REVIEW: Ms. Marvel #12 – “Home Sweet Home”

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MS. MARVEL #12
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Penciller: Mirka Andolfo
Colorist: Ian Herring

Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Price: $3.99

Release Date: 10/26/16

Hoping to get away from the recent events in her life and the loss of Bruno’s friendship, Kamala travels alone for the first time to visit her family in Karachi.

Plot: Kamala settles into her mother’s childhood bedroom and meets family members and friends alike, but the peace and quiet she’s looking for is soon ruptured by chaos due to the local water cartels.

As much as she would like to stay out of trouble and not call attention to Ms. Marvel, Kamala cannot stand by while others are in need. When she goes out to help, though, she learns that there’s another hero in town…

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Story: Any child of immigrants can relate to the search for belonging amidst isolation that Ms. Marvel explores in this issue. Kamala’s home has always been New Jersey, but there are plenty of times she’s treated as an outsider there. On the other hand, Karachi is her family’s home and yet she doesn’t feel she knows it nearly as well as she should. Despite not moving the overarching plot forward much, the trip to Karachi serves as a wonderful exploration of Kamala’s character and culture. Her naani‘s (maternal grandmother) advice resonates with anyone who has ever been judged by how they look or where they’re from: “Other people will look at you and see only their own shortcomings. Ignore them. You know your way around yourself – that is that matters.”

In this issue, Kamala does in fact choose to be herself when she fights members of the water cartels who have been blowing up municipal hydrants to drive up the cost of water. Only she doesn’t have her costume, doesn’t know the nuances of the enemies she’s battling, and doesn’t know that Karachi has its own vigilante in the Red Dagger. She learns a valuable lesson, which G. Willow Wilson imparts very well here: validation has to come from within. Answers to individual unrest don’t always come from other people or other places, but rather for the very person seeking to make themselves whole again.

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As a side note: a lot of the most important moments in Ms. Marvel happen in the background, well away from the actual plot. In this week’s issue, Kamala is detained for a frisk by airport security because her last name is Khan. Even though nothing traumatizing comes from it, the frustration Kamala feels is evident and the unfairness of such a procedure comes through very strongly. Kamala may be a superhero, but every day prejudice affects her just as deeply as it affects real people in their daily lives.

Art: While Mirka Andolfo’s art is of course different from what we’ve come to expect with Ms. Marvel, Kamala remains recognizable and her expressions are captured perfectly. This was the perfect issue to introduce Mirka given that Kamala herself is experience the feelings of being the same and yet not. Of c0urse, Ian Herring’s colors provide a sense of stability that ties the book together. The two of them help bring Karachi to life, even in panels that show only its landscape. 

Joe Caramagna’s lettering adds a good bit of fun to the action proceedings as well, the bold red letters jumping off the page just as the bus appears about to careen off a cliff. The Ms. Marvel team are adept at handling both the introspective moments of stillness and the kinetic sequences in which there are actually villains to be fought. One of the best things about the series are that the writing and art both make sure that Kamala looks and sounds like a very realistic teenage girl. Even one who can stretch or shrink her body on a whim has growing pains which shouldn’t be skipped over.

Verdict: Ms. Marvel #12 is an excellent read even for someone who has never picked up a Kamala Khan story before. Seeing her out of her comfort zone but still somewhere she can call home helps showcase what a relatable character she is and why many consider her the face of the latest generation of comic readers.

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