Ms. Marvel #1 opens with a confident burst of fangirl glee as Kamala Khan maneuvers around a crowded alley before leaping into action with the All-New, All-Different Avengers in a beautiful two page splash from lead artist Takeshi Miyazawa. Kamala is truly living her dream as she fights bad guys with the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. She loves and admires these superheroes as much as me and other readers. G. Willow Wilson’s writing is filled with a lively energy and squeeing with the line “I’m a freakin’ Avenger” encapsulating Kamala’s joyful approach to heroism. But then the grid layout returns in a montage of what Kamala’s life is really like as she struggles to balance school work, solo and team superhero adventures, and having an online and offline social life. Her new status quo has led to some relationships falling on the wayside, like Bruno, who declared his love for her at the end of the last volume of Ms. Marvel and has moved on to a new girl, Mike, who Miyazawa deftly shows in a smooch-heavy page turn reveal to show that their relationship is indeed serious.
Along with relationships, Wilson and Miyazawa examine the larger effect of the almost apocalypse of Secret Wars and Ms. Marvel’s rise as a hero on Jersey City, namely in its gentrification. The multicultural community of this city has become high rent, luxury condos, who have transformed Ms. Marvel from a hero of the people to a logo without her permission. Basically, Kamala fights the goons (And insect drones because this is a whimsical superhero comic.) of a faceless real estate corporation while her own approval rate drops from the people who used to cheer her on. Wilson does an excellent job grafting the time honored (or time worn) superhero trope of being hated and feared by the people that one protects to the real life problem of the increased cost of living in urban areas while showing how formerly empowering symbols can be used in a negative way. Along with dealing with school, Avenger-ing, and drama with Bruno, Kamala must also regain her reputation and save her city from being completely (and legally) obliterated by profit hungry capitalists. It also puts her in a tradition of social justice in superhero comics that began when Superman shook down a landlord back in Action Comics #1 for unfairly raising rent for his tenants. (It is quite fitting that Kamala strikes a Superman-style pose in Cliff Chiang’s gorgeous main cover for Ms. Marvel #1
Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona tag team the art in Ms. Marvel #1 with Miyazawa drawing the 21 page lead story featuring the new civilian and superheroic status quo for Kamala Khan, and Alphona going full romance comic in a nine page B-story as he tells the story of the “meet cute” between Bruno and Mike. The transition between Miyazawa and Alphona’s art is seamless through their similar models and the flashy, yet subdued palette of colorist Ian Herring. However, there are little differences in their art, which enhance the storytelling. Miyazawa uses more exaggerated facial expressions and body movements, which suits a story featuring Kamala shrinking herself to infiltrate buildings or elude an angry mob. The main story is also filled with big drama moments, and Miyazawa’s bolder style works for her geeking out about fighting giant rats with the Avengers or freaking out over Bruno having a girlfriend. He also gets creative with Kamala’s powers in the action scenes, like framing a panel from the perspective of her enlarging fist instead of the usual “two guys punching each other” setup that has been in superhero comics from time immemorial.
On the other hand, Adrian Alphona contrasts Bruno and Mike’s normal life of chatting about movies, meeting various relatives, and having a teenage relationship with Kamala’s more bombastic life. He uses thick, refined inks for the Bruno/Mike scenes and larger gestures and a looser style for when Kamala bursts in. Herring helps craft this study in opposites by using bright colors, like yellows and greens for Kamala’s fight, and a more toned down palette of greys, browns, and a touch of yellow for Mike’s bow for Bruno and Mike’s normal life together. G. Willow Wilson’s writing is perceptive in this second story as she brings a touch of maturity to teenage relationships as Bruno is honest about his lifelong feelings and connection to Kamala with Mike. But they are resolved to make their relationship work and make Tolkien and garlic bread jokes along the way.
Ms. Marvel #1 is a delightful smorgasbord of superhero action, sweet romance, bright art, and has a strong, yet fantastical connection to real world issues. G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazwa, and Adrian Alphona craft a first issue that is both exciting and heart wrenching as Kamala Khan starts to take steps into being a more responsible and mature superhero and human being in both her actions and interpersonal relationships.