There was a lot hinging on this first issue, and that’s putting it in the lightest way possible. Not only is Marvel releasing a book featuring a brand new character [in secret identity, not heroic alter-ego], they’ve chosen to also make her a female, Pakistani, and a Muslim. How well this title ends up doing will strongly affect the publisher’s future decisions on diversity down the, and in their, line. In other words, this had better be incredible.
I picked up a copy this morning and read it cover to cover. I witnessed all that Wilson, Alphona, and Herring had made, and it was very good.
Let’s be upfront with each other, origin stories can be tiresome. Ultimately what most of us want to see is our superhero of choice doing what they do best, which is ideally punching bad guys in their stupid faces. Now let’s move past being upfront and transition into getting real. You also have to care about them, too.
The last time I was in my teens was roughly four years ago, but I think it’s safe to say that I can still remember what being one was like. That being said, Kamala Khan is a believable teenager. Writer G. Willow Wilson has created a character who is trying to navigate the needlessly complex high school social landscape, argues with her parents about going to parties, and, of course, spends a little too much time on the internet-
This book’s authenticity extends beyond just what being sixteen is like: in the Khan household Urdu words are often sprinkled into English [something most children of immigrants will be used to] and her family feels like it’s made up of living, breathing human beings. Her father and brother in particular, with the former lightly joshing his son that “. . . when you spend all day praying it starts to look like you’re avoiding something.” Kamala spitting out alcohol she mistakenly sips is a strong case for this title bearing the cultural awareness necessary to be dubbed immigrant lit.
As mentioned, this is an origin story, and as an Inhuman [Marvel’s latest bankable creative venture] Kamala was destined to be exposed to a healthy dose of Terrigen Mist. All you new readers really need to know is that they were the result of an epic line-wide crossover that you didn’t read, and honestly don’t need to if you want to enjoy Ms. Marvel. What’s really important is that her transformation is laced with real emotion [wonder, anxiety, uncertainty] and culminates in her wish to be Captain Marvel being answered.
While this first issue doesn’t leave us with Kamala having become the title character, it does something equally, if not more, important: it makes us care about her. I’m not only invested in her kicking evildoers until they stop doing evil, I also want her to work things out with her parents because being a teenager is hard; I want her to fully realize that being Pakistani is just as good as being a White American.
All in all it’s the right first step towards diversity in comic books, and already has the beginnings of a strong fanbase with letters page Holla @ Kamala and behind-the-scenes tumblr THE ALL-NEW MS. MARVEL Backstage Pass. Be sure to check out the book, and add your voice if it’s something you believe is important [which it is].
Of course, Wilson would be nowhere without the artists, and Runaways alum Adrian Alphona’s expressive lines are only improved by Ian Herring’s warm colours. Every panel is replete with often hilarious minute details, which leads me to the feature special to these reviews I’ll be ending things on-
The Ms. Marvel
Visual Gag You Shouldn’t Have Missed: The Circle Q, the convenience store where Kamala and friends hang out before school, is filled to the gills with background jokes. The magazines on the rack have such titles as “Self Conscious Magazine”, “Looks”, “Steroids”, and, my personal favourite, “Fisticuffs Magazine”. The probably too-stern store policy appears to be “You read 4 words you buy!”
Ms. Marvel #1
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona
Colours by Ian Herring
Letters by Joe Caramagna
Edited by Sana Amanat