When MARVEL planned a new Civil War comic event to coincide with the Captain America: Civil War film release, I totally thought it was a major gimmick. I figured that we’d have a few weeks of tie-in books and lots of biweekly event books which would create this major earth-shattering event in the MARVEL universe–only to return to business as usual once the event was over. I certainly did not predict that I’d still be picking up Civil War tie-ins as summer draws to an end and summer blockbusters leave the theaters. And I definitely did not predict that MARVEL would get as deep as they did.
Thanks to the five-week month of August, I picked up Ms. Marvel (written by G. Willow Wilson and art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona) and Spider-Man (written by Brian Michael Bendis and art by Nico Leon) in the same week. These books were good–let’s start with that. The art, the writing… everything was pure gold. But what I loved most were the stories. This week, Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man are dealing with the initial fallout of Civil War and are deciding their next steps. Seems like a filler issue, not much is going to happen, right? Wrong.
The struggles that these characters are facing are adult-level struggles. Something tragic happens to a close friend or family member and you wish that you could go back in time before this all started. Two people you love and care about are fighting all the time and you’re trying to keep them from separating. You’re caught in the middle between your two best friends and you don’t know which side to be on–or if you should stay out of it all together. You’re at a crossroads between the path that seems like the obvious one to travel (though it’s dangerous and difficult) and the one that’s safe and easy. These are difficult decisions and ones that every person can relate to at some point in their lives. So I love that MARVEL is addressing this in their books.
Not only does it have positive ramifications for the teen demographic, but this kind of character development turns Kamala Khan and Miles Morales into real people. Okay, not like real real people, but into fleshed out characters that feel real to their readers. It’s been difficult for MARVEL to introduce diverse characters that take over superhero mantles held by decades-established white, male characters, so they’ve often defaulted to tropes or inside-jokes that people of color can understand and relate to. Not saying that’s necessarily bad or wrong, but it makes the characters disingenuous. People of color are real people too and we want characters that are real people. Duh, right?
So when I read this week’s books, I truly felt these characters come alive. I loved seeing how Kamala deal with grief, guilt, anger and ultimately make a potentially bad choice because she thought it was the right thing to do, the right choice to make. I liked it because I saw who she was as a person, the problems she dealt with and how she couldn’t figure out another way to make things right again. It felt human and I could relate to her struggles.
I felt the same way with Miles’ choice. His nightmares over Ulysses’ vision and feeling like there was only one choice to make–join Iron Man in the war because Iron Man asked him to. The heart-to-heart with Bombshell is easily my favorite part of this book. Miles is treated to the best part of friendship–another perspective–to draw on and the whole conversation is poignant and perfect for this story. It subtly addresses the concerns that Miles was unable to voice and lays out his crossroads for everyone to see. That conversation made him a real person.
So, bravo MARVEL. You took two great characters and a decent crossover event (with some fantastic writers and artists thrown in), and made two, very real and relatable people. Even if Civil War dies out and ends up like 90% of the event trades in the back of the comic shop, I’ll definitely treasure these two issues because they were the books that made Kamala Khan and Miles Morales real.