Since the character’s introduction in 2014, writer and character co-creator G. Willow Wilson has shaped the adventures of Ms. Marvel alongside a wide stable of artistic collaborators including Adrian Alphona and Nico Leon. This week, Wilson and an all-star team of writers and artists celebrate Kamala Khan’s fifth anniversary, and bring Wilson’s acclaimed run on the series to a close! We’ve got a discussion of the celebratory issue, as well as looks at the debut of the weekly event title Avengers: No Road Home, the next installment in the Age of X-Man saga, NextGen, and the first post-Spider-Geddon issue of Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider. Don’t miss this week’s Marvel Rundown!
Ms. Marvel #38
Written by G. Willow Wilson, Devin Grayson, Eve L. Ewing, Jim Zub and Saladin Ahmed
Illustrated by Nico Leon, Takeshi Miyazawa, Joey Vazquez, Kevin Libranda, Minkyu Jung & Juan Vlasco, and Ian Herring
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Sara Pichelli & Justin Ponsor
Joe Grunenwald: Ms. Marvel #38 marks Kamala Khan’s fifth anniversary. It also concludes G. Willow Wilson’s run on the character she co-created. AJ, did you find this issue to be a fitting celebration of Kamala and send-off for Wilson?
AJ Frost: It’s been so strange: who would have thought that a Muslim teenager from New Jersey would win over so many hearts? But she did. And from the start, Kamala really has been an amazing character. She’s been such a great role model, a dynamic presence in the Marvel pantheon, and the face of a new generation of superheroes. Wilson’s writing has been up the level to make this take on Ms. Marvel iconic. This issue, like Erica Henderson’s send-off from Squirrel Girl last year, really encapsulates all the goodness of the character and displays that, yes, these characters are corporate products, they also have the capability of being aspirational figures. And I thought this was really on display here.
Grunenwald: Agreed – I think this issue encapsulated what makes Ms. Marvel such a great character, and the strength of the foundation that Wilson has created for her. The structure of the story was clever and played nicely on the strengths of Kamala’s personality and her relationship with her friends. It also made the transitions between the different creative teams completely seamless.
Frost: For sure, Joe. I was somewhat disappointed that the Naftali character wasn’t included in this issue because his little arc last year was really delightful. But this is a minor quibble. The differing art styles were so well done and seeing Kamala go through them with all the angst of a teenager and come out for the better was really heartwarming. What did you think of Kamala’s journey?
Grunenwald: I appreciated how each ‘mission’ helped Kamala either seemingly resolved an outstanding issue or otherwise highlighted her friendship with a different friend of hers. The conclusion of the story was a nice moment for all of them. It can be easy to forget, what with the superheroics and the Inhuman powers, that Kamala and her friends are all very young compared to most other heroes and their supporting casts, and to see them struggle interpersonally and come through stronger for it was really enjoyable. Was there any particular ‘mission’ you enjoyed over the others?
Frost: All the escapades were so well done so it’s hard to choose a favorite. But anytime Kamala and her friends are in that weird medieval Battlworld land… those made me laugh the hardest for sure in their pure ridiculousness. A nice diversity of styles, all clashing yet still working together!
Grunenwald: I particularly enjoyed the look and colors of the 8-bit level with the floating platforms. The coloring by Ian Herring throughout is fantastic. His work goes a long way towards creating cohesion between the five different art teams on this issue.
Frost: That part was fun! Although, to be honest, and this could just because of the pre-release copy, that section looked a little distorted. Almost more like an 8-bit quilt than a TV screen. But I digress… The differing palettes and varying aesthetics really highlighted the meta-quality of Ms. Marvel. Namely, that it’s the diversity of the storytelling that is the book’s most potent strength.
Grunenwald: I want to mention Nico Leon’s work on this issue, and on Ms. Marvel in general, as well. Wilson’s scripts have set the tone for Kamala and her world, but Leon’s art has brought it all to life with a style that’s not particularly flashy but always excellent. His figures are dynamic and expressive, and his page layouts are flawless, from the spread of Kamala getting ready in the morning to the page of Kamala greeting her neighbors. He and Herring have created a visual feel for Kamala and her world that will be hard to follow for the oncoming art team.
Frost: Couldn’t agree more. Ms. Marvel has always had one of Marvel’s most distinctive looks.
Grunenwald: Are we ready to render a verdict on this one?
Frost: I think so. This one is a BUY from me. Willow’s Ms. Marvel run will certainly be one of the history books and one that people will turn to as–probably–the definitive run.
