Ms. Marvel #33
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Nico Leon and Ian Herring
Lettered by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Being a teenager can be hard enough. It’s a period in everyone’s life that’s filled with self-discovery, trying to find the identity that fits. Being a teen superhero on top of this and having to deal with bad guys on top of all this can seem near-insurmountable. The best comic books of this genre understand how difficult this balance can be by having to also try and maintain this balance, Ms. Marvel being one of the prime modern examples of this dichotomy. This arc in particular takes the worries about identity and makes them part of the text rather than an underlying tension, asking if Kamala Khan knows who she is despite her powers having become unstable and out of control.
Of course, there’s never a good time for one’s powers to go berserk - especially when the Shocker’s taken the trip to New Jersey and is now staring down Bruno and a two-inch-tall Kamala. While that’s where this issue picks up, the art team doesn’t opt to keep proceedings on a small-scale. The second page sees Nico Leon and Ian Herring depict a Ms. Marvel that grows dramatically in size, protecting Bruno from Shocker’s gauntlets, in a splash page that is unable to properly contain Kamala. From the jump between the first page and this, their cartooning gives an accurate summation of the, ahem, biggest issue currently facing Kamala.
The expressive nature of their work is abundantly clear across these panels. Regardless of whether their hero is two-inches tall or towering over Bruno as she shields him, Kamala’s courage and determination shows. Their sense of scale is strong as well, evident in how easily she switches between those two states without disorientation. These two qualities relate to each other on the following page, the focus of the first panel being Kamala’s long shadow, her hands on her hips, stretching from the bottom of the page almost to the top. Just off to the side, a normal sized Shocker seems miniscule by comparison. The perspective also manages to emphasise his now-wide eyes, showing how the tables have turned. The finishing touch to all this is how both Shocker and Bruno can only say wow in response, with Joe Caramagna using word balloons of differing size to further display how they should be read.
Working in tandem is G. Willow Wilson’s script, particularly in how well she makes use of Kamala’s inner monologue. That aspect of the writing is one (of many) that’s made Kamala such a popular character despite existing for a relatively short period of time - the audience’s connection to Kamala is so clear and sustained at all times. A character’s actions might be what initially defines them, though this kind of narration - “But because I’m me, I stand my ground” - and other instances of dialogue help to underline the point, like when Shocker tries to make his exit and Ms. Marvel gives chase by telling Bruno “I can’t not run after him.” Despite all of the problems facing Kamala at the present moment, they never cause her to forget how she’s a hero.
The issue also retains a sense of levity, opting not to dig into how Shocker himself feels like he doesn’t have an identity on the other side of the river beyond being a guy in a quilted suit. It would warrant genuine complaint if Ms. Marvel #33 wasn’t so fleet on its feet, keeping the proceedings moving even as it throws in another plot thread involving Bruno, knowing the right moments for comedy and how to weave them into the narrative. It’s a trade-off, opting for briskness over dedicated investigation, and so is instead just a suggestion of a missed opportunity; a road presented but not chosen to be travelled down. The path chosen by Wilson, Leon, Herring and Joe Caramagna allows them to hit on a tone which works as recalling classic Spider-Man stories (both Amazing and Ultimate) - a quality which the series as a whole has consistently managed to illustrate - by way of set-up for an Ant-Man story.
There’s a couple of pages around the midpoint that get more out there, both in story purpose and imagery, with Herring in particular being able to craft a striking page with a dramatically different colour palette to the one they traditionally use on the book. For the most part, however, Ms. Marvel #33 is a solid issue that’s never anything less than engaging - one that delivers what long-term readers expect from this book as well one that can give new readers a taste of what the series is like. The book deserves commendation for being able to be that, after more than 50 issues. That length of run is rare these days and so having one that continues to be worth reading is worth treasuring, even the story potential isn’t always completely capitalized on.