Kamala Khan continues her fight against injustice, even if the culprit is her own city. With excellent characterization and impressive artwork, this is yet another stellar issue in the MS. MARVEL series.
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All Too Relevant

Throughout its current storyline, MS. MARVEL has tried to merge real-world conflicts within its fictional narrative. The “SECRET EMPIRE in everything but name” takeover of Jersey City has left Ms. Marvel in a tough position. Now, her antagonist is the city itself, with K.I.N.D’s anti-Inhuman actions reflecting our ongoing social and political divide. By confronting her hometown’s disenfranchised residents, Kamala must defend the few good against the evil of many while learning why these individuals would resort to such tactics. MS. MARVEL #21 blurs that line further, pitting Kamala against someone she never thought would side against her.

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

Debunking the “Real” Jersey City

MS. MARVEL #21 picks up directly after the previous issue’s conclusion, with Kamala’s brother Aamir being held as leverage. Alongside other detained Inhumans, Lockdown and Discord use him as a bargaining chip to obtain Ms. Marvel’s surrender. At first, willing to comply, she’s emboldened to continue fighting after seeing Amir refuse to give up. The result is more conflict, with Aamir leading the other detainees to Sheikh Abdullah’s mosque for refuge.

READ: How did Ms. Marvel end up fighting her own city? Check out our review of the previous issue!

Before K.I.N.D. catches up with them, one scene that stands out involves Aamir confronting his current treatment by the government. As he states, Aamir’s values align heavily with the government’s, yet they still persecute him for being an “unregistered Inhuman.” For all the values they supposedly share, Aamir refuses to accept the totalitarian system that individuals like Lockdown follow. Ultimately, they use “law and order” as an excuse to persecute those who don’t fit into the idea of “real” Jersey City.

Image courtesy of Marvel Entertainment

For Kamala, however, this battle has evolved into more than just a battle of good vs. evil. Her heroism has inadvertently left a portion of the public angry and disenfranchised, blaming her for a decline of “normality.” This creates an inversion of the superhero formula, with the few becoming the victim rather than the many. And, while Lockdown’s presence in the CIVIL WAR II makes her an easily dislikable villain, Discord is another story altogether.

What lies under the Mask?

The reveal of Discord’s identity further complicates things for Ms. Marvel/Kamala, revealing a former ally underneath the helmet. Without spoiling much, writer G. Willow Wilson takes inspiration from previous Ms. Marvel storylines to make us sympathize with Discord’s origin. In this respect, the “antagonist” is someone who even Ms. Marvel never truly saved, despite her inner selflessness. By choosing this new identity, Discord discovered, in his mind, a purpose in life that he was previously lacking. What he does in the future, however, will depend greatly on his response to Ms. Marvel’s choice made on the final page.

READ: Let’s discuss how Ms. Marvel’s character shatters the negative portrayals of Millennials!

The artwork for this issue is once again great, providing a more realistic take on previous arcs in the series. Marco Falla excels at adapting the artwork in this new direction, which works for a storyline that holds more gravitas. While the color palate never breaks new ground, I was impressed with Valerio Schiti’s use of blues and greens in the second half. These colors, in particular, encompass the fight between Ms. Marvel and Discord, as well as the latter’s origin story. Similar to last issue’s interrogation sequence, there’s a sickly feel to these pages that heightens the ongoing conflict’s twisted nature. It definitely serves to enforce that this story arc is much different than others in Ms. Marvel’s tenure.

MS. MARVEL #21 Final Thoughts

The political undertones of MS. MARVEL #21, cartoony as they sound, nevertheless address the political discourse of modern day America. Yet its critique of our country’s current crisis of faith never detracts from the story of its main character. Rather, the issue continues to develop Kamala Khan’s character by making her a recipient to the conflicts that we as a society face. We want Ms. Marvel to win because, from a fictional perspective, we recognize these societal wrongs as immoral. Yet, like the reveal of Discord, our country’s current political divide makes it tougher for us to overcome them together.

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