Most of the discourse around the launch of this new Ms. Marvel series and character has been about how ‘important’ it is, how you need to buy it to support diversity in comics and all that stuff. But to me, all of that means nothing if the actual comic itself is bad. We shouldn’t praise comics for being diverse or important, they should just be good. And luckily, on the basis of this first issue, Ms. Marvel is not only good, but very good indeed. After only 1 issue, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona have created an engaging, unique character in Kamala Khan, and a character with a different perspective and style from most of what is on the stands, and a title that could very well go up there with Ultimate Spider-Man and Runaways as the best teenaged superhero titles ever.
Wilson is taking things fairly slowly here, as the superhero element doesn’t really kick in until right at the end of the issue, but that works for me. Kamala is a new character, and we need to know what her life was like before she became a superhero. People complained about Ultimate Peter Parker not becoming Spider-Man for like, 4 issues, but it made the origin that much more impactful, and the same applies here. The issue begins with Kamala and her friend Kiki (AKA Nakia) in a convenience store talking to Bruno, another friend who works there. From the very first page we are seeing Kamala struggle with her identity as a Muslim as she eyes up a bacon sandwich, wanting to try it, or just smell it. A bit more tension is introduced when some white fellow students also come into the store. Wilson writes this scene very well, as Zoe and her boyfriend aren’t at all outright racist, but they do display ignorance about Muslim culture.
I know I shit-talked praising comics for simply being diverse earlier, but I think this title could do a good job at educating people about what Islam is like and challenging stereotypes. We see that again in Kamala’s home-life, which shows a varied range of devoutness. After seeing a bit of her Avengers fan-fic (which was dumb, but funny, and sure to endear the character to fans), it’s time for dinner. Kamala, as we’ve already seen feels chafed by her culture, but her parents actually seem fairly moderate, chastising her brother for praying too much, and showing that he uses religion as an excuse for not getting a job. We also see this with Kiki, who has recently started wearing a headdress, which her parents are actually opposed to. It seems that many people view all Muslims as fundamentalists who worship constantly, but, just like Christianity, some people are just moderately religious. It’s a spectrum and Ms. Marvel is showing a lot of different sides of it. Kamala asks to go to a party she was invited to by Zoe, but her dad forbids it, causing her to sneak out.
The party is pretty damn awkward as the dumb jock Josh gives her some booze, and is generally pretty offensive. I like the fact that Kamala seems trapped between two different worlds, she feels like her home life is too restrictive, but is out of place in amongst the non-Muslim kids at school. Perhaps the most important part of making the character a Muslim is that it makes her an outsider, which I feel is important for teen heroes. Every teen, no matter their race, feels like an outsider, like nobody understands them, and superhero comics need to convey that. Back in the 1960s, liking science and wearing glasses was enough to make Peter Parker a bullied outcast, but now, stuff like that is ‘cool’ so the best way to make someone an outsider is culturally. Kamala isn’t out-right bullied like Peter Parker was, but there’s definitely tension there.
Kamala leaves the party after Bruno tells her to, and she wanders right into a mysterious mist. This is the Terrigen mist from Inhumanity, but wisely, Wilson doesn’t say that, it’s better to make this stand on it’s own for now. Kamala is knocked out, and has a vision of Captain America, Iron Man, and most importantly, Captain Marvel. They are speaking Urdu and basically tell her that she’s at a cross-roads, and she needs to decide who she wants to be. She tells Captain Marvel that she wants to be a like her, and when she comes out of her cocoon… she is! Kamala comes out looking exactly like classic Carol Danvers, in her old costume, and white as white can be. This was a great ending, and one that surprised me. Kamala didn’t want to be different and brown, and now she isn’t, but I don’t think it will make her happy.
Adrian Alphona’s art is a big part of why this issue was so good, I’ve been a fan of his ever since Runaways, and it’s great to have him back in comics, and on a teenaged character. I like the adjustments he’s made to his style too, it’s a bit more cartoonish and stylised, but it really works. Every character is recognisable and seems to have personality, and hey, he draws one hell of a creepy mist.
This was a very enjoyable debut issue, G. Willow Wilson, who I haven’t read anything from before, has really delivered here, the characters feel real, the depiction of Islam is realistic and not sensationalised, and whilst the superheroic elements aren’t really a factor yet, I’m excited to see how they are handled. Don’t buy Ms. Marvel because somebody told you to because it’s important and fits into an agenda… buy it because it’s great.