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Tuesday, October 07, 2014 

Reliance on guest appearances is not a sign of confidence in self-contained writing

I looked at this Pop Matters review of the 8th issue of the Muslim Ms. Marvel series, and it talks about how the book is resorting to guest appearances. First, though:
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.
It would be much easier to say she's "lovable" if it weren't for the bad ideology she's been saddled with, and besides, lovability only goes as far as the characterization and overall writing talent enables. Since the reviewer's telling us what to think, does that mean he doesn't think Dani Moonstar is/was Marvel's most lovable teen superheroine? I guess not. Cast members from days when scriptwriting was more honest are not valued by modern pseudo-thinkers.

If this book is ostensibly written with an optimistic view, it proves brightness today is applied only selectively. Now, about those guest appearances:
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.
Let's see. There's been guest appearances by Wolverine and the Inhumans (whom this new book's star is supposed to have a connection with), and I think there was also one by Carol Danvers and even a team-up with Spider-Man. I'm suddenly reminded of the 2005-2011 Supergirl run which, thinking back on it now, was overrated and in its first half relied heavily on guests and could not find a sturdy direction (Kara Zor-El had no secret ID at a time when the Flash was being forced back into one, and a supposed attempt to give her one later didn't last more than an issue). The absurd T&A elements seen at the beginning of the run were another detractor. There was also an attempt to put a closet skeleton into Kara's background co-written by Mark Sable - she took part in an idea her father had to slay other kids?!? That was by far the most sickening idea seen in that series, and fortunately it didn't last long.

All that aside, the guest list (JSA, Titans, Power Girl, Robin, etc) was also a most telling weakness, and did get some flak from detractors. And I'm wondering now why, in contrast to that awfully weak take on the Maid of Might a decade back, this story from Marvel about a teen protagonist gets no criticism for relying rather obviously on guest appearances, particularly that of a vigilante mutant who's about to go to the great reward next month. I guess ideology is so desperately important to them, they're willing to overlook this cheapie by contrast? Well, I guess it figures. When it all boils down to politics and beliefs, that's when story merit no longer matters to many alleged comics reviewers.

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  • I'm Avi Green
  • From Jerusalem, Israel
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