Grunenwald: It’s a BUY for me as well. This is a great standalone showcase for Kamala, and an excellent tribute to the work that G. Willow Wilson has done with the character.
Final Verdict: AJ and Joe both give the final issue of Ms. Marvel a BUY!
Avengers: No Road Home #1
Written by Mark Waid, Al Ewing, and Jim Zub
Pencilled by Paco Medina
Inked by Juan Vlasco
Colored by Jesus Aburtov
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit
Cover by Yasmine Putri
Reviewed by Alexander Jones
The weekly Avengers: No Surrender event was an unprecedented success from Marvel last year. The property proved the publisher could sustain a rapid shipping schedule thanks to a team of writers and artists contributing to the story. Now Marvel is asking if the returning creative team can strike gold twice and launch a sequel with Avengers: No Road Home. The issue quickly introduces familiar elements from the last storyline while establishing what makes this story new. Readers get to see Voyager from the last series, but the focus on Olympus is a prominent new direction for the story.
Thankfully, the art of Paco Medina is another aspect returning from the previous series. Medina’s clean line work and interpretation of the heroes are rendered with lots of personalities. A scene with Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye was really well written and Medina captures enough facial expressions and body language to make the moment feel unique. Medina also does a good job keeping the action fluid and smooth when the different heroes start to coalesce and bleed into each other’s storylines. We also get a chance to see the gods of Olympus depicted by Medina, who does an excellent job designing and crafting the visual direction for the characters.
The writing team of Al Ewing, Mark Waid and Jim Zub is back for the series. Similar to the previous event, it is great for Marvel to return focusing on the continuity from the core Marvel Universe with a focus on what makes the different heroes in the story unique. The aforementioned scene with Hawkeye and the Scarlet Witch pays close attention to continuity and truly does feel like a meeting between two friends who are catching up with each other. Hawkeye’s references for his recent adventures with the West Coast Avengers is another incredibly endearing aspect of the narrative.
The debut entry into the series carries great energy but the conflict in the issue isn’t incredibly well established by the end of the script. Ewing, Zub and Waid introduce an antagonist who hasn’t been very well-established. Thankfully, the rapid shipping schedule of the title means that we are going to get a resolution to the cliffhanger almost as quickly as I can finish typing this sentence. The writing staff has also smartly slimmed down the roster of heroes, choosing some Avengers mainstays like Scarlet Witch, Hawkeye and Hercules while including some oddballs like Rocket Raccoon and Voyager.
For being a weekly event series, Avengers: No Road Home covers a lot of ground. The series sets up some new heroes, starts fleshing out the base conflict of Hercules with a really exciting personality from the script and art direction. Each cast member is cracking jokes and slowly advancing their relationships with each other. It is interesting to get a series that covers ground with the name Avengers that feels incredibly distinct from the core Avengers title. This debut marks an interesting turning point for the franchise and I hope each member of the writing staff can make each script feel distinct and fluid. Medina’s art is another major selling point of the title as a whole and a great reason to check back on the series week in and week out. Huge Avengers fans will not be disappointed by this frenetic sequel series supplanting a sophomore slump!
Final Verdict: Avengers: No Road Home #1 is a STRONG BROWSE!
Age Of X-Man: NextGen #1
Written by Ed Brisson
Illustrated by Marcus To
Colored by Jason Keith
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Chris Bachalo
Alexander Jones: AJ, Samantha, class is in session for Marvel’s newest school of mutants. Was the script from Ed Brisson up to par from the rest of the surprisingly good Age of X-Man. Did the artwork from Marcus To live up to X-Cellent cover from seasoned X-Men veteran Chris Bachalo? What were your overall first impressions?
Joe Grunenwald: Nextgen, to me, is where the rubber meets the road for the Age of X-Man event. We’ve had two solid issues written by the same creative team, and now we get to see if someone else can continue that streak. Overall I thought this issue was decent if not quite as exciting as its predecessors.
Samantha Puc: I’ve really enjoyed all of the inaugural issues for the Age of X-Man mini-series, including this one. This is the first one where it feels like the puzzle pieces are starting to come together and Ed Brisson’s script pulls in bits of Alpha and Marvelous X-Men in a way that feels organic, but also holds a lot of surprises. The stakes are definitely getting higher and I loved the pacing of this issue. Also, that ending! I almost screamed at the tension there. Marcus To’s art is also stunning in this issue and I especially loved Jason Keith’s use of color. These creative teams are doing something really special and it’s clear that their hearts are in these issues, completely.
