Ms. Marvel #1 – $2.99
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Colorist: Ian Herring
Cover: Sara Pichelli
Should you read it: YES.
Kamala Khan is one of the best new characters Marvel has come up with, drawing from the original 1960s characters that became an institution. Like Spider-Man, she’s a geek with a gutsy streak. Like the X-Men, her background and lifestyle differ just enough from the rest of her peers that she’s an outcast. Her family are immigrants, not unlike the Fantastic Four, cosmic foreigners who had to reacclimate to a New York City that could never truly understand them, as much as it accepts them.
Kamala is a 16-year old New Jersey girl who lives with her Pakistani immigrant family. Her father is the most acclimated, a banker upset his son won’t find a job and not allowing his daughter to go to parties. Her conservative brother hides his malaise behind his religion. Kamala’s mother tries to keep them all together.
Kamala and her family are relatable. She is the sort of character that drew me into comics and Marvel when I was a young teenager. She has real world problems with her family, her friends, and her peers. Much has been made of Kamala being Muslim or a woman. These all offer potential for character development and future stories, but also misses the point in much of the lead up coverage to this release.
While Kamala’s Turkish friend wears a headwrap and Kamala pines for the smell of bacon, Wilson (a 31 year old convert to Islam) doesn’t make a big deal about it. There is never a point in the issue where Wilson tries to wave hands and stake a sign to point out Kamala is a Muslim woman with a dark skin tone. It is introduced in the most natural manner possible, and thus never overshadows the core of the character.
Kamala wants to be a superhero. Notably not a hero. A superhero. She writes fan fiction about the Avengers. Her friends tease her for being an Avengers fangirl. When she is asked who she would want to be, she doesn’t hold back: She wants to be Carol Danvers, “politically incorrect costume” and all.
This is a teenage girl, beset on all fronts by awkwardness or bullying or others telling her how she should or shouldn’t be, and she chooses to put her faith in superheroes. If that’s not familiar to you, then I’m not sure you read superhero comics.
The issue itself is slow and too much of an introduction. Like most of Marvel’s modern books, it seems decompressed for trade, and will probably read better as such. We live a day with Kalama as she struggles with her identity and gives in to peer pressure:
“Everybody else gets to be normal. Why can’t I?”
It’s pure character development and set up for the last page where-
Focusing on Kamala as a girl or Muslim does the character and title a disservice. It’s not getting by on that hook. It’s simply a part of the character. She will not handle things like Peter Parker or Kitty Pryde because she isn’t them. She has a different background and outlook, and the title differentiates itself from the rest of Marvel without ostracizing itself. That’s sort of the point of diversity, and Wilson nails it.
The bigger picture is that Kamala can be an iconic Marvel character, one anyone can look up to and feel empowered and inspired by.
To do that, the next few issues are going to need to deliver on the promise of Avengers and Avenger worshipping actions and antics. The scene is set, and I hope the next issue hits hard and answers questions raised in the very last pages.
The slow start isn’t a knock against picking up the book, though. Toronto native Adrian Alphona (The Runaways) handles art duties. I mention he’s from Toronto because I am, and I’ve had the pleasure of meeting him twice. As evidenced by The Runaways, Alphona is known for his grounded but whimsical line work. He is one of the few artists in mainstream comics who excels at drawing teenagers as more than tiny adults, and is well suited to developing Kamala and her cast. His line work has a delicate touch that suits Kamala’s look (the man draws interesting, detailed, textured hair, for one) and helps deliver Wilson’s subtle and character driven script.
I mention Toronto because it’s a diverse city, and Alphona has a diverse illustration portfolio encompassing fashion and drawing people at local coffee shops. I feel Alphona would know how to best capture a starstruck, confused immigrant girl overwhelmed by Jersey, and making the city look like a lived in, believable world.
Alphona’s art defines the world and characters, breathing life into the book and allowing you to lose yourself in the story until you hit the last page and realize there was no action. That’s a talent, as a lesser artist would have made the book a page flipper and failed to add weight to the cliffhanger. Alphona is as much a part of Kamala’s successful introduction as Wilson.
Ms. Marvel #1 is a beautiful book with thought out characters and gorgeous art. Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring turn in beautiful pages that make G. Willow Wilson’s character heavy script easy to fall into. This is one of the most exciting and honest new characters Marvel has brought to the table. It’s too early to tell, but the title has the talent and ideas to be one of the more exciting new ventures from the House of Ideas in a while. Give Kamala a chance, and I promise that she’ll win you over.
Tags: Adrian Alphona, Marvel, Ms. Marvel