Marvel’s riding high on this past weekend’s release of Captain Marvel with a brand new series for Carol’s biggest fan, Kamala Khan! The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1 marks the beginning of a new era for the character under writer Saladin Ahmed and artist Minkyu Jung, the first creators to handle Ms. Marvel in an ongoing series without the character’s creators Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona. Does the issue live up to what’s come before for Kamala? Plus, the last of the Age of X-Man tie-ins is here in the form of Apocalypse & The X-Tracts #1! Does the debut continue the event’s streak of quality comics, or is enough finally enough? Finally, we determine if Marvel has already pushed the Conan property too far with Age Of Conan: Bêlit #1. Don’t miss this week’s Marvel Rundown!
The Magnificent Ms. Marvel #1
Written by Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Minkyu Jung
Inked by Juan Vlasco
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Eduard Petrovich
Joe Grunenwald: The adventures of Kamala Khan continue with the premiere of The Magnificent Ms. Marvel! We got a glimpse of creators Saladin Ahmed and Minkyu Jung on the character last month, but this is their first full outing steering Kamala’s story. Samantha and AJ, what did you think of their debut?
Samantha Puc: There’s so much happening in this issue, but the thing that really came through for me is how much this creative team loves this character and wants to continue her legacy in a new, dynamic way without losing any of the things that made the previous run so successful.
AJ Frost: In a word: stunning. Kamala as Ms. Marvel has been thrilling to read for years now and it wouldn’t be honest of me to say there was no hesitation on my part about accepting the new creative team. G. Willow Wilson’s take is so definitive that one could compare Kamala’s inner dialogue to Wilson. But, in the end, there was nothing to fear. The new creative team did an excellent job of rendering the first part of an arc full of angst, family, humor, honor, and thrills. A nice intro from them!
Grunenwald: Agreed on all counts. I was also a bit apprehensive going into this issue, and there’s no doubt a lot of pressure on the new creative team to follow not just a definitive run but also the literal creators of the character. That said I thought Ahmed and Jung did a great job honoring what’s coming before while at the same time forging a new path forward for Kamala.
Frost: It was funny how they made this a semi-reboot, just by doing a quick play-by-play of her origin story. But once that was over with, and we got to the real heart of the issue, everything really settled into place. What I found most interesting was that this wasn’t really a book about Kamala fighting a villain, but someone much closer. Readers will feel so much sympathy from Kamala, who only wants to go out in the world and do good. But even someone with the best of intentions will find obstacles. It’s an old trope but feels pretty fresh here.
Puc: I also liked the way her origin story was rehashed, as a story being told at bedtime to a young girl far in the future. It’s a great way for new readers to pick up the issue, know what’s going on, and then dive right in without having ever picked up a Kamala comic before. This issue was also seriously emotional. Like AJ said, Kamala isn’t just fighting a villain here, but dealing with something much more serious.
Grunenwald: To be honest, I wonder how much of what we saw in this issue is going to ‘stick’ given the cliffhanger at the end. Even if it doesn’t and things go back to normal, though, Kamala will still have experienced it and likely be changed as a result. It’s heavy stuff.
Frost: It was emotional, Sam. It was nice to explore the tension and intersection of Kamala’s culture, family, and mission all pulling her in different directions. Which one is she most loyal to? Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose, as they say, Joe. Even if things go back to normal, it will have been an exciting ride. And we’re only at part one!
Grunenwald: Exactly! I hope they do stick, as I think that’s an interesting predicament for the character to be in, but I won’t be disappointed if the status quo reverts at the end. And I absolutely agree with you, Sam, about how great the narrative structure was. It served to highlight how superheroes who can seem like larger-than-life gods can also, in the right hands, be entirely human. How did you feel about Minkyu Jung’s art?
Frost: Only have positive things to say about it. It felt right at home with the Ms. Marvel tone. I’ve always felt that the art of these books is slightly tweaked from your typical Marvel comic. I was heartened that Jung’s art stayed much in the same vein.
Puc: I really liked Jung’s art! And it was great to see Ian Herring’s color work again. The colors in the original series were so striking and iconic that I think I’d be more hesitant with a whole new colorist on board, as well.
Grunenwald: I was also glad that Herring stuck around on colors. Between he and Joe Caramagna’s lettering, there was definitely a visual continuity between the creative teams.
