Today we have a treat- Michael from My Comic Relief kindly wrote us a marvelous guest post to cover Nancy’s absence while she and her family vacation in Washington DC.  After you read this post about the new Marvel Rising, make sure you check out his site and be ready to be impressed with his posts about comics, Star Wars, music and his poignant New American Resistance series. Enjoy!

Guest Writer: Michael Miller of My Comic Relief

When I was a kid, I enjoyed comic books for all sorts of reasons. The feelings that come most readily to mind when I let my memory drift back to those days are the joy I found in reading exciting adventures staring bright, fun, often funny, colorful characters and the reassurance of their simple homilies – no matter how dark it gets, the heroes always win in the end. When I returned to reading comic books as an adult, I was happy to find many comics still offering those same feelings…and I was impressed to find ones effectively coupling it with strong social justice messages. There are no two characters who perform these dual tasks better than Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) and Doreen Green (Squirrel Girl). And upon finding them, I became a fan for life. So I opened the pages of their first official team-up, Devin Greyson’s new miniseries Marvel Rising, with trepidation. Why was I worried? Well, could anything live up to my expectations?!? Would my hopes ruin the story for me? Thankfully what I found has me wishing it was an ongoing monthly series!

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Maybe I should never have doubted Marvel Rising would deliver. But both Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl are characters who’ve become really important to me…so I was worried. How would they work together?? Would it feel natural? Would they lose part of what makes them so unique? Similar fears kept me from following Squirrel Girl in The New Avengers or U.S.Avengers and Ms. Marvel in Secret Warriors (although, admittedly, I adore Champions). I guess I see these characters as so connected to their current authors I still worry how others will handle them. G. Willow Wilson created Kamala Khan and Ryan North transformed Doreen Green from a “joke superhero” into (in my humble opinion) the best comic Marvel’s publishing right now. Each comic has a very specific tone, each character a fully fleshed out feel.

G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel: No Normal was the title that welcomed me back to my life’s second era of superhero comic reading. I’d heard all about this brilliant new teenage hero – who was also a practicing Muslim; whose parents has immigrated to the U.S. from Pakistan; and whose title explored the ideas of faith, family, and friendship with the same depth and focus it brought to superheroics – since she debuted in 2014. Come Christmas of 2015, my girlfriend Kalie surprised me with the first trade paperback of Kamala’s adventures. I read it Christmas night and was immediately hooked, heading to the bookstore on December 26th to pickup the rest of her trades. Her monthly title has been in my file ever since! I’ve seen her battle supervillains, Gerrymandering, profiling, gentrification, and cyber bullying while calling out her hero Carol Danvers and the entire freaking Avengers when she felt they were losing sight of what they should be doing. I never knew comics could do this!

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That video game birdie baddie doesn’t stand a chance against you Ms. Marvel! / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

I found The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl because I’m a fan of Ryan North, who writes Dinosaur Comics online. Once I was back to comic reading and heard he was writing for Marvel, I knew I needed to check it out. Admittedly he was writing a character I only ever heard about when my friend Theresa told me her son found a “Squirrel Girl” as part of the “Great Lakes Avengers” in his Marvel Encyclopedia. My first thought was, “WOW…they really pulled in the D-listers for this team.” But what greeted me in North’s comic was an uncompromisingly intelligent, laugh-out-loud story (and for real laughing out loud…not the sort of lol-ing we type when we’re quietly smiling) which also manages to subvert the Myth of Redemptive Violence (as Doreen regularly befriends her foes, and those she can’t befriend she beats with her mind instead of her fists), features women in STEM fields (Doreen and her friends are computer programming majors), and offers heroes in the form of strong women with real, nonobjectified bodies. Doreen sees the best in everyone while showing her readers this is what heroes do.

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You dodge that recycling bin in a very video game fashion Squirrel Girl! / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Even if I was to give up comics entirely again, I couldn’t imagine giving up The Unbeatable SquirrelGirl or Ms. Marvel. I love and respect these authors and their characters too much. In fact, the news that G. Willow Wilson will begin writing DC’s Wonder Woman this November with issue #58 has this Marvel guy already pondering what titles he’ll cut to make room for that on my monthly pull list! I can’t wait! But I’ve digressed. The point of this meandering was to outline how much I love Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel. So when I say Devin Greyson’s Marvel Rising is as good as I’d hoped…those aren’t empty words. I have HIGH expectations for Doreen and Kamala. Everyone can enjoy this too! Marvel Rising is a perfect all ages title that’s as fun for adults as it is for kids.

The basic setup sees Doreen Green volunteering to teach a class on game programming to high school students twice a week hoping to get them interested in STEM. Kamala Khan signs up for this class to help make up for a failing math grade and, in addition to learning all about computers, she and her teacher have to keep sneaking out to don their costumes. After battling A.I.M. agents while on a field trip (in the Free Comic Book Day issue), they find the campus terrorized again and again by video games monsters that are seemingly coming to life. It’s a really fun premise that allows Marco Failla and Gurihiru (who handle the pencils for the series) to draw some wicked cool and wildly funny fight scenes.

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Seeing these two heroes not just team up but build a relationship is a lot of fun too. So often a superhero team-up revolves around the aforementioned heroes (let’s say, Spidey and Daredevil for funzzies) talking on a rooftops or continually running into each other at the same crime scenes so it leads them to (eventually) punching the same bad guys. Also, SO MANY TIMES they have to waste a whole issue fighting each other before the realize things would go way smoother if they just fought bad guys together instead. With Marvel Rising, there’s none of the contrived hero-vs-hero stuff nor the reluctance to work with each other. And once Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl realize they’re in this thing together, they do more than just arrive at the same crime scene and punch the same baddies. They meet to strategize. They patrol together. They talk out their plan and intentionally divide their tasks. Seeing Squirrel Girl introduce Ms. Marvel to her friends immediately became one of my all time favorite comics book moments too :).

