And whilst a lot of other stories interest me, it seems that books like Morning Glories and the subject of this post grab my attention more than most. It could just be the writing, both Nick Spencer and Rick Remender are excellent writers, or the art, which is exceptional in different ways in each book, but I feel it is more than that.
Nobody has the super strength of Superman. No one can summon lightening like Thor. But everyone went to school at some point, and that makes the comics relatable. Deadly Class is about a school for assassins, and whilst I’ve never had lessons quite like the characters here do, the scene that is set is one that is utterly relatable.
And, to quote the introduction to the first volume, it portrays one hell of an acid trip.
First off, let me give you some background in case you do not know who Kamala Khan is. Kamala is the current Ms Marvel, the 4th character to take the title, she is a geeky teenager from New Jersey, who is most interested in pursuing her fun gaming life style and writing her fan fictions about the marvel superheroes. But things change for Kamala when she sneaks out of her house to go to a party and accidentally gets exposed to the spreading terrigen mist (explained in Infinity). After being exposed Kamala is rendered unconscious, when she awakes she finds that her body has been changing (not like that) and she is now… a young Carol Danvers in her warbird costume.
Before she has much time to address this, she hears one of the party goers calling for help and rushes to help them, where she uses her new power to save her. Kamala’s new powers allow her to manipulate her body; growing, stretching, shrinking etc. and the ability to change her general appearance. Upon returning home she finds herself returned to normal, and from this point on she is on a journey of discovering how her powers work, meeting her idols and becoming the perfect new hero for young people to look up to.
OK, backstory over. So Kamala is a young hero, but there are also characters like the new Nova, Sam Alexander, and heck even Miles Morales why aren’t you calling them the new Spider-Man? After all Miles literally is. Well that is because I feel Kamala quickly touches onto a subject that is very important for young readers and that is a feeling of disconnect from society. One thing I have specifically not brought up yet about Kamala is that she is a Muslim superhero, the first to star in her own title, and as such works as a good model for a group that has been made to feel derided by society and that they don’t positively contribute. And this very thing was very important in writer G. Willow Wilson’s mind when coming up with the character, she gave an excellent Ted talk which I advise you all to watch. As she explains growing up now feels very different: in the past it was a time of excitement and ingenuity where anyone could go on to do great things. But this generation are almost encouraged to think the opposite, the future is bleak and we are a good for nothing generation, who think nothing of anything but ourselves, things that can make you feel guilty for living. But Kamala wants to give hope, that even if you are different you can contribute and whatever people they tell you, you fight through it, to be who you dream you can be.
The most shining example of Kamala talking to her young audience comes from her second volume of her first run, Generation Why. This volume mostly tackles her fight against The Inventor, a giant cockatiel who is an imperfect clone of Thomas Edison… OK, you have to just let a few things slide in Comic books.
Soon after this encounter she discovers that he has been kidnapping teenagers to use as power sources for his machines… Again, comic logic. Of course, she tries to rescue them, and succeeds, but only to learn that they did not actually want to be saved. The teens have come to believe that this is the way they can be most useful, to just stop being around and use them for power. And this is where Kamala gives her speech to them that if we accept that we are a waste of space then what future can we fight for and while the world is in a difficult situation we have to keep living or what’s the point in saving it.
Ms Marvel #10, by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
Ms Marvel #10, by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
Ms Marvel #10, by G. Willow Wilson & Adrian Alphona
Like how Spider-Man was in the 60s, representing the average teenager that is what Ms Marvel is doing now for the modern generation. And this is why I give her the distinction of being the modern age equivalent of what Spider-Man originally was. Personally, when I first saw Ms Marvel I was sceptical. It felt like it would end up being a preachy series, and I wasn’t too interested, but I am glad that I was wrong. The series is a very fun and charming read and I personally recommend them to everyone, the series continues to be one of my favourites from Marvel.