Frost: Agreed! The colorist is usually the unsung hero for these books!
Puc: It was also great to see characters we’re familiar with repopulating Kamala’s world, rather than a full reboot of her story.
Frost: Looking forward to a reappearance from my guy, Naftali. Hope he shows up soon!
Grunenwald: Her supporting cast is absolutely key to the character. It wouldn’t have felt like a Ms. Marvel comic without them. Is there anything else you want to add before we get to our verdicts?
Frost: It’s always nice seeing superheroes battle interplanetary foes, but way more interesting to see them fight personal demons. I think this book does that really well.
Grunenwald: I really loved that the conflicts throughout the issue were smaller in scale. Kamala’s always been, in my mind, more of a local hero who sometimes gets caught up in big things, kind of like Spider-Man. It was great to see that on display in this story.
Frost: Totally. And because of that display, I would give this book a BUY!
Puc: Agreed. The fact that Kamala is given space to breathe and live a life outside of her heroics is great and it’s so key to her development as a character. I’m very excited about this new series and I feel like the character is in perfect hands. This is absolutely a BUY.
Grunenwald: This is a compelling first issue that clearly lays out who Ms. Marvel is and what makes her great, and I can’t wait to read more of it. It’s a BUY for me as well.
Final Verdict: A unanimous Marvel Rundown BUY!
Age Of X-Man: Apocalypse And The X-Tracts #1
Written by Tim Seeley
Illustrated by Salvador Espin
Inked by Juan Vlasco
Colored by Israel Silva
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by Gerardo Sandoval and Israel Silva
Alexander Jones: Joe, Age of X-Man continues this week with Age of X-Man: Apocalypse and the X-Tracts #1. Was this the issue that lost you in the Age of X-Man crossover, or did you find the beauty in Apocalypse and his oddball band of misfit mutants?
Joe Grunenwald: We’re six tie-ins deep on Age of X-Man, and I think maybe at this point all the set-up is beginning to wear thin. I wouldn’t say this one lost me, but I didn’t find it to be as strong as the others, even though there were elements I really liked. What did you think?
Jones: I’m finding it more difficult to detach this end of the event from that end of the event the more time goes by. I will point out that some of the flaws in this issue stand out in different ways from the rest of the tie-ins. Also, I should point out that, similar to last week’s Age of X-Man: Prisoner X #1, this really had the potential to stand out from the rest of the crossover and be something much different. Writer Tim Seeley was trying to evoke a really odd tone in the comic and failed in a dry manner.
Grunenwald: One of the things I actually very much enjoyed about this issue was the sort of ‘throwback’ tone Seeley took, and the way artist Salva Espin wove in visual elements of ’60s counterculture. I also found Seeley’s characterization and the motivations for each character to be really strong.
Jones: I have a hard time enjoying the visual elements of the issue because I think the linework was executed so poorly. There are certain panels and moments where I think the work should not be published by the Big Two. However, I also realize that I have a slight bias against this particular artwork. That being said, I doubt the art is going to be a major selling point for much if any readers going into the issue for the first time.
Grunenwald: The artwork overall was fine for me. I agree that it wouldn’t have been enough to get me to pick up the book cold, but it served the script and the story well. I don’t know if the characters in the opening pages of the issue are pre-existing or not, but I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them just based on their visuals. I’ll never object to a humanoid with a horse head, though. I especially liked the brighter palette that colorist Israel Silva used throughout the issue. The colors went a long way towards giving the book a sort of psychedelic feel.
Jones: I have a hard time believing that some of the characters in the issue would be acting like this. I also think the premise of the comic book itself is a little hokey and that some of the aesthetics serve more as window dressing and don’t get the point of the issue across in an interesting manner. I found a large chunk of the issue to just be flat-out uninspired from the writing to the art. Some of the worst moments for me involved Apocalypse’s dry dialogue. The issue lost my interest fairly quickly and never picked it back up again.
Grunenwald: These are alternate versions of the characters we’re used to, so of course they’re not going to act the way we would expect them to. That’s the whole point. If you’re not on board with the premise, though, that’s a hard hurdle to overcome. Was there anything that worked for you?
