REVIEW: Marvel Rising – Squirrel Girl & Ms. Marvel #1

Writers: Ryan North, G. Willow Wilson & Devin Grayson
Pencillers: Irene Strychalski & Ramón Bachs
Colorist: Rachelle Rosenberg
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Price: $4.99

Release Date: 7/4/18

Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel’s team-up against a brand new Inhuman named Ember Quade – now going by the supervillain name Emulator – continues in Marvel Rising. But will Kamala realize that her fellow hero is none other than her coding teacher? And can Doreen help her latest wayward student with the help of her masked one?

Plot: Kamala attends a secret superhero meeting regarding the latest pixelated villain at Doreen Green’s house, leading her to question if her teacher and her super-powered partner are one and the same. Meanwhile, Doreen’s attempts at reaching out to Ember and Kamala’s investigations into who is attacking her class lead to a very similar conclusion.

Story: The latest installment of Marvel Rising has a lot of fun setting up the ways in which Doreen and Kamala’s worlds clash, including fun bits of each one feeling like a fish out of water. Dividing the issue between the Squirrel Girl section and the Ms. Marvel one also helps demarcate the line between, even if they cross it as often as not. Devin Grayson is working alongside Ryan North and G. WIllow Wilson when it comes to their respective characters, allowing for a continuity that’s usually hard to come by in group books. It’s also a somewhat rare opportunity to showcase the absurdity of hiding a secret identity on both sides of the equation, as both girls can easily deduce who their new friend is but neither is impolite enough to ask for confirmation. Soon enough, it becomes clear that honesty is the best policy and the relief when they can work together without a facade is felt by the audience just as much as by the characters.

Continuing the theme of identity, there is Ember and her catfishing storyline. While she is a villain at the moment, many of her actions are manipulated by the so-called “King0fPWN,” who claims to know her better than anyone else while simultaneously concealing everything about himself from her. But there’s more to Marvel Rising than just thinly-veiled allegories that will be useful for kids to keep in mind when meeting people online; there’s also plenty of fun to be had with Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl’s discovering new facets of their powers. Not to mention the excitement that comes from adding America Chavez and Dante (which I just realized is a good literary reference, since his codename is Inferno) to the mix, which are inspired choices that don’t feel forced given the nature of Ember’s powers and her Inhuman status.

Honestly, the biggest complaint with the Marvel Rising series at the moment is the numbering. There’s no reason one issue should be titled Alpha and the next Squirrel Girl Ms. Marvel, and that’s not even mentioning the Marvel Rising #0 that served as a prequel. It’s like the series is purposely hiding from readers who aren’t keen on exercising their sleuthing skills to follow a new book.

Art: The Squirrel Girl portion of Marvel Rising, with artwork from the talented Irene Strychalski, is very aesthetically pleasing. The characters are drawn in a uniformly appealing way, and the pattern of alternating busy backgrounds with simple solid colors continues to great effect. However, one might argue that the characters are almost too appealing in a way that distracts from their unique personalities – especially given how Doreen and her friends have been depicted by Erica Henderson for so long. Rachelle Rosenberg’s colors even take on a bolder tone than her usual, which almost seems like a way to counteract the softening of the pencils this time around. Though to be fair, Strychalski also uses thick lines to help every panel stand out even if the character designs feel markedly different for Squirrel Girl.

Ironically, Ramón Bachs more cartoonish style for the Ms. Marvel portion of the story is a little closer to the spirit of Doreen’s appearance in her own book. This helps create a balance between both sides of the story and in a way adds to the idea that both worlds are merging. Rosenberg’s coloring flows seamlessly from one story to the next as well, so the two halves complement each other even if they don’t necessarily seem like a unified whole. Kind of like Doreen and Kamala themselves in the early stages of their team-up. How meta!

Verdict: Marvel Rising builds beautifully on previously established characterization, slowly unveiling new dynamics while dealing with a sympathetic villain.

Star Rating: 4 out of 5