Ms. Marvel Annual #1 features one of the “Acts of Evil” match-ups, where Ms. Marvel clashes with the Super-Skrull in a story that doesn’t feature the suspense you’d hope for.
Ms. Marvel Annual #1
Writer: Magdelene Visaggio
Artist: Jon Lam
Color Artist: Msassyk
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
As part of Marvel’s “Acts of Evil” event, Kamala Khan faced off with the Super-Skrull in Ms. Marvel Annual #1. Visaggio quickly recaps the history of the Skrulls and Emperor Kl’rt, which is a helpful refresher because this famous alien race has been around for several decades. The premise of the issue is fairly simple: “Captain Miracle,” who others jokingly call Scott Kree (a nod to DC’s Mister Miracle) offers Kl’rt the chance to avenge Throneworld by attacking Earth and, by using a powerful device, remaking it as a new world for the Skrulls. In the span of roughly three pages, Visaggio efficiently sets up the villain’s motivations for his actions.
To tie it all together, Miracle tells Kl’rt that the device requires the powers of a shapeshifter; rather than sacrificing another Skrull, he points Kl’rt toward Ms. Marvel. For a one-off issue like this, the basic foundation of the plot is forgivable; the success of these stories ultimately depends on the interactions of the characters because they’re the real appeal.
A mysterious, punny caped crimefighter named Captain Hero swoops in and defeats the Constrictor. Rather quickly, the reader learns that Hero is actually Kl’rt in disguise The Super-Skrull may have Kamala (mostly) fooled but his odd vocabulary acts as a constant reminder that Captain Hero isn’t as virtuous as he tries to seem. The best Skrull stories, like Secret Invasion, play off of the mystery that it’s impossible to tell who’s a human and who’s not. There’s no uncertainty for the reader here, which makes the plot comparatively uninteresting.
Though the main narrative thread pits Kamala against Kl’rt in a traditional alien invader story, Visaggio crafts a more compelling conflict beneath the surface. Kamala takes issue with Captain Hero because he uses increasingly violent methods to fight crime. Ms. Marvel, having been trained by some of the Marvel Universe’s finest heroes, feels that it’s her responsibility to correct the new hero’s methods. “You got some old-fashioned ideas about heroism, Captain,” Ms. Marvel says. “That’s not how we do things. Not anymore.” Here, the conflict devolves into a physical fight. But, with more development, exploring this clash of ideologies could have been a stronger heart of the issue.
Right after this fight begins, Captain Hero shows his true face. Kl’rt’s lines are a stream of cliches about the destruction of his home planet, his goal to remake Throneworld and doom Earth in the process. But the contrast between the Super-Skrull and Ms. Marvel, who wasn’t remotely involved in the actions Kl’rt hopes to avenge, is compelling. She’s innocent but Kl’rt blames her, and all mankind, for the downfall of his people. Despite this lack of involvement, Kamala still tries to help Kl’rt move away from the pain of his past and toward a brighter future. Kamala doesn’t solve the problem in the most original way but it’s better than punching it into submission.
Lam’s art consistently looks like what you’d expect to find in manga. As with other annuals, Lam’s style is a change of pace from the series’ usual art, which, in addition to the isolated story, gives the book an Elseworlds-like feel. A few tie-ins to the current Marvel Universe (a throwaway line about the Fantastic Four and Bruno’s presence) somewhat contextualize the story but, by and large, Ms. Marvel Annual #1 is markedly detached from the rest of the series.
The most striking art in the issue comes when Captain Hero actively maintains his disguise from Ms. Marvel. Just before the two meet on rooftop, the Captain transforms into Kl’rt ad evilly monologues to himself. He stares off at the city and Ms. Marvel sneaks up on him. In just one panel, Kl’rt transforms back into his human form. The jarring visual shift, unlike most of the story, is a welcome tribute to the aforementioned Skrull stories of the past. More moments like these could have elevated the suspense and intrigue in the issue.
Ms. Marvel Annual #1 is a fairly unremarkable tale of a young hero doing her best to help a new adversary. While completely borrowing from the formula of previous Skrull stories like Secret Invasion and Meet The Skrulls may have made this adventure feel like a cookie-cutter remake, Visaggio excessively distances herself from these predecessors. She adds some promising new wrinkles, like Kamala’s efforts to reframe Kl’rt’s mindset. But many fans will likely leave this issue wanting more of the mystery that usually accompanies the Skrulls.
What did you think of Ms. Marvel Annual #1? Did you want to see more of a mystery?