Grunenwald: Brisson does some fine world-building, establishing the structure of and the student dynamics within the Summers Institute. I’ve always sort of wondered what the curriculum is like at Xavier’s, so it’s cool to see it defined so clearly here.
Puc: The structuring of the class schedule is also really cool, with dialogue connecting each lesson.
Jones: The narrative definitely follows the template that the other series had used up to this point. This issue actually holds a quite a lot in common with Age of X-Man: The Marvelous X-Men #1. Getting the younger perspective on the series and seeing the way that the official X-Men interwove with the younger cast was also interesting. This book felt like a really strong spiritual successor to titles like Wolverine and the X-Men.
Puc: I agree that this issue felt like a successor to Wolverine and the X-Men and even some arcs of New X-Men. Seeing Glob Hermann, in particular, take on such a seemingly important role in this issue got me really excited, because he’s a character we don’t often see in the spotlight.
Grunenwald: I enjoy Glob, and I’m interested to see where the cliffhanger of the issue goes, even if in the back of my mind I fear it’s a fakeout. I think Alex’s point about the story following the template of its predecessors is where I bump on this issue. The narrative felt, if not exactly formulaic, but definitely similar enough to what went on in last week’s Marvelous X-Men that it gave me pause. With the number of tie-ins that this event has there’s bound to be some repetition, though.
Jones: Thanks to the personality from the younger mutants, I don’t think the structure bothered me like it did you, Joe. Readers already get a tease at some of the other important X-Men cast members before the various teachers start introducing themselves. Age of X-Man is an intricately complex world and we need to know get to know the remaining cast members before Brisson can really start telling a narrative. Readers are introduced to the various teachers and concepts without too much dialogue. The cliffhanger was a little formulaic and dull.
Puc: Totally respect where both of you are coming from, but I’m still excited to see where this goes — and admittedly, a lot of that comes from my eagerness to get to the next few series, because they’re written by creators whose individual takes on the X-Men are fascinating to me.
Grunenwald: To clarify, I didn’t think the introduction of the characters or the curriculum was formulaic; it was more the introduction of the ‘something is wrong/off about this world’ element that bumped with me. I know that this world that Nate has created will eventually fail, and I’m sure the way that we get there will be different across the different titles, but that initial ‘character A realizes that there’s more going on than it appears’ bit felt a little formulaic to me. And I agree with Sam—I’m excited to see what happens next for these characters.
Puc: When I interviewed Leah Williams a few months back, she couldn’t say much about the Age of X-Man minis, but she did say it’s like “the coffeeshop AU” of the X-Men, which I think, so far, is accurate… In some ways, the realization that something is afoot reminds me of films like The Truman Show and even Pleasantville. It’s a trope I enjoy, especially when it’s executed well, which I think it is here.
Jones: I agree with Joe, adding something to the narrative besides ‘there is something off about the world’ definitely would have made for a better comic book. It would have been great to see these characters go up against a villain or explore an unrelated part of the world. Like how can this narrative flesh out something interesting beyond the initial premise of the event? Also, I think Marcus To is a great creator to follow up the first couple chapters of Age of X-Man following up creators like Marco Failla. The event bears a surprisingly cohesive art direction.
Grunenwald: I think maybe what I want to see from one of these books is a normal day in the life. Marvelous X-Men is the closest to that so far. Establish the baseline fully before you tear it all down. Maybe I just like boring comics, though. I did find Marcus To’s lineart on this issue really solid. He was born to draw realistic-looking teenaged characters.
Puc: I have to disagree on one point, Alex — I think this issue does establish a villain: Nate, and those who have established this “perfect world” where all love is outlawed. I’m so into the idea of exploring a world where Magneto was right and mutants are the norm, but this isn’t that and the flaws are becoming really obvious to those who have critical thinking skills within this universe. Perhaps that fight is more conceptual than, say, a fight against Cassandra Nova, but it’s still one that these kids are invested in, and rightly so.
Jones: I agree with you, but Nate has already been established as the villain in the previous tie-ins and does not have a direct presence in the script. It is interesting to think about how this issue may not work outside of the context of the event when you detach the script from the overall ‘Age of X-Man’ event. The comic feels accessible enough, but may not actually be new reader friendly. I do want to expand on To and add that the script from Brisson seems suited to his strengths as a creator. I really liked the expressions and the way Glob was emoting throughout the comic. The ensemble cast was also charming and really well rendered from Bling to Rockslide. These new X-Men characters are incredibly great and Marvel should have a regular home for them outside of an event mini-series.
