Ms. Marvel: Generation Why

Generation Why, the second arc of the new Ms. Marvel series, continues to build the momentum of that unlikely hit.

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As Generation Why opens, Kamala Khan is patrolling the streets of Jersey City, combatting the robots The Inventor has deployed to smoke her out. Kamala journeys into the city’s sewers where she encounters multiple surprises. First, she gets her first look at The Inventor (via hologram) and learns he’s a clone of Thomas Edison spliced with the DNA of a cockatiel. Next, she fights the robo-alligators The Inventor has unleashed in the sewers. But best of all (from Kamala’s perspective): she encounters none other than Wolverine.

Kamala struggles with her fangirl impulses as she teams up with Wolverine, who’s on the trail of a student who went missing en route to his school. The duo fights its way through The Inventor’s many death traps and Wolverine takes the opportunity to bestow some quality mentoring on the neophyte heroine. Wolverine also twigs to the fact that the new Ms. Marvel is one of the New Inhumans. He doesn’t tell Kamala that, but does alert Medusa, the Inhuman Queen.

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Realizing that Ms. Marvel won’t decamp to Attilan, Medusa instead dispatches the canine Inhuman teleporter Lockjaw to keep an eye on her. Kamala and Lockjaw bond immediately and she brings him home, to the bewildered consternation of her family. Kamala has more encounters with The Inventor’s destructive robots, unwittingly leading one to her school, where it wreaks havoc. Kamala panics that her powers seem to be working differently, but manages to overcome the robot. Medusa and Lockjaw arrive and whisk an injured Kamala and her pal Bruno back to Attilan.

Kamala begins to learn about her Inhuman heritage, but declines to stay in Attilan. She returns to The Inventor’s safe house with the aim of liberating what she believes are his teenaged captives, only to find the situation is quite different from what she expected. Kamala rallies the teens to her side as The Inventor attacks and kidnaps Lockjaw. Kamala and The Inventor have a climactic showdown where she learns his true purpose for the missing teens. She also learns some valuable lessons about responsibility, even coming to an accord with the local police.

Generation Why is a slightly different affair than the first Ms. Marvel arc. In No Normal, writer G. Willow Wilson had to establish both Kamala’s superhero origin and build out her corner of the world, with a lot of focus on Kamala’s family and friends. Generation Why is more about locating Kamala’s territory in the greater Marvel Universe. The book was always rooted in Marvel lore (from Kamala’s Avengers fandom to her powers being rooted in the Infinity event), but the new Ms. Marvel needs to find her place in the wider world. Her family and friends still figure into the action, but the “hero” part of the “teenage hero” equation is at the fore in Generation Why. That means her first major villain battle, her first superhero team-up and beginning to learn her heritage and how she ties into Marvel’s mythos.

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Wolverine was a smart choice for Generation Why. The character has a long history of shepherding the growth of young heroines and Wilson deploys him quite effectively to that end. She has a good feel for the “recent vintage” of the character and plays Wolverine and Kamala off one another in entertaining ways. Kamala’s struggling to keep her fandom in check is realistic and endearing and Wilson puts a fresh spin on the “young hero learning the ropes” plot.

The fight with The Inventor is handled really well. That character is a great example of the unfettered imagination that Wilson brings to the book. It’s a chance to explore some ideas about generational conflict and the state of the world in the context of some outlandish comic book action. The dialogue can be earnest, but it works, because Wilson has established a sincere, big-hearted tone for the book that supports it. Generation Why does a strong job of documenting Kamala’s growing pains as a young hero and a young woman, showing both her successes and her mistakes. It’s gratifying that Kamala isn’t instantly good at being a superhero just because she discovered powers. Kamala’s interactions with the Inhumans and the dawning of her exploration of that part of her history are also well handled. When you strip out the sci fi elements, Kamala’s learning curve could apply to what most young people go through as they find their places in the world. It’s a great example of Wilson’s facility for finding the universal truth in a very specific set-up and extrapolating it in a relatable, entertaining way.

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Jacob Wyatt handles the two-part Wolverine team-up and maintains the high standards Ms. Marvel has set for imaginative art. Wyatt has a similar aesthetic to founding artist Adrian Alphona, turning in bright, imaginative pages with an appealing cartoonish feel that’s a great fit for Wilson’s stories. A full page spread that follows Kamala and Wolverine climbing through the levels of a sewer is especially well done. Alphona returns for the remainder of Generation Why and continues to turn in lush, warm, detail-packed work. His Asian-influenced style remains a perfect fit for the wild imagination of the plots. His spreads of outlandish robots, funky aircraft and The Inventor’s macabre machines pop off the page. Colorist Ian Herring is a crucial collaborator, wrapping the images in warm, muted tones that give everything a bright, glowing sheen. It’s beautiful work that fits the story perfectly.

Generation Why proves why the new Ms. Marvel continues to impress and attract devoted fans. Read No Normal first, but absolutely don’t miss this.

Originally published at on March 20, 2015.

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