Jones: There are enough moments where Kid Apocalypse is delightful enough that he kept me interested in his story throughout the issue. The best moment for me was when the team got together for the first time. I also felt like this moment was a little cheesy if not endearing. This kind of loops me around to the end of the issue which had a dark tone that I didn’t feel suited the story particularly well. In a book that has such a light tone, I felt that going dark without much context during the cliffhanger scene was a weak aspect of the script.
Grunenwald: I also enjoyed the team’s first full gathering. It was cheesy, but it still worked for me. I feel like the actual cliffhanger for this issue came at the end of the Age of X-Man: Alpha one-shot. That telepathic message is really the big moment for En Sabah Nur and his group that I feel like we’ll see play out over the next few issues. On the one hand, I’m glad that Seeley and co. didn’t just repeat that ending; on the other hand, I agree with you that the ending we got didn’t quite fit the tone of the rest of the issue.
Jones: I forgot about that. If this series is where Nate starts fighting Apocalypse I’m definitely interested in what happens next. The telepathic aspect of the story was also slightly intriguing. I feel there is a bit of a missed opportunity here in not having a little cameo from Nate or some of the remaining X-Men characters. If something doesn’t happen soon in this comic it faces the danger of being just another Age of X-Man tie-in.
Grunenwald: It’d be great to see Nate show up in future issues. Any other final thoughts before we render our verdicts?
Jones: My thoughts are empty. No more thoughts. This is not the subversive Age of X-Man crossover book you are looking for. SKIP.
Grunenwald: I agree it’s not quite as subversive as it could have been, but I still thought it had some great elements. If you’ve been following Age of X-Man all along you won’t want to miss it; if you’re casually dipping in and out of the event, I’d give this one a BROWSE.
Final Verdict: Joe says BROWSE, Alexander says SKIP!
Age Of Conan: Bêlit #1
Written by Tini Howard
Illustrated by Kate Niemczyk
Colored by Jason Keith
Lettered by VC’s Travis Lanham
Cover by Sana Takeda
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
Age of Conan: Bêlit #1 is a decidedly grim comic book narrative that still manages to capture some of the intrigue and splendor within the character. Readers get an origin story for Bêlit as author Tini Howard digs into the psyche of what makes the character stand out. The answers are fairly dour and fall within some of the tragic cliches of the heroic narrative. We see Bêlit undergo a great tragedy and watch her make a really important decision which will seemingly have strong effects on her characterization in the years to come. Howard’s depiction of Bêlit and willingness to drag the character through a personal hell keep the issue tragic and fascinating throughout the run-time of the comic. Bêlit has a fair amount of ambition and readers start to see how she became the woman she is today. Readers will likely empathize with the character but also be taken aback by some of the choices Bêlit makes throughout the script.
The tone of Bêlit is just right with Howard truly willing to make the concept as dark as it needs to be. The devil of the script is in the details. The crux of the issue is Bêlit’s relationship with her father. The issue takes several twists and turns throughout their relationship that has a pretty solid payoff at the end. The book starts to stumble when Bêlit and her father begin to splinter off away from each other. Bêlit’s interactions with the pirates and some of the remaining cast members of the book fails to truly intrigue like her harrowing relationship with her dad.
Kate Niemczyk’s artwork is truly special. Her more simplistic art style is a harsh juxtaposition against what is actually on the page. Bêlit has an astoundingly dark art style yet Niemczyk captures some of the awful emotional moments with the right level of irony and compassion. In every panel, characters are emoting and have an interesting expression across their faces. Some of the layouts for the issue can be dull, and it would be excellent to see Niemczyk experiment with the full scope of what the medium of comics can do. Overall, the artwork enhances the nature of the story and give readers a reason to invest in the property aside from the interesting writing.
Age Of Conan: Bêlit #1 is at its best when the title focuses in on Bêlit and her father. The issue isn’t all about her family ties and begins to lose steam because of it. Overall the issue is memorable in how it portrays the character of Bêlit and depicts her shortcomings as a character. The Conan line thus far has been a spoil of riches and while Age Of Conan: Bêlit #1 isn’t perfect by any means, it is a solid addition to the line with truly beautiful artwork.
Final Verdict: BROWSE. Age Of Conan: Bêlit #1 is a surprisingly beautiful depiction of Bêlit’s fractured mind.
Next week, Chip Zdarsky and Mark Bagley present the life story of Spider-Man!