By the end of 2016, I found myself completely disillusioned by corporate comics. Marvel Comics seem to be a neverending morass of recycled events and weird brand management choices. A few DC Comics titles are promising, but it seems as though getting comfortable there might be a mistake since the entire line will likely be rebooted as soon as sales drop low enough. These things happen in cycles, of course. A few years ago, Marvel was producing a bunch of work that transcended corporate dictates, and DC has had its moments over the last decade, too. I have faith that soon someone will break the cycle and make something worth reading again.
But in the meantime, Seattle writer G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel series continues to get superhero comics right. The secret, the thing that nearly everybody else gets wrong right now, is that Wilson keeps it personal. I've been re-reading Ms. Marvel issue 13 lately. It’s a topical issue — written and drawn (by Mirka Andolfo) before the presidential election, but published after — and it’s about Ms. Marvel getting involved in a mayoral election.
This election is between a smarmy Hydra agent (who Ms. Marvel calls “Chuck the Hydra hipster”) and a competent woman. The allegory for Clinton Vs. Trump is pretty on-the-nose for a corporate comic. Ms. Marvel travels around her beloved Jersey City, trying to recruit voters, but those voters are too apathetic to care. Moms are busy, crazy old cranks “haven’t voted since 1972” because they’re “protesting all the things,” and others believe that both candidates suck pretty much equally.
Because it’s a superhero comic, and because Ms. Marvel is thoroughly an optimistic work that believes the best of people, good triumphs over evil. That made Ms. Marvel a bitter pill to swallow in the weeks after the election, but this comic is already aging well. I read it now and think about what might have been had we seen a few more positive-hearted activists in the right places around the country. I read it and think that things can get better, and that democracy is worth the fight. It’s a superhero comic written from a personal, aspirational perspective, one that believes in a better world. Hey, DC and Marvel: more like this in 2017, please.