When last we left Peter Parker and Kamala Khan they were…well, Kamala Khan and Peter Parker. After a brain uploader experiment gone wrong the two heroes find themselves in each other’s bodies. This week they figure out exactly what that means.
Marvel Team-Up #2 offers exactly what it says on the tin, but the emphasis is a lot more on the Team-Up than the Marvel. Don’t get me wrong there’s plenty of Marvel characters and easily followed references to Marvel continuity, but you won’t find a lot of Marvel action or Marvel drama here, this is the issue where we see how difficult is is for our heroes to live as each other without the complications of the Jackal’s plot. In fact, while the pair do turn their attention on a group of low-level
robbers burglars, the vast majority of the issue and its best writing is all focused around civilian life.
From high school to job interviews to the Circle Q, Peter and Kamala are having a rough day in each other’s lives. The results are mixed. There are some great moments of the pair enjoying their vacations from themselves and real fun to be had in their reactions to each other’s powers, but there are also sections that feel almost perfunctory. Kamala interviewing for a job in Peter’s place, for instance, is great at giving you a real sense of her anxiety, but its jokes fall flat and it feels like it exists solely to move us towards an expected and unoriginal conclusion that your own problems are better than being thrown into someone else’s without context or the ability to prepare. Peter’s equivalent scene is also an uncomfortable part of the book.
While I don’t think anybody really wanted to dwell on the fact that this story has put Peter Parker in the body of a teenage girl (I really hope not at least), there is a natural curiosity in switched places stories about how to handle issues of identity and sexuality. There’s a panel of Peter enjoying lip gloss that’s fun and very cute, but the issue doesn’t really do anything more with the effect of gender norms on the pair and its acknowledgement of the physiological differences between them feels lazy and doesn’t really say much except that Kamala probably should have given Peter a talk about his changing body. Even more awkward, Peter is the subject of Islamophobic bullying at Kamala’s school. That’s a heavy subject that could be very important to a Ms. Marvel story, but the book doesn’t really do anything with it and it just left a bad taste in my mouth.
Through these lacking moments, Kamala’s exuberance and Peter’s wistful contentment feel real and ground the comic. Both heroes are well written, if in a slightly broad comedic fashion. I believe that Peter and Kamala could certainly do a better job of pretending to be one another, but that’s not the story that Eve Ewing is telling here and it’s disingenuous to pretend that this isn’t a fun, old-school wacky science adventure. From mishaps with Ms. Marvel’s powers to Peter enjoying the upgraded amenities over his apartment, there are some solid gags throughout the issue.
Ewing also seems to be laying some really interesting clues out for the rest of the arc. There’s more super tech in play than just “Polly” and the ways that the duo’s powers malfunction are entirely natural but could easily turn out to be some expertly hidden foreshadowing. Indeed, it’s a worthwhile exercise to reread the issue and see if you can’t find additional explanations for the weirdness of the swap beyond those that Peter hypothesizes. I know I have one.
There’s also a lot of fun had with the fact that, classic as this trope is, Peter’s still not too far from a previous body swap catastrophe that was a lot less light-hearted. Ewing makes a number of intelligent call backs to Doc Ock’s residency in Peter’s body and its fallout and the degree to which Peter acknowledges that and rightly determines that this is a less threatening and more run of the mill superhero weirdness is very charming. The flip side is that I think that the issue could have lost a couple references to a different story and still been perfectly clear, but it’s hardly offensive.
As ever, Joey Vazquez proves adept at bringing out the character of Spider-Man and the beauty and comedy of Ms. Marvel, even if I’ve technically got those switched around thanks to the body swapping plot. There remains an electric energy to Vazquez’s characters that keeps the feeling of celebration and fun centered through the entire issue, even when the characters grumble.
The art is also notably more even than the previous issue. Admittedly the highs of issue #1 aren’t as common, but there aren’t any visual oddities either. Layouts remain fun and distinctive, action and comedy both have a magnetism about them, and the panels depicting the malfunctioning super science that put our heroes in this situation look great. Overall it’s a stronger showing from Vazquez. The biggest weakness of the issue artistically is that you can feel how much of an entertaining side step this issue is in the art, and that’s not Vazquez’s fault.
Filipe Sobreiro is back for another solid issue as well. His shiny, striking colors serve the issue admirably, but, unfortunately, he doesn’t get the chance to shine that he did last issue. In moments of superhero action and Freaky Friday science, we get a glimpse of the wild colors and clever lighting of last issue, but those are undoubtedly fewer here. It feels as though, fun as this issue is and well suited to the overall tone of the series, Marvel Team-Up #2 isn’t quite playing to its artists’ strengths.
Marvel Team-Up #2 does something that I actually wish more comics would: namely, taking time to just sit with the characters and enjoy the weird hijinks that come with being a superhero. Unfortunately, only some of its attempts in this regard are hits and the art team feels held back by the less traditional story. Even if they don’t always bring out the best of each other, both art and writing are really solid. Ewing is doing some really interesting things behind the scenes, but not every reader will cotton to the light hearted script and some that do will wish that it said more about its characters or went even bigger with its body swapping fun. Ultimately Marvel Team-Up #2 is pretty utterly nonessential, even for fans of the series so far, but it does enough that’s joyful and clever to warrant a look before you pass it by.
Marvel Team-Up #2 is currently available in comic shops from Marvel Comics.