REVIEW: Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 – “Pwned”

Writer: Devin Grayson
Pencillers: Georges Duarte
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Price: $4.99

Release Date: 6/15/18

Two of our favorite superheroines join forces in Marvel Rising: Alpha #1, which continues the adorable all-ages team-up while also getting us acquainted with a new teenage Inhuman named Ember Quaid. But is it a story that can indeed be enjoyed by all ages? Read on to find out.

Plot: While volunteering at a high school coding camp, one of Doreen’s students is a secret Inhuman who accidentally (on purpose?) creates a few problems with her powers while dealing with bullies. Luckily for her, Kamala Khan is another one of her students – and so Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel work to put things right while trying not to reveal themselves to each other.

Story: Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 is as much Ember’s story as it is Doreen and Kamala’s, which makes sense if Grayson plays to introduce a new generation of heroes that can stand on their own even without the more famous characters around. The issue hits the ground running by getting into her headspace and letting readers know what makes her tick immediately, but unfortunately it’s not a tactic that the rest of the story follows through on. The first few pages move along at a brisk pace, and Grayson dovetails Ember’s inner monologue nicely with the external events. But once the bell rings and Doreen begins teaching the class, there’s a beat too long spent on actual computer science lessons.

The dialogue and character development is enjoyable despite this, though there’s somewhat of a lack of finesse throughout. For example, the male gamers that Ember comes across are incredibly stereotypical and their sexism is nowhere near subtle – not that one should expect as much subtlety when trying to reach children just as much as teenagers or adults. Not to mention that the scenarios Ember encounters also reflect certain pockets of real-life comic book culture. Nonetheless, future issues could stand to make the lessons feel more organic within the story itself. One aspect which was organic? The reveal of Ember’s powers, which are much harder to define that her struggles as a teenage girl and which the artwork helps to convey. The writing does its part too, by having Ember herself confused by them and allowing Doreen and Kamala to work them out as the plot goes on.

Doreen and Kamala’s interactions, meanwhile, have several layers to them and feel like set up for plenty of issues to come. The only part that’s a little off-putting is that Doreen comes across as so much older than Kamala, when in reality it’s probably only a four year age difference. But given that she’s there as a teacher and Kamala is her student, it’s understandable that there is some deferential distance between them at first. And once their walls start to come down a little, there are more and more glimpses of the personalities we know and love in their solo runs; especially when it comes to fanfics!

Art: As straightforward as the storyline is, the thing that most stands out about Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 is the art. Specifically, the interesting choices that penciller Georges Duarte makes, especially in regards to character interactions. There are several shots of characters backs, especially when they’re keeping secrets that can only be shared in their own thoughts or via whispers. There’s also lovely profile panels like the one above, which obscure facial expressions but still give readers a sense of where everyone’s head is. Rachelle Rosenberg’s warm and bright coloring pairs well with this aesthetic, ensuring that no panel falls too much into obscurity and darkness.

Ember’s powers are depicted breaking out of the page with pixels that create a gorgeous three-dimensional look, and both artists deserve the credit for bringing them to life. Their light and breezy take on the art helps move along the middle part of the story so that it doesn’t drag as much, and certainly helps give the action sequences an extra push.

Verdict: Marvel Rising: Alpha #1 is a fun story that expands on quite a few new dynamics, and leaves a lot of room for Kamala and Doreen to grow. While there are some issues with pacing and dialogue, overall it’s a solid effort that looks sleek to boot.

Star Rating: 3.5 out of 5