Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 - Review: Khaaaaaaaannnnnnn!!! Khaaaaaannnnn!!!
Marvel Rising: Alpha #1
Writer: Devin Grayson
Artist: Georges Duartes
Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Let me first say that I am not a silly-comic book guy. Which is arguable, since a lot of people will say that comic books are inherently silly in their nature. OK. Fine. Sue me. I know what I like and what I don't like. So I've never been on board with the Squirrel Girl concept, or the pig Spider-Man thing (Spider-Ham? Peter Porker?), or Howard the Duck, and so forth. Now I've been ok with some of their comics; it all depends on tone and story. I've just never been up for silliness for comedic sake in the ongoing Marvel Universe. I have a little pocket universe in my mind where that stuff is ok; I just don't like it encroaching on my normal capes and tights world. So there was a good chance this was not going to sit well with me regardless. But, believe me, I gave it an honest chance.
Doreen Green, aka Squirrel Girl, is teaching at a summer code camp. One of her students happens to be Khamala Khan, aka Ms Marvel, and probably just about the most popular hero to debut in the Marvel Universe in the last decade. And here's where some of the problems start. But let's talk about the art first.
Duartes is a great story-teller. There is a panel in the early part of the book where some male toughs are really physically intimidating a female student, one of them getting right in her face and Duartes puts the guy's head right up against hers and he's screaming at her, literally pushing on her with his head. If there has ever been someone who conveyed the sickening thought of this kind of abuse, this artist is doing it. I'm not a huge fan of the actual style itself, but what Duartes does with it in conveying themes and tones is just theatrical. Some of my turnoff is that on a lot of the character models there is a little white outline that separates the character from the environment, and it feels off. I don't know if that is a printing error, or some kind of flair that is Duartes or Rosenberg, but the thing bothered me throughout the book. The story focuses on a villain who is a gamer, and there is this sequence of three panels where Squirrel Girl is depicted as Mario, jumping over trash cans being hurled by a Donkey Kong-like manifestation. I didn't get it at first, but when I realized what Duartes was doing, I was cracking up. I'll also give kudos because Khamala Khan is NOT an easy character to choreograph fights for. She is some weird mix of Green Lantern, Giant Man, and Plastic Man, and it is easy to dork up. But Duartes handles the uncanniness just fine. Rosenberg is one of my favorite colorists today, partly because she's not Jordie Bellaire. Don't get me wrong; I love Jordie's work. But there was a period of about five years where she was literally doing ALL of the comics. Rosenberg was one of the first ones that I noticed breaking out of the Bellaire Nebula and staking out a work-space of her own. All I can say is, DAMN! Girl can draw some shading. Clothes look real due to the touch of shadow she places on characters as they move and shift position. And she gets interior shadow, not allowing people in a room to just appear as if there is no light source and occlusion; it's good stuff.
Story. There are some generally thematic problems I have here. First, I know Marvel is trying to do a Squirrel Girl revival, and I have had issues when Marvel or DC are trying to make a character happen. Like Marvel did with Wolverine. And like DC is doing with Cyborg. Taking a character like this and pairing her up with a largely popular character is problematic. And I feel that the story suffers as a result. I've read a good bit of Khamala Khan over the years since her debut, including the initial run of her solo book, and I do not feel like she is accurate here, tonally. She is very much an every-other-girl character here, and I feel like it just doesn't work when she is used like that in a book. In her core material, she's just flat-out a central character, and more of a leader than the vast majority of other Marvel heroes of her age. You can't put her in the corner. And you can't pull off making her come off like a Squirrel Girl groupie. I DO REALLY like the villain work here. The set-up, quick traversal of an arc, and sticking the landing at the end.
SCORE: 6.5 / 10
Like I said, I have some internally tuned bias on this one, I will admit. But, really, as I wrote about my issues I have with the story and how it reflects on Ms Marvel, I feel more confident in saying that this story just did not line up with my expectations, rather than being a thing about any disdain for Squirrel Girl. I also read this immediately after I read Konungar: War of Crowns #1, which is a 52 page issue. Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 is 33 pages, and was not quite as interesting as Konungar. There is a such thing as an issue going on too long. Having Khamala in a team-book had a chance to do well as a buddy-hero movie, but this one just didn't grab me enough to stick with it. I'm hoping that we see better stuff for Ms Marvel in other issues this summer.