Dark Web: Ms. Marvel #1
You know her, you love her! But this time, Kamala Khan may be in over her head. Fresh off her first few weeks working as an intern at Oscorp, MS. MARVEL finds herself as the last line of defense against a bunch of deadly and dangerous experiments going HAYWIRE thanks to the Spider-Epic DARK WEB! Things get even WORSE when Kamala finds herself in LIMBO, with no choice but to fight her way out! From Sabir Pirzada (MARVEL'S VOICES, MS. MARVEL on Disney+) and your new favorite artist, Francesco Mortarino comes a bold and badass new vision of Ms. Marvel!
Dark Web: Ms. Marvel #1 – written by Sabir Pirzada with art from Francesco Mortarino, colors by Protobunker’s Dono Sánchez-Almara, letters from VC’s Ariana Maher – takes place primarily before Kamala Khan’s quick scene in Dark Web #1, offering more details in the young hero’s new status quo as an Oscorp intern. After checking in with Kamala’s personal life, visiting her mosque, chatting with Bruno, and teasing a new friendship/romance, it becomes clear that Kamala is a bit adrift, both as a character and a title at Marvel. The book kicks into gear as the demonic items of New York begin to attack and Kamala is forced to defend herself and a fellow intern. The issue uses this point to catch up with the events of Dark Web, and the last page reveal explains what happened to Kamala when Chasm cast his spell in the one-shot.
Pirzada’s script has an uphill battle, having to weave the status quo set for Kamala in Amazing Spider-Man, the chaotic events of the Dark Web crossover, and the supporting cast and emotional headspace Kamala are in from previous runs. Pirzada’s script doesn’t shy away from these elements, and embraces them, channeling that lack of time to provide a thematic bedrock for Kamala, who’s unsure of what she wants. There’s an excellent moment during an exchange between Kamala and Bruno that hammers the fact that Kamala takes whatever opportunity is right in front of her, and just goes with the flow. It’s a reasonable, and relatable struggle, speaking in part to the sense of limitless options a young person has for the future.
Kamala rebukes with an excellent point, in that she’s unsure how to pivot her love of superhero fanfic writing and online gaming into a viable career. It’s a struggle many aspiring creatives (myself included) grapple with in their earliest days. It’s an excellent dynamic to hinge the story on and gives depth to the opt appearances of Kamala in ASM. It speaks to Pirzada’s skill as a writer, along with the fun of tie-ins, in that they can take little elements from another story and then spin them out into something compelling, enough so that it could sustain a brand new Ms. Marvel ongoing if audiences are responsive enough.
More proof of that balance comes in the form of the issue’s split antagonists, the infamous Ms. Marvel rogue The Inventor and the Dark Web duo of Goblin Queen and Chasm. The Inventor for those unaware is a clone of Thomas Edison with contaminated DNA, resulting in a bird/human hybrid that was capturing and experimenting on children in the Marvel Now era. The villain met his seemingly gruesome fate in the original run but has now reappeared with cyborg enhancements.
The issue builds a mystery as to how the Inventor returned but makes clear he’s using the chaos of Limbo demons to exact revenge on Ms. Marvel. The choice to bring back one of Kamala’s earliest villains is a brilliant move that helps to recement her status as a leading hero and calls to what is now her almost decade span in the universe. It helps to establish this character has a history worth using and exploring, adding to the emotional resonance of the story Pirzada has set up.
The pairing of Marco Checchetto & Matthew Wilson for the cover is a perfect match for the interior artwork from Mortarino & Sánchez-Almara. The styles carry a modern, cinematic approach, utilizing efficient detail and a loose realism that roots the over-the-top action and designs in familiar emotions and settings. Mortarino’s linework does a great job capturing emotion through plenty of close-up panels, giving the issue a character-first approach. While the wider, cinematic paneling fits the action sequences, the return to the close-ups ensures there’s never a loss of the issue’s emotional throughline.
That sense of spectacle is enhanced through the issue’s coloring, which is used to great effect to highlight the action and magical interference from the Dark Web side of this crossover. This issue contains what might just be the best use of the sickly green smoke/vapor coming from Chasm yet. That green provides a sharp contrast to the orange and yellows that serve as a foundation of the issue’s palette, playing on the scheme across New York before the switch on the last page reveals. New York at Christmas is given an almost radiant hue in this issue, and the little details like Kamala’s mosque offering solidarity (along with missing ladder-related practical reasons) through additional lighting add to that magical sense of the coloring.
Dark Web: Ms. Marvel #1 is a strong start to the limited series, and is a vibrant reminder that Marvel is wasting time not having a Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel book at all times. The character draws wonderful talent, and the team on this issue is no different. Pirzada’s script creates a strong thematic throughline thanks to the flux of the Kamala character, using it to springboard into an investigation of what Kamala wants, and what her next steps should be. The choice to bring in a classic Ms. Marvel villain like the Inventor is also an inspired choice, channeling Kamala’s history while allowing Mortarino to give the character a whole new look.
Those elements in conjecture with the cinematic artwork and radiant coloring from Sánchez-Almara give this book a prestige feeling and could be a strong foundation for a future run with the character. Even Ms. Marvel fans not caught up with, or interested in Dark Web should give this issue a chance, to see Kamala Khan in a new and exciting place.
Dark Web: Ms. Marvel #1: The Tie-In We Need
- Writing - 10/1010/10
- Storyline - 10/1010/10
- Art - 10/1010/10
- Color - 10/1010/10
- Cover Art - 10/1010/10
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