Currently Ms Marvel is an Avenger and on tony Stark’s side in the ongoing Civil War II. She is also in a bit of a love triangle (which she denies) with Sam Alexander and Miles Morales, who knows how that will play out (#TeamMiles). At any rate Ms Marvel looks set to continue great stories for some time to come and I really recommend that you all check her out (I will lend you the comics!).
No? Well, it’s true! Captain America had to dare her to take up the name after she had changed her costume to one similar to the previous Captain Marvel’s, Mar-Vell. She didn’t want to steal his name, but he argued it was a title, and an honour that had already passed onto her. However, it took him taunting her that she couldn’t handle it (and a trip into space) before she actually agreed to take the name.
Interestingly, Carol had thought about it very recently, in a Secret Avengers tie-in to Avengers Vs. X-Men, where she met someone in the image of Mar-Vell, and pondered that maybe his mantle should live on, however she would not take the name until the darte. This story was also one of the last times that Carol went “Binary”, until the recent Ultimates run that is.
Captain Marvel #1, by Kelly Sue DeConnick & Dexter Soy, Marvel
Two DC titles in two weeks, sorry! And two Batman titles in two weeks, even worse!
At the start of the New 52, Francis Manapul (alongside Brian Buccellato) did an excellent run on The Flash, before moving onto Detective Comics for a time, and has proved that he can draw top Justice Leaguers in action. Which is good, because Trinity features the big three of DC, Wonder Woman, Superman and Batman.
In case you are very behind, this is a new Superman, with Lois and his son Jon in tow, and Diana and Bruce don’t know him well yet. So this issue is the pair of them going to dinner at the Kent house. And it is beautifully written and drawn, both by Manapul, the talented so and so. Whilst I wouldn’t recommend it to people who haven’t read at least the first few issues of Wonder Woman, who don’t know the gist of the recent Lois & Clark series, and don’t know what’s going on in the current Superman run, it is an excellent read for those that have, and even those that haven’t will still enjoy it.
Janet van Dyne is a legend. Created purely so Ant-Man had a female sidekick, she grew quickly to be a founding Avenger, and from there has only gone on to greater heights.
Okay, so I made that statement for the puns, but still, it is totally true. As you can see above in her first issue, she’s a “partner-in-peril”, and she stayed that way for a while. Even though she was a founding Avenger, she got in trouble a fair amount to begin with, but thankfully her role grew pretty rapidly. Okay, I’ll stop with the puns.
Janet was the first Avenger to meet Vision, as shown above, and also the first to get married, to her long time partner Hank Pym, also known as Ant-Man, Goliath, Giant Man, and, when they got engaged, Yellowjacket. The story of the wedding is quite an interesting one actually, as Hank becomes Yellowjacket, and seemingly kills his old identity, and none of the Avengers other than Jan know what happened, so when they get married there is an understandable amount of doubt! You can see the gist of it below, from Avengers #59 and #60.
Even at this point, Jan is frequently seen as either a hassle to the team, or just someone that needs saving, but that changed in Avengers #83, where she, and a team of other women led by Enchantress posing as Valkyrie, beat the Avengers and the Masters of Evil, and from there she was portrayed better.
Unfortunately, Hank Pym has one of his multiple breakdowns, leading to this…
…and their relationship understandably breaks off, leading to a divorce. She was leader of the team for a long time, on & off, to the extent that I believe she held the title of leader for longer than any other member, except maybe Captain America. She was leader of the team when Baron Zemo and the Masters of Evil invaded and took over Avengers Mansion, she fought off Absorbing Man and Titania from killing a comatose Hercules, before leading a team and taking back the mansion.
After many leaves of absence, being sent to a different universe by Franklin Richards and a bunch of other boring stuff, Jan makes an offhand comment to Scarlet Witch about having kids. Which she doesn’t anymore, and her memory had been removed of it. And then Scarlet Witch goes nuts and creates the House of M universe. Yup, Jan messed up.