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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics
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Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Hahahaha, and I looooove the way they play with the obvious nature of the secret identities as Kamala and Doreen begin to wonder who the other is.

I’ll also say, whether intentional or not, the numbering of the issues is pretty fantastic too. Admittedly, I’m not a fan of the constant reboots and restarts Marvel and DC always do now. I grew up when the number on the front cover meant something! (Gosh, I sound so old.) There was a history there, making a true #1 a rare thing and letting you know reading, say, issue #437 brought a legacy with it. But now it seems we get a new #1 every eight months. So I’m not sure if it’s an intentional satire of this or if it just worked out. Either way, I love it. The series runs:

Free Comic Book Day’s Marvel Rising #0

Marvel Rising: Alpha #1

Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl & Ms. Marvel #1

Marvel Rising: Ms. Marvel & Squirrel Girl #1

Marvel Rising: Omega #1

This is a FIVE ISSUE MINISERIES featuring FOUR #1s!!! Now I know Devin Greyson handles the writing duties herself on the FCBD issue, Alpha, and Omega while Ryan North and G. Willow Wilson each contribute a full comic book each in Squirrel Girl & Ms. Marvel as well as Ms. Marvel & Squirrel Girl. So maybe Marvel’s seeing it that way? I don’t know. All I do know is it all makes me smile. AND at $5.99 an issue it’s the best deal going because you get TWO comics shaped by THREE incredible authors inside ONE cover!

Deal aside, as with both The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl and Ms. Marvel, Marvel Rising is filled with humor, heart, great superheroics, and – if you’re the type of reader who likes to look a little deeper – it has something important to say too. The villain is Ember Quad, a high-school-student-turned-Inhuman, who has the ability to absorb electricity and use it to pull things out of video games and manifest them in real life. Calling herself the Emulator and urged on by her self-proclaimed only friend the “King0fPWN” (a guy she knows online whom she’s never met in real life), Ember begins to steal tech she needs to amp up her powers to strike back at those who have harassed her.

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Ember is harassed after beating these guys at the Call Of Duty-esque game they were playing. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

Her character speaks to the scars left by bullying and the pain of isolation, especially in high school, and what those scars can create. Marvel Rising Alpha #1 establishes Ember as a brilliant gamer who is constantly harassed by the guys in her school for being better at video games than they are. She’s moved fourteen times in eight years because her mom’s answer to Ember’s problems (and her own string of break-ups) is always a “fresh start.” Ember isn’t even sure she wants to be a villain…she’s just tired of being alone and mocked. She’s had no time in her adolescence to form any real lasting relationships, save the “King0fPWN.”

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Ember questions the King0fPWN…but follows through with what he’s telling her to do anyway. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

We see “evil” isn’t something that’s natural, it’s born of pain and isolation. It doesn’t take much urging from the King0fPWN – who seems to be a clear setup for a lesson on catfishing and being careful of who you meet online to come later – for Ember to begin using her powers to collect the items he sends her after, in an effort to allegedly up her power level. One of the things I love about Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl is this isn’t something they’ll learn at the end of the series. Once they understand who the Emulator is and what’s going on, they see this truth now and work to help her. After battling a digital dragon Ms. Marvel tells Inferno (another Inhuman friend of hers who showed up to help), “She’s not a bad guy, not yet. She’s just lost. New powers…she’s probably scared and confused.” They aren’t looking just to save the campus and defeat the baddie. They want to help Ember too, refusing to hurt her as they battle her creations. If only all superhero comic books could give us such admirable heroes.

And here’s the thing, if you’re excited about this title too (which you TOTALLY SHOULD BE) then you’re in luck! The series isn’t over yet! It’s the perfect time to jump in! Marvel Rising: Squirrel Girl & Ms. Marvel #1 just came out the other week. So you can start grabbing the monthly issues and you still have half the series to look forward to. I’d bet you can easily find the first two issues without paying back issue prices yet either. (Admittedly, the FCBD one may be trickier…but there’s always Ebay!) Or, if you prefer the trade paperback collections, this will be released on 6 November 2018. Which, honestly, is great timing. You can read it over Thanksgiving break, give (or get!) it as a Christmas present, or just read it the day it comes out because, really, it’s so fun you should.

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Powers to embiggen + powers of a squirrel and a girl = NOTHING CAN STOP YOU! / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics

More than anything though, you should pick up this title because it’s a bright, fun, funny superhero story that reminds us it’s okay to be positive and happy in a world with new threats coming at us every day. It encourages us to see the broken human being inside what we see as monstrous and meet them with compassion and understanding. And it has us laughing all the way to the end of each issue as it subtly teaches us these lessons through the actions of Doreen Green and Kamala Khan. In an age where it seems increasingly harder to smile or feel optimistic when we look at the state of this country or the world, Devin Greyson’s Marvel Rising is the best sort of gift. Enjoy every moment of it! We only have five issues of this! Unless of course Marvel decided to make this a regular, ongoing series :). I mean, if Spider-Man and Deadpool can find a reason to team-up every month, why not Ms. Marvel and Squirrel Girl?? Our world would certainly be better and brighter if they did.

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Aww, there’s just no one else out there like you two! Thanks for being the bright, justice-oriented heroes you are. / Photo Credit – Marvel Comics