MS. MARVEL #1
It's not very often these days that we see new characters at Marvel or DC, and when we do they aren't always well received due to being the “new kid.” With their latest relaunch of the Ms. Marvel title, Marvel has debuted a new character, Kamala Khan, a teenage Muslim girl from New Jersey who wants to do her best to fit in while also pleasing her strict parents. Usually when a character is given defining attributes such as these, it is often seen by some as a “ploy” for a company to be inclusive or politically correct. These cynical viewpoints really have no place in this title, which is written with the utmost sincerity by G. Willow Wilson.
Wilson crafts an origin story in Ms. Marvel #1 that fits perfectly among the countless other heroic beginnings in the Marvel world, even if it would seem a little strange to anyone not familiar with the “Inhumanity” even going on. The characters in the issue are established quickly, which is impressive given that they're all brand new. What makes Kamala Khan, her friends, and her family stand out from the other Marvel characters is that they're just regular people. Sure they live in this fantastical world full of superheroes and aliens, but they're just trying to make it day by day. When that is coupled with the depth written into their voices it creates a cast that feels fresh, especially after countless stories of characters we've known all our lives.
Adrian Alphona serves as the artist for the series and his style is near perfect for the quirky sensibilities of the title character. Whether Kamala is writing fan fiction about the real life Marvel heroes, going to a rambunctious Friday night party, or undergoing Terrigenesis, it works. Even if the characters wander off into idiosyncratic territories, it's the art that keeps it grounded. What I do love about his style, especially in this series, is that the very detailed panels look awesome, but even the wider less-detailed panels are charming and cute. Alphona wastes no space here.
I really admire Wilson's genuine writing style in the series - there's not a hint of irony or inclusion for the sake of inclusion, it's real. She also doesn't force the presence of heroism and is taking the slow burn. Ms. Marvel seems to be mostly influenced by the independent comic sensibilities in terms of its storytelling than the mainstream heroes, which I think is a smart way to help it stand apart.
THE PUNISHER #1
Frank Castle is one of those comic book characters that really only works if the people molding him have a good grasp of who he is. His voice, his mission, his motivations, if they don't work together then the story can fall apart. I'm happy to say though that writer Nathan Edmondson and artist Mitch Gerads get Frank, and his latest series is off to a great start.
Edmondson, also writing the outstanding Black Widow series, approaches Frank from the usual “get rid of crime” standpoint, but instead of his often repetitive internal monologue, Edmondson focuses on Frank's interactions with people. This not only gives us a further glimpse into Frank's process, it helps establish him as a real person instead of the shadowy grim reaper he's viewed as. What also separates this Punisher series from the countless other issues is the setting - Frank has picked up his roots from New York and has settled out west in Los Angeles. Furthermore, he gives Frank connections and relationships that give the character a more grounded world. You ever wonder how he gets all those fancy weapons? Well there's an answer inside for you.
I do have one complaint though, how does no one recognize Frank? One of the most infamous mass murderers in the Marvel U, but he can still go into a coffee shop, become buddies with the cook, have breakfast sitting next to a police officer, and no one raises an eyebrow? This is of course an issue with the character in general, but it's never been quite as highlighted in my opinion as it is in this new series.
Gerards' artwork works well for this new series. His style really highlights the west coast location and the type of crimes that Frank is going up against. Furthermore he has some very unique and clever panel designs that make the storytelling all the more engaging and interesting from a visual standpoint. The character design is were some of the trouble comes in, though I can excuse a couple of wonky looking faces when there is an overall consistency to the visual style of the story.
Edmondson and Gerards are off to an exciting start with Frank Castle, who hasn't had his own series since Greg Rucka's top notch run a few years ago. Comparing it to the various other Punisher series isn't entirely fair with only one issue currently out, but it's got the chops to tell a different kind of Punisher story and hopefully it can remain steady. I'm ready for more.
Head over to page 2 for our reviews of Loki: Agent of Asgard #1 and Wolverine #1!