And then Janet plays a major part in yet another event, this time Secret Invasion, where she is used as a biological weapon by the Skrulls, and gets killed by Thor to stop her exploding. I say killed, she is transported to the Microverse and comes back later to join the Uncanny Avengers, but hey, she died for a while, aight?
But what about now? What is she doing at the moment? Well, mentoring her namesake, the new Wasp, Nadia Pym. It’s no big spoiler to say that a new Wasp appears in the current All-New All-Different Avengers run, and Janet appears to help out with adjusting the new Wasp to heroics.
So what makes Janet Van Dyne so great? Is it her multitude of costumes? She makes a lot of them herself you know, she’s a fashion designer. Is it her size changing powers that let her grow and shrink? Is it the bio-engineered wings that are grafted onto her back? Is it the energy blasts she can fire to sting her enemies? Nah, its her personality. It’s her strength of will, her courage, her determination, but most of all, her empathy. You can come to her with anything, any troubles, any situation, and she will understand and help you with it. Hell, she did just that when her step-daughter, Nadia, was brought to her doorstep by Jarvis, as you can see above. She is one of the kindest people in the entire Marvel universe, and a literal living legend.
Well, that’s what happens in Morning Glories. Okay, so I just spoiled the end of the first issue, but hey, big whoop, you’d have gathered that anyway. But yeah, this is an extremely prestigious boarding school, that drugs you so that you don’t know where it is located…
That tries to influence you through strange, barely seen images…
That encourages parents to give you independence, to pretend that they don’t know you so that you don’t talk to them or the outside world…
And if they don’t like it then, well…
Yeah. And that’s not even going into the creepy sci-fi wonderful-ness of it
Morning Glories #1, by Nick Spencer & Joe Eisma, Image
Alex Ross is well known for painting for many series, from classics like Kingdom Come to the covers for the current All-New All-Different Avengers run, but Marvels is, for me, his best work.
Maybe it is how well his work portrays classic scenes in a new light, maybe its how his writing fuses perfectly with Kurt Busiek’s incredible writing, maybe it’s how he makes every panel pop with both energy and grace simultaneously, but there is just something about that makes it work so well.
There’s a chance it is just nostalgia, but there is just something about seeing panels like this, where classic images are shown through the camera lens of a humble reporter, re-enforcing the fact that Marvel Comics exist inside the Marvel universe as historical documents and records of events, that just blow me away.
Marvels #1-4, by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, Marvel
The current Detective Comics run has been excellent, and this is to be the last issue of the current arc, before a crossover with Nightwing and Batman begins. The ongoing story is that Batman and Batwoman have set up a team of people that they think can, with a bit of training, fight crime to their level in Gotham, and that team is made up of Orphan (Cassandra Cain), Spoiler (Stephanie Brown), Red Robin (Tim Drake) and Clayface. Yup, Clayface. As you would expect, a team with two Robins, two Batgirls, and six badasses is as excellent as it sounds, but then factor in that they are fighting a team of men in armour that are training to become Batmen, and the series climbs to new heights.
This is a very dramatic conclusion to the arc, and I have no doubt that if you like the characters then you will stumble across big spoilers for the end of the issue, but I absolutely recommend it to you all.
Detective Comics #940, by James Tynion IV, Eddy Barrows & Eber Ferreira
Kyle Rayner was a graphic artist. Yup, he drew comic books.
Automatically, that means he is pretty cool. The fact that he then got given a Green Lantern ring makes him even cooler.
Hal Jordan, the first member of the Green Lantern Corps to come from Earth, got possessed by Parallax, the fear entity. His city, Coast City, had just been completely destroyed, so he was, shall we say, susceptible to its influence, but then he went crazy, see totally insane, killed a good few Lanterns, see basically all of them, destroyed the main power battery, yadda yadda. The Green Lantern Corps was gone. So Ganthet, the last remaining Guardian, gave the last remaining Lantern ring to Kyle Rayner.