Grunenwald: Who do I have to talk to about getting an ongoing series for Shark-Girl, the girl with a shark head? I don’t know if she existed before this or not but the simplicity of it is wonderful.
Jones: Joe I’m going to defer you to X-Men Senior Editor Jordan White on that one. Also, Shark-Girl is from 2013’s Wolverine and the X-Men #20. That series is incredibly influential to the Marvel Universe and a high point for Jason Aaron and Nick Bradshaw.
Grunenwald: The more I know!
Puc: Love Wolverine and the X-Men. Anyway, I have to agree re: Marcus To’s art in this issue. It’s super clean and fits into the overall mood of this entire event, while also incorporating some truly fantastic facial expressions. So much of the story takes place outside of the dialogue, which To captures really well.
Grunenwald: I want to call out To and colorist Jason Keith’s background work. The settings throughout this issue feel fully formed and well thought-out. The design of the different learning spaces at the Summers Institute in particular strike me as well done. Each classroom reflects the subject matter being taught in that space extremely well. Even if you didn’t know what the subjects were, you could probably guess based just on the classroom design.
Jones: That’s a great observation Joe. There are a few backgrounds that are still a little dull, especially that lunchroom scene. The bright costumes and outfits from characters like Glob and Bling are fun to look at. I also like how the color palette in the last couple pages got a little warmer and culminated in literal fire. Joe, Samantha, are you ready to deliver a final verdict to Age of X-Man: NextGen #1?
Puc: This is a BUY from me. Since the Age of X-Man minis exist outside of regular canon, they’re a fun romp for mutant fans and for new readers, alike.
Grunenwald: NextGen is another solid entry for the Age of X-Man event. The structure may feel familiar for those who’ve read the event’s previous issues, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I’m giving this one a STRONG BROWSE.
Jones: This one is really, really close to a buy, but I don’t find it essential and also don’t think it quite established a strong enough tone outside of the core Age of X-Man crossover. I’m going with a STRONG BROWSE on this one and hope that the other tie-ins start introducing a different direction. I continue to be flabbergasted by how great this whole event is up to this point but definitely want to see the stakes and world beyond Nate Grey.
Final Verdict: Samantha says BUY, while Alexander and Joe both say STRONG BROWSE!
Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #5
Written by Seanan McGuire
Illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa
Colored by Ian Herring
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover by Bengal
Reviewed by Samantha Puc
Oh, Gwen. After the devastating events of Spider-Geddon, Gwen Stacy has a lot of grieving to do, but she recognizes that some things can only be healed with time. In the interim, she has a band, friends and a dad who need her, not to mention all the civilians of New York City. In Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #5, we get a slice of Gwen’s life and the set-up for what’s to come as she struggles to maintain normality even after revealing her secret identity.
Seanan McGuire continues to nail Gwen’s voice in this series, while also giving the character plenty of time to breathe even as she’s doing her superhero thing. Gwen has so much to unpack and she’s given the opportunity to do that, even as she’s expected to keep up with her superhero duties and attempt to live some semblance of a life outside of that. I am so grateful to McGuire for her attention to detail on Gwen’s grieving process, as well as how she makes her characters deal with events as they happen, rather than just going through the motions.
Takeshi Miyazawa’s art is incredibly dynamic in this issue, with panels almost literally popping off the page. Ian Herring’s color work is resplendent as well. I was especially tickled by the panels featuring Gwen’s symbiote and the ones that show her costume changes piece by piece. The ebb and flow of the art in this issue was flawless, moving from action sequences to dinner dates and back again.
It’s clear from the end of Spider-Gwen: Ghost-Spider #5 that Gwen won’t have much time to catch her breath before she’s the target of yet another Big Bad trying to take her down, but this issue did a beautiful job of showcasing just how strong her support system is. It may be true that only Gwen can travel between dimensions now, but making it near-impossible for her to see the spider-people she’s come to know and love, but her human loved ones in Earth-65 are pretty great, too.
I continue to be impressed by this series and hope that McGuire will continue to write Spider-Gwen for a long, long time. I also hope Miyazawa and Herring continue to work with McGuire, because the world-building is stunning and I truly cannot get enough.
Final verdict: BUY.
Next week: HULKVERINES!