Marvel’s latest publishing experiment, Generations, is about to come to an end. Generations is a series of one-shots featuring older and newer heroes of the same (or similar moniker) getting together in-story. The experiment has been enjoyable yet mostly inconsequential, but nonetheless, we’re here to explore what’s up with the Ms. Marvel Generations issue today in The Marvel Rundown.
Generations: The Marvels #1
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Drawn by Paolo Villanelli
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
I’m either confused or a giant hypocrite because I was sure that comics writers and artists were bogged down by the typical story structure of average superhero storytelling and wanted the chance to take on something more abstract and formless in nature.
The latest issue of Generations focused on the Ms. Marvel duo does take a more abstract shape than a typical issue of superhero comics. For starters, the entire setup of the story is divulged in just a couple of pages. Writer G. Willow Wilson establishes this premise more clearly and succinctly than much of her peers but the inciting incident of Generations is not in this debut chapter of the comic. Without context or meaning, Wilson launches right into the middle of the book. The confusing aspect of the entire story and Generations as a premise is that there doesn’t seem to be much of a reason behind the comic as a whole. Even with the context of the books at the end of Secret Empire, readers will be scratching their heads. This book aims for the stars, at least in the first couple pages.
Once the middle of the comic book kicks off and Wilson establishes the status quo of her Generations issue, this comic teases something different than we have seen in any other one-shot so far. The premise is so strong and fascinating that getting an in-depth look at the idea could have provided some of the most potent storytelling of Kamala Khan’s entire superhero career this far. However, the book lacks the ambition promised by the premise and only touches this engrossing career change for a few brief moments. Adding insult to injury, Khan just gets whatever she needs so easily in this narrative. The character isn’t challenged in this installment of Generations, worse still, there’s barely any conflict within these pages. The obligatory superhero fight sequence is brief and does not directly hold any bearing on the story or the direction of the comic. Getting more backstory and seeing a much younger version of Carol Danvers as Ms. Marvel in action is a wonderful aspect of the book, but after reading this issue, I still don’t feel like I understand who Danvers or what she stands for. While the past version of Danvers doesn’t seem nearly as confident as the current version, that’s the biggest distinction in characterization I was able to make out.
All this is not to say the story was by any means bad, Wilson chooses great moments to examine in Danvers’ life. The ambition of the narrative exceeds most of the other one-shots in the book even. However, this story was missing a big emotional core, hooking readers in the middle section. The title has a fantastic energy perfectly capitalized all the way through the story, which should serve to keep readers interested all the way through the book.
Paolo Villanelli fits into the classic Ms. Marvel style extremely well, drawing clear figures and strong facial expressions. Some of the background details in the book can be minimal, but the strong poses and attention to the setting make up for this minor shortcoming. There are even a couple pages with insane layouts like the page where Ms. Marvel is sucked into the Vanishing Point and another page where she tries to figure out just where she is. With the older costumes for Ms. Marvel, this issue intentionally hits an odd classic note that features a harsh tonal whiplash–Villanelli makes the best of what he’s given scripting-wise for this structural oddity. The moments where the superheroes, setting and sci-fi elements begin to clash makes for a particularly insane Generations issue from both the art and scripting standpoints. While seeing Ian Herring switch up the colors for the setting of the plot is nice, there’s just a bit too much orange-tinted yellow in the book for my tastes. While this is a minor nitpick, the amount of yellow on every page is baffling here.
Trying to fit everything needed for Generations inside of an over-sized one-shot is hard, but at the end of the crossover, I worry there’s no growth for Khan in this title. The full premise of the event should have been Marvel bringing these characters to an important point in their superhero career. Past entries like The Phoenix and Wolverine issues slashed right through a dense emotional core to get some really dramatic material from the heart of the material. While not every installment of the one-shots needed the same heft, it would have been refreshing to get some new perspective or take on each Ms. Marvel readers wouldn’t have gotten otherwise. A number of positive beats are simply handed to Khan without her having to work for them are particularly disheartening. I’m not sure what the one-shot has to say about either Ms. Marvel.
This book is still one of the stronger entries into the series of one-shots and has a great setup and first couple of pages. This title is even bursting with energy right from the initial caption box. Villanelli’s pencils are breathtaking and if you are a big fan of the character this is still something which could potentially merit a purchase–I like this comic but I want to love it.
Verdict: Borrow. Generations: The Marvels #1 has beautiful art and teases an incredible premise but doesn’t have the pages or concentration to follow-through on the big ideas.
Next week is all Marvel Legacy #1. All the time.