He wasn’t exactly ready for it at the beginning, but he managed to defeat Mongul, which is pretty damn good, right? Except, his ex-girlfriend, who he had confided in and just got back together with, got killed by Major Force and stuffed in a fridge. Yup, that’s where the phrase “Women In Refrigerators” comes from, Kyle Rayner’s girlfriend that died purely to make Kyle take his role as a Lantern seriously. It was a pretty embarrassing move on DC’s part, and one that Gail Simone will never let them forget.
For a time then, Kyle was the only Green Lantern. To us now, and to readers at the time, this was a new thing, there had been an entire Corps for a long time, and even just on Earth there were frequently three separate Lanterns. But Kyle carried the name solo. He briefly joined the Titans, and joined the Justice League, taking the roles that all previous Lanterns before him had. He also set out to restart the Green Lantern Corps, and even took host to Ion, the parasitic entity of willpower, though he gave up the near-omnipotence of the powers to remain human.
Then his mother is killed. Yet another tragedy has befallen Kyle, and seemingly it is once more at the hands of Major Force. So, knowing that Major Force is immortal, Kyle rips his head off and throws it into space. As you do. This was during the events of Green Lantern: Rebirth, and Kyle then brings Hal Jordan’s body back to Earth, where it is quickly given back Hal’s spirit, and the original Lantern is resurrected. You’d think that at this point Kyle would lose some of the spotlight, I mean, Hal is back, Guy Gardner is a Lantern again, most of the Corps is back, so Kyle will disappear, right? Well, a little, but he is handed the highest honour by the Guardians. They give him the title of “Torchbearer”, as he was the only Lantern to still represent during their darkest time, and brought them back when they were needed most.
Once more, Kyle became Ion, taking the parasitic entity back, which Sinestro forcefully separates from Kyle at the beginning of the Sinestro Corps War, so that Kyle can play host to Parallax, like Hal Jordan did before him. Hal frees him from the influence, and together they defeat Sinestro. Shortly after, the long prophesised Blackest Night comes to pass, and Kyle is killed in action, whilst blowing up a power battery to stop hordes of dead Green Lanterns, reanimated as Black Lanterns on Oa. His love for fellow Lantern Soranik Natu led to him being resurrected quickly by a Star Sapphire, and he was able to rally with the multitude of other Lanterns and heroes on Earth to beat back Nekron’s Black Lanterns. Kyle also participates in the War of the Green Lanterns, taking a Blue Lantern ring in an effort to stop the rogue Guardian Krona.
And then the New 52 happened. Rings of every colour seek out Kyle, along with an angry member of their Corps, and Kyle becomes the first person to simultaneously wield all seven primary Lantern rings. Admittedly, the rings disintegrate after a couple of minutes, but the team that he then heads up, containing a representative of each Corps, is then instrumental in stopping the Archangel Invictus from destroying the Vega system and the sole Orange Lantern Larfleeze. The team disbands, but Kyle begins to learn how to channel every colour of light, eventually becoming a White Lantern with the help of a new team, featuring big names like Carol Ferris of the Star Sapphires, Atrocitus of the Red Lanterns, and Larfleeze, using his powers to stop the Third Army on Zamaron, and aid in stopping the First Lantern Volthoom on Oa.
Most recently, Kyle has appeared in The Omega Men, aiding a rebel group in the Vega system against their tyrannical leader, but I don’t want to spoil a series that has finished so recently for you.
So, that’s his history, but what sets Kyle Rayner apart from any other Lantern, green or otherwise? For me, it’s twofold. First off, his creativity lets him do things with his ring that no other lantern can, such as create giant anime characters to do battle with his enemies, with the only limit to his powers being his imagination. Second, it’s his personality. Rayner will always, absolutely always stand up for what is right, and if an action seems wrong then he will question. Even if it is one of his friends doing it. And yet, he always believes in the goodness in people. When Hal Jordan was evil, Kyle knew that he could be relied on to give his life to save Earth. Kyle has a truly indomitable spirit, and, if you’ll excuse the cliché, his light shines brighter than basically any other in the universe.