A Girl, Her Dog, and So Much More

"Ms. Marvel #8"

by Jack Fisher

15 September 2014

A loveable girl and a loveable dog team up to create a world of entertaining complications.
 
cover art

Ms. Marvel #8

(Marvel)
US: Nov 2014

The disparity in thought process between teenagers and adults is like the disparity between Eagles fans and Cowboys fans. It’s so vast in so many ways that there’s little chance of reconciliation. It’s not just because of hormones, high school, and acne either. Teenagers still see the world through an untainted, inexperienced set of eyes. Adults see the world through eyes that have been jaded by a potent combination of age, struggle, and harsh reality. Teenagers basically live on a perpetual beer buzz while adults live in a perpetual hangover.

It’s this disparity that allows a teenager to see a dog as just the most adorable creature since the Olson Twins whereas an adult sees it as just another chore between paying bills and mowing the lawn. It also serves as a defining moment in Ms. Marvel #8 that further reinforces Kamala Khan’s title as Marvel’s most lovable teenage superhero. She’s still very new to this world of supervillains, superpowers, and alien dogs. But she still sees that world with the kind of wide-eyed optimism of someone who has not yet had to deal with the DMV or the IRS.

This untainted view of the world has been one of the many reasons Ms. Marvel has been a breath of fresh air from the brooding and bickering that has plagued so many adult heroes. Kamala hasn’t had time to develop a deep, dark secret that makes her so jaded that she resorts to making deals with Mephisto. She’s still just a kind, caring teenage girl who wants to do good in the world without understanding how easily the world complicates good deeds. She spent many early issues just establishing herself as a hero, making some pretty big mistakes and dealing with family issues along the way. Now she has become that hero and others have taken notice.

After her first ever team-up with Wolverine, the Inhumans have taken notice of this lovable teenage girl from Jersey City. That’s what brings Lockjaw into the picture. Where others see a big, hulking, monstrosity of a dog, Kamala Khan sees her new favorite pet. And it just so happens that her new favorite pet is a big help in her ongoing battle against the Inventor. However, it’s through this fight that Kamala’s rosy worldview of heroes and villains becomes complicated.

Lockjaw acts as an enabler of sorts, allowing Kamala to do more than most 16-year-olds with a 9:00 pm curfew and no car. In some ways it’s necessary because to this point, Kamala’s resources have been limited to her friend, Bruno, and information that can be easily Googled. This was still enough to help her rise to the top of the Inventor’s hit-list, but she needs more if she’s to be the reigning champ of that list. That’s exactly what Lockjaw does, allowing Kamala to get to where the action is and be the superhero she wants to be. It proves useful, but it also has the effect of having a diabetic live next door to a Baskin Robbins.

Thanks to her new pet, Kamala is able to take part in the kind of superhero action that exists on every other page of a Wolverine comic. In the previous issues, she got to fight a giant alligator. Now she gets to fight a giant robot. For a superhero, that’s akin to a teenager’s first car. But for Kamala, she ends up running over a few cones because the Inventor takes advantage of her inexperience. He exposes the drawbacks of seeing the world through such rosy glasses and it didn’t even involve having to clean up after Lockjaw.

It’s a lesson every experienced superhero and adult learns at some point. It’s not enough to just confront problems. They need to be confronted carefully and thoroughly. Teenagers see them as problems that can be solved easily with fists, trash talk, or just blocking them on Facebook. But the Inventor isn’t a problem that can be blocked. As competent as Kamala is at attacking giant robots, she’s not as competent when it comes to out-thinking her enemy. She doesn’t even notice until its too late. Like a tax return she thought she paid, it comes back to bite her.

It leads to Kamala being more vulnerable than she’s been at any point in her brief superhero career. It’s a moment where she has to take off those rosy glasses through which she sees the world and realize that this is serious. She’s messing with someone who isn’t afraid to hit her when she’s out of costume and surrounded by friends. She basically took out a loan from Tony Soprano and now he’s back to collect. It overwhelms Kamala in a way she hasn’t experienced to date and for a girl who recently fought a giant alligator and spent a day with Wolverine, that’s saying something.

She goes from a lovable teenage girl with a new pet dog to an overwhelmed teenage girl who gets in over her head. Yet somehow, Ms. Marvel #8 manages to maintain the same strong themes that have helped make it so enjoyable. Even as Kamala learns the hard way that being a superhero means occasionally leading a killer robot right to her school, it’s still a fun, spirited narrative. There’s never a sense that Kamala is about to become an overly jaded teenager with one too many body piercings. Previous issues have firmly established the wonderful girl she is. That’s what makes these new complications she faces so compelling.

Ms. Marvel #8 is yet another step in the process of Kamala Khan becoming a superhero. She’s had her first major battles. She’s fought her first killer robot. She’s had her first team-up with Wolverine. She’s dealt with complicated family issues. Now she has to learn to deal with the larger complications that come along with being a superhero. And this is all in addition to having a new pet in Lockjaw. She’s had to deal with a lot in such a brief span, but the manner in which she deals with it is part of what makes her so much fun.

Ms. Marvel #8

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