MARVEL RISING ALPHA #1 / Writer: Devin Grayson / Artist: Georges Duarte / Color Artist: Rachelle Rosenberg / Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles / Cover Art: Gurihiru / Publisher: Marvel / June 13, 2018
Marvel Rising Alpha continues to impress with their all ages Squirrel Girl-Ms Marvel team up while also introducing Ember Quaid, a high school gamer (and fresh Inhuman) who walks the tightrope between potential hero and villain with all the grace you’d expect of a teenage girl; so, in fact, none.
Devin Grayson brings Ember, a young but accomplished gamer and coder, and her world to life right away. Her story begins in the lab, playing an online game. She dominates her competitors, but unfortunately the guys she’s playing cannot seem to accept she’s as good as she is; somehow she must cheat. These guys come off aggressively dudebro, dripping with sexist entitlement and jealousy. Marvel Rising Alpha adds in a fantasy element where someone’s influenced these boys to adopt this toxic mindset. Either way, Ember’s heard all this before and she’s finding that now, after the Terrigen Mist, she can do something about it.
Ember’s characterization looks mighty familiar to high school teachers like myself. All my students know about my comic book nerdiness. When students like Ember find their way to my classroom, I see many of the same issues with boys being jerks about girls liking games, coding, STEAM, robotics. Generally, the girls either brush off the boys’ behavior and avoid them where they can, or the girls push back, find allies in others, and dig in their heels demanding their place be respected. That idea of finding allies seems important in how effective the girls are in standing up for themselves and their skills. The story has a mysterious angle, in the form of Ember’s online ally. Does this person have Ember’s true welfare at heart or are they grooming Ember to enter the world of villainy? We don’t know yet and that’s for the better.
This story holds true to the weirdness of adolescence, that time in our life where our identity starts to grow and breaks off into different directions. Rarely does any single person understand how all those parts will come together to create the whole. Doreen is getting there, but she’s in college. Kamala is definitely struggling with the different elements of her identity. Ember is in the same boat but is going in a different direction from Kamala. I look forward to see how this plays out for all of them.
Marvel Rising Alpha tackles big themes like bullying and building identity, Georges Duarte and Rachelle Rosenberg bring an earnestly dualistic look. One moment we see the inner struggle the character faces, whether that’s Ms. Marvel feeling overwhelmed and falling behind in school, Ember feeling trapped by jealous boys, or Doreen quietly lamenting the blatant sexism she sees in her coding group. The reader gets to see those introspective moments, but then they are followed up with other moments when the character leaves their thoughts behind and kicks butt. It’s wonderful to see young women portrayed as the complex individuals they actually are.
One of my favorite panels deals with Ember’s creation getting loose around the school and Squirrel Girl and Ms Marvel’s attempts to defeat it. The three connected panels are set up to look like Squirrel Girl is in a game herself. It reminds me of the old Mario Brothers game.
Speaking specifically about the color choices, it would be easy for a colorist to channel emo teen trap music for issues like this, where characters feel like outsiders as new powers develop and they feel like they cannot express their true selves. Thankfully this isn’t drawn like a Batman man pain story, full of rain, lightning and moody colors. In spite of all the heavy themes being explored, Rosenberg’s colors and tone pop with energy in a welcome way.
Since Marvel Rising Alpha is an all ages book and my eldest daughter reads them, I decided to ask her for a few reactions. Here’s what I was able to pull from her tweenaged brain:
Cheryl Gustafson: Tell me three things you liked about this book.
JG: I liked that Ms Marvel and Squirrel Girl were connected more than just helping each other as heroes. They were teacher and student in a class.
CG: What else?
JG: I liked how there were teenagers, my age, and they were on screens like teenagers. I can relate to that.
JG: I liked how you saw how Ember evolved from student to villain.
CG: That last point is interesting. Tell me more.
JG: Stop interrogating me, mom. I’m done talking about this comic. Write your own ideas.
CG: Is Marvel Rising Alpha worth reading? How many stars would you give it?
JG: Yes. It is really good. God. Leave me alone. It’s good. I give it 4 stars.
MY VERDICT: 5 Out Of 5
Tween Daughter On Summer Vacation And Not Here For Mom’s Comic Book Business Verdict: 4 out of 5 stars
I’m a curious, creative, comic(al) woman. I am unapologetically Team Cap, but not HydraCap because there is a line in the moral sands of the universe and that whole thing is on the other side of it. I teach high school students all about the joys of mythology through comic books, graphic novels, and films. I wandered into the comic book world in 2015 and is a proud member of the #DoYouEvenComicBook gang.