A Fan-Tastic, Fic-titious Tale

“Internet Randos”: G. Willow Wilson (W), Mahmud Asrar (A), Tamra Bonvillain

“The Once and Future Marvel”: Mark Waid (W), Chip Zdarsky (A)

“The Adventures of She-Hulk”: Natasha Allegri (W&A)

“Up Close and Fursonal”: Zac Gorman (W), Jay Fosgitt (A)

“Squirrel Girl vs. Ms. Marvel”: Faith Erin Hicks (W&A), Megan Wilson (CA)

“An Evening with Ms. Marvel: A True Story” Scott Kurtz (W&A), Steve Hamaker (CA)

Annuals have an interesting place in comic books. It’s the place where these epic and sweeping tales of heroes and villains try to kick it up a notch. For Marvel, at least, they have been undercut somewhat by the constant flood of cross-overs and soft reboots. However, I can’t deny that I’m still always a little excited when I purchase an Annual. I always go in with a little optimism and excitement.

This Annual is definitely not an epic and sweeping tale, but it’s certainly unique. It’s something of a callback to the days where a comic book would be about the X-Men playing baseball or the Avengers eating dinner together.

However, where those comics had the upside of presenting the heroes in question interacting with one another, this one has very little of that. It also only features two of this Avengers team, Kamala Khan aka Ms. Marvel and Miles Morales aka Spider-Man.

The framing of this comic is Ms. Marvel returning home to check out her favorite fan fiction website, called “freakingawesome.com” She discovers one entry about a love triangle between Sam Alexander aka Nova, Spider-Man, and herself. She is upset about this, and she contacts the moderator to have it taken down. He says he’ll contact the writer to log onto his account, and she and the writer can negotiate. While she waits for the writer to get online, she reads a series of fan fictions. These are what take up the majority of the comic’s runtime.

So it’s basically a comedy-oriented series of stories by the various writers and artists listed above trying to emulate fan fiction. To their credit, these stories do read like fan fiction, but it’s hit-or-miss as to which ones work and which ones don’t from a comedic standpoint.

The story, “The Once and Future Marvel,” opens with a team-up between Ms. Marvel and Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel. The two are fighting off Skrull warriors. The dialogue between them is overelaborate to a comedic effect, and it’s clear the Mark Waid is having fun with the flowery and multi-syllabic language.

After a bit of fighting, Captain Marvel is shot down, and she bequeaths her helmet and title to Kamala. After Carol dies, Kamala takes out the rest of the Skrulls, and something emerges through the “Rifter” they were using. It turns out to Captain Mar-Vell who escaped “before his untimely death at the hands of cancer.”

He then chastises Kamala and Carol for using his title and expresses some extremely misogynistic views. He removes her new title, and she changes her name to “Miss Marvel.” This sequence is chuckle-worthy. The message here is heavy-handed, but it’s entertaining enough due to the perpetual controversy over comics becoming “too diverse” and “politically correct.” It’s not some of Waid’s best work, but it’s fun enough.

The art is very good. The figures are strong and the colors are vivid. It coincides with the goofy and semi-classic style of the storytelling well. I would definitely like to see Zdarsky’s art in more Marvel titles.

The second story, “The Adventures of She-Hulk,” is an odd little sequence of She-Hulk asking a sentient pencil to write her a story. The art is a cutesy hybrid of chibi-style anime and Charles Schulz’s Peanuts comics. This story is reminiscent of that classic Looney Tunes short where Daffy Duck is battling with the artist’s pencil. It’s called Duck Amuck. Thank you, Google.

That being said, this sequence was more aimless and far less entertaining. She-Hulk gets some haunted glasses, is attacked by a giant apple monster that is in love with her, and the story ends. It wasn’t particularly memorable. The art was the best part, but I wouldn’t find it particularly fitting in other Marvel stories.

I feel like it’s trying to be a callback to the days when She-Hulk comics were more satirical and metanarrative oriented, but it falls short in that regard too.

The third story, “Up Close and Fursonal” is a funny little story about a date between “Spider-Mole” and “Hss. Marvel.” The two walk around the animal city and have a conversation until they are met by Quack O’Lantern. They defeat him quickly, and continue on their date. The story ends there.

This story was pretty entertaining. The humor had more hits than misses, and the animal puns were pretty clever. The biggest laughs I had were the posters for the animal-themed takes on some popular musicals, like “Chicked” and “Kinky Hooves.” They also make a brief reference to Spider-Ham, which was appreciated.

The art was great, and it fit this story very well. The colors were fantastic and very appropriate for the cartoony setting. I’d like to see Fosgitt on a proper Spider-Ham title, Howard the Duck, or maybe even an ongoing series inspired by this brief story.

“Squirrel Girl vs. Ms. Marvel” was by far my favorite of the shorts. It’s a brief brawl between the two titular heroes with some really funny one-liners. It ups the ante when Ms. Marvel finds a power-up that pretty much makes her into a Super Saiyan from Dragonball Z. In retaliation, Squirrel Girl accesses her “Ultimate Form,” which is a giant squirrel mecha. She proceeds to defeat Ms. Marvel, and it’s revealed to be an arcade game that the two heroes are playing in a café.

This story was funny and enjoyable. I wasn’t as crazy about the art in this one, as it seems to be trying to hedge its bets between traditional comic book style and anime. Also, putting a wraparound framing to this story in addition to the grander fan fiction framing seems a little unnecessary. It’s like putting an “it’s not real” twist in a story that we already know is not real. (Yes, I know, very minor nitpick. You get my point though). Overall, this tale was still my favorite of the bunch, and it had the most laughs out of me.

The final short, “An Evening with Ms. Marvel: A True Story,” is one of the weaker ones. It’s the obligatory “the super hero falls in love with me” fan fiction story. There aren’t really enough jokes in it to keep the short interesting, and the writer’s self-insert “cool guy” character is kind of annoying to read, even if that was the intended effect. The ending to it is the best part. Kenneth has Ms. Marvel beat up his step-father, whom looks a lot like Carl from Aqua Teen Hunger Force, in an effort to work out his daddy issues.

The art in this story was alright. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t exciting either.

After this, the framing story ends with Kamala’s offending fan fiction being taken down by the writer. The writer is revealed to the reader to be Miles Morales himself. Then, the moderator is shown to be none other than Phil Coulson.

The framing story was pretty enjoyable. The premise of Ms. Marvel having to grapple with fan fiction written about her is a good one. The Miles and Phil Coulson reveals did get a laugh out of me.

That being said, the comic read kind of mediocre as a whole. The fan fiction shorts were hit or miss, and it didn’t have me laughing enough all the way through. I will admit that the novelty of the plot did have me intrigued at first, but that interest didn’t survive through to the end of the comic.

It seems like a draft of this was supposed to be a Ms. Marvel Annual. In fact, the tone of the story fits Ms. Marvel’s comic far better than an Avengers comic. I mean, heck, the framing story was written by G. Willow Wilson, the writer for Ms. Marvel.

A lot of the internet colloquialisms like “randos” or “on point” can’t help but feel a little forced. Even when it’s someone in the appropriate age group like Kamala or Miles using them, it still just seems slightly pandering. I don’t know. I’ll admit I may be a little biased against that kind of language, but the instances in which those words and phrases were used took me out of the comic.

Frankly, I would have preferred that epic and sweeping tale I talked about. Perhaps the Avengers would have been fighting Thanos, Loki, or a new Masters of Evil. Heck, I would have taken a comic where it’s just the Avengers sitting down and chatting for a bit. That would at least theoretically have had some interesting character interactions. They could have gone out to dinner in their downtime or gone to a ball game.

Worse yet, I would have even taken a Civil War II tie-in.

This comic just didn’t really do it for me. I respect the effort and originality of the premise, but it just wasn’t entertaining enough, especially at the five-dollar price tag (Marvel really needs to fix their comic book price points). It doesn’t add anything to the overall All-New, All-Different Avengers story, so it’s not really required reading to understand anything. Give it a pass and save your money.

At least they released All-New, All-Different Avengers #13 this week as a palate cleanser.

Final Score: 2/10

 

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