The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Art by Minkyu Jung, Juan Vlasco and Ian Herring
Lettering by Joe Caramagna
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 7 out of 10
Kamala Khan gets a fun but by-the-numbers new #1 issue in the debut of The Magnificent Ms. Marvel. Written by Saladin Ahmed and blessed with an expressive, but unassuming look from art team of Minkyu Jung, Juan Vlasco, and Ian Herring, Ms. Marvel looks to refocus the title after the mammoth G. Willow Wilson run and Kamala’s call-up to the bigger team books. And while Ahmed, Jung, and company deliver a brand-new street-level story of Kamala’s day-to-day as a Jersey City superhero, their overall approach still loses some of the charm and personality the series had under Wilson's tenure. With the heavy weight of fan expectations resting precariously on its shoulders, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 is just okay, and it remains to be seen if readers will settle for that.
While we’ve seen her join the A-list with the All-New All-Different Avengers and fight for change with the Champions, Ahmed knows that Ms. Marvel is always at her best fighting on her home turf of Jersey City, defending it from all manner of costumed baddies, engaging with the community, and facing down friction with her parents back at home. The only problem is, as Ahmed reintroduces readers to Kamala Khan’s life, is that we’ve kind of seen this all before. And honestly, we’ve seen it done better to boot. That isn’t to say this issue is without charm, but it feels like a downgrade from the cultural drama and strong narrative choices the previous volume had. That said, Ahmed finds a natural voice with Kamala, much like he did with Black Bolt and Miles Morales, and deploys it well throughout, such as a scene where Kamala reconnects with her friend Nakia in a scene that rekindles their friendship with a bit of recap for new readers peppered in.
But again, the script never really clicks as well as it should. The Jersey City of the previous volume felt so vibrant and so new, as did Kamala. But whereas the original Ms. Marvel had room to stretch its legs and delve into its plucky lead character, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 feels so much less essential than what came before. Instead of seeing a direct window into youth of another culture like we did during the previous volume, we get Kamala just doing fairly run-of-the-mill superhero stuff. Not to mention retreading the same “secret identity” drama as the previous story, just centered around her father. Instead of her friends standing as fully-fleshed out members of an ensemble, they just feel like bit players in a story happening around them, or some that have already come and gone. This is very apparent in Bruno’s single appearance which serves only to facilitate some monster fights and remind readers he once studied in Wakanda. It just all lacks a spark that the previous series had in spades.
That feeling of “just okay” also extends to Minkyu Jung, Juan Vlasco, and Ian Herring’s artwork. While longtime Ms. Marvel colorist Ian Herring remains to give the art its recognizable rendering, Jung and Vlasco’s pencils and inks respectively never quite get off the ground or stand as eye-catching as Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, or Nico Leon. That said, Jung really nails the way Kamala’s powers work in the action sequences - he details her movement in a very Ant-Man and the Wasp sort of way where she shrinks and “embiggens” multiple times in a single frame, giving Ms. Marvel a neat kinetic feel. The only problem is, this title has gone from looking like nothing else on the shelves to looking like every other superhero book out there. That sounds harsh, but Minkyu Jung, Juan Vlasco, and Ian Herring struggle valiantly with the action and naturally expressive character models, it feels like a downshift from the broadly striking theatrical expressions of this series’ previous art teams. It never looks or feels special. I could tell you several of my favorite moments from the previous run of Ms. Marvel, but I could only tell you one, visually, from The Magnificent Ms. Marvel, and I think that is a real shame for this new debut issue.
Though really fun and armed with heart, The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 isn’t quite the “moment” that her first #1 issue was. And that’s a bummer, honestly. After so many big stories of Kamala Khan joining teams and ending a huge landmark run, you would hope and think that this new creative team would be swinging for the fences and not punching paper-thin baddies in Jersey at the cost of her world’s winning characterization. Let’s just hope that whatever comes next is worthy of Kamala and her legions of fans.