Spider-Man meets Sixteen Candles.
At its most basic level, Ms. Marvel is about a teenage girