Goodreads: Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin
Age Category: Middle Grade
Months after receiving superpowers, Kamala Khan is trying to balance being a superhero with a being a good friend and daughter. But the stress of attending training at Avengers Tower, babysitting her nephew Malik, keeping her readers happy with fanfic updates, completing her homework, and still attending family dinners is starting to take its toll. Then a robot villain threatens to infiltrate Avengers Tower. Kamala will need to rely on her friends if she is going to defeat the threat before it is too late.
The stress of trying to do it all has been a constant theme for Ms. Marvel, so perhaps it is no surprise that this latest spin-off (meant for younger readers) has a familiar plotline. That would not necessarily be a problem; readers new to Ms. Marvel might well find the concept original, or at least relatable. However, the plot proves a little too simplistic (and Ms. Marvel a little too conveniently oblivious) to make Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin a notable addition to Kamala Khan’s legacy.
Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin is a thin story. The main antagonist, so to speak, is Kamala’s busy social life; plenty of scenes see her rushing from Avengers training to babysitting duty to fanfic writing. A secondary–and less impressive–villain is a robot who seeks to use the internet/technology to break into Avengers tower in order to access Tony Stark’s research. The entire plot hinges, however, on one key detail; even though Kamala has witnessed a very recognizable purple and yellow robot already try to break into Stark’s computers, she does not recognize the exact same robot when it shows up at her house. No, she decides to plug it into her computer instead. To buy into this story, readers also have to believe that Ms. Marvel is really, really dense.
Vague references to areas of concern for Gen Z such as internet privacy and capitalism are vaguely scattered through the book, in an apparent homage to the original teen comics, which are very concerned with social justice and other political issues. However, other than a nod to the fact that the villain has access to the internet–and the implication that Kamala should have been more careful about what she posts online–the story does not actually explore these issues. Even Kamala ultimately gets a pass for posting sensitive information about the Avengers on her fanfic forum because, according to her friends, it is really the villain’s fault for taking advantage of it.
Ultimately Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin adds nothing new to the Ms. Marvel story, but arguably actually makes it lesser. The story makes Kamala seem unobservant and foolish, and the villain is defeated too easily to make it seem like a really impressive win. Kamala’s ultimate desire to spend more time with family and friends is, I suppose, meant to be heartwarming and laudable, but, without more room for the story to expand on Kamala’s character development, the ending seems unearned and perhaps a little too easy. All it takes for her to repair her relationship with her parents is inviting them to watch a movie with her?
I was excited to read Ms. Marvel: Stretched Thin because Kamala Khan is one of my favorite superheroes. However, the book really just reignited my desire to return to the original comics.