I was excited for Ms. Marvel from the moment it was announced. I reblogged it, retweeted it, called my mother about it, chatted it up at my local comic shop. But secretly, I was more than a little certain that it would suck in all the usual ways. Sure, the cover was splashy, and sure, I was hearing good things about G. Willow Wilson. But I was girded for — and expected — twenty or so lackluster issues before cancellation.
The first issue came out, and it was good. Really good. It was bright and fun and electric with personality in every way a comic can be, from its color palette to its ending splash. Still, though, I was unconvinced — fantastic first issues have given way to mediocrity before.
But the second issue was great. And the third. And the fourth. And with the fifth issue and the first arc completed, I feel that I can finally let out the breath I've been holding and say that Ms. Marvel is truly wonderful work.
James Baldwin once described America as a "country devoted to the death of the paradox." He was right, of course. We're more comfortable seeing things in extremes, in black and white. A person from one culture or background can be instantly labeled as an upstanding citizen, exemplifying everything good about "real America." Superman is from Kansas, not San Francisco.
But if you're from another background, you can be instantly labeled as something else entirely: lazy, entitled, a thug, "Un-American." To many, there are those who fit into a certain label based on where they grew up, what school they went to, what church they attend. To think otherwise, to consider that there is more to us than blanket, largely basely assumptions, isn't as easy. And for many, it's too uncomfortable. It's too much work.
Ms. Marvel #1 stands in stark contrast to that sentiment. Written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona, each major character introduced in this first issue is a celebration and exploration of the paradox. It is a book full of characters who remind you of people you know, or people you knew. It's a book that's unique, but nonetheless familiar. It is also, by almost any measure, one of the best first issues of a superhero comic in years. And, if we're being honest, it probably needed to be.
The comic book, animation, illustration, pinup, mashup, fan art and design communities are generating amazing artwork of myriad styles and tastes, all of which ends up on the Internet and filtered into ComicsAlliance’s Best Art Ever (This Week). These images convey senses of mood and character — not to mention artistic skill — but comic books are specifically a medium of sequential narratives, and great sequential art has to be both beautiful (totally subjective!) and clear in its storytelling (not so subjective!). The words and the pictures need to work together to tell the story and create whatever tone, emotion and indeed world the story requires. The contributions of every person on a creative team, from the writer to the artist(s) to the letterers, are necessary to achieving a great page of sequential storytelling.
It is the special nature of comic books that we’re celebrating in this recurring feature: Best Sequential Art Ever (This Week).
Next month Marvel will release the much anticipated Ms. Marvel #1, the new series from creators G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, and edited by Sana Amanat. It is a rarity in the industry: you can practically count on one hand the number of titles published at Marvel and DC combined that have starred a woman of color. Further, the new Ms. Marvel -- Kamala Khan -- is a Muslim Pakistani-American teenager, the first Muslim character to star in a monthly solo series at Marvel. As such, the title has received significant attention, and rightfully so; it's obviously early in the year, but it's no stretch to say that this may be the most important comic published in 2014.
And if not the most important, so far I'd say it's the most anticipated. Before the first issue has even hit stands, it has already received the type of media attention seldom afforded a super hero comic, and that type of attention breeds curiosity. With that in mind, Amanat has set up the Ms. Marvel tumblr, which gives people looking forward to the title a peek behind the curtain at the process of putting the book together, as well as explaining a few things you may have missed.
Marvel's occasional Point One specials are one-shot comics compiling short stories designed to provide clues to or otherwise tease Marvel Universe events to take place in the months or years to come. Sometimes these events turn out to be capital-E Events, sometimes they're new series. In every case, the Point One books feel maddeningly incomplete but do the job of building anticipation among fans of the characters and creators involved. Based on the preview images released by Marvel on Wednesday, this year's is likely no exception.
With "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz" and "The Marvelous Land of Oz" under their belts, the Eisner Award-winning team of writer Eric Shanower and artist Skottie Young are poised to let loose their third of 14 possible L
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