero, navigating the usual trials and tribulations of a teenage superhero—hiding her identity to protect her loved ones, interfacing with the larger world of superheroics, and, of course, saving the day. Specifically, saving the day from the Inventor, the strange cockatiel-human hybrid who has been kidnapping teenage runaways for assuredly nefarious purposes.
Generation Why keeps up the same high level of quality seen in Ms. Marvel: No Normal—unsurprisingly, as the only major difference in the creative team is Jacob Wyatt stepping in to illustrate issues 6 and 7. Wyatt plays nicely in the quirkier house style of Ms. Marvel (I especially love the way he draws Kamala’s prominent nose), but Adrian Alphona’s teen indie movie in a bottle style is still the most perfect complement to G. Willow Wilson’s writing.
I will say that some of the writing’s teenagisms are starting to slightly grate and date on me, but I have a sneaking suspicion that this is both because Internet culture moves so quickly that two years can feel like an eternity and because I have entered my next evolutionary stage as a fandom old. (Do the kids still squee? Are they still calling themselves trash? What are they doing and why did they regress back to weird elaborate ship name conventions? Grumble grumble outta my dumpster.)
But Kamala herself is still a righteous, nerdy ray of sunshine. And I really love seeing how Kamala’s home life and religion is a source of inspiration and strength for her. It shouldn’t be so radically wonderful to see something as simple as a girl talk to her imam and receive uplift and support, but it is, and that makes Ms. Marvel a wildly important and useful comic. My anxiety is urging me to qualify that statement by pointing out how Ms. Marvel is also well-executed, as if that doesn’t go without saying and as if representation has to be snuck in like trying to get a dog to take its meds, but you know what? Yeah. Ms. Marvel is important, and would be important, even if it was a middle-of-the-road book.
Luckily for all of us, it’s a fantastic book.
This collection also includes Kamala learning that her superpowers derive from her Inhuman heritage. While I don’t have the time or energy to keep up with the Marvel universe, I am given to understand that the Inhumans are getting a major boost due to their upcoming Marvel Cinematic Universe film, being posited as the MCU’s answer to mutants (because 20th Century Fox will not give the franchise up, despite Sony and Disney managing to play nice enough to get Spider-Man into Captain America: Civil War).
Which is fine, I suppose, and, of course, Marvel’s prerogative, but it feels a little petty and internecine. But more to the point, Marvel’s mutants are a more intriguing literalization of a metaphor of alienation and being an outsider than actual aliens. Inhumans require an outside force; mutants can be anybody. They’re not a perfect metaphor, by any means, but they are a remarkably flexible and agile one, especially in the right hands. And in this run, Wilson literalizes ideas and concepts about millennials being slavish machine worshippers in order to pick them apart, in order to have Kamala call for her fellow kids to agitate for their own dignity. Ms. Marvel and mutants seem like a perfect fit.
Case in point: Wolverine, on the trail of a runaway from the Jean Grey School, bumps into Kamala, and the two bond. Recently divested of his mutant healing factor (oh, comics), Wolverine and Kamala have a really interesting conversation about heroism and pain. After, of course, she fangirls all over him, revealing that she writes gen RPF about him and Storm hanging out. (It is slightly less popular than the Scott/Emma RPF posted on the same site, to Wolverine’s chagrin. People in the Marvel universe seem really okay with RPF!) Wolverine counsels her that, in their line of work, somebody has to get hurt—it’s better that it’s them than innocent civilians. It’s brief and subtle, but the way it skews towards the idea of heroes being self-made and not born out of the ether really appeals to me. Which, I think, is why the Inhumans don’t appeal to me, although I will heartily admit that Madame Medusa’s hair is simply magnificent.
I rented this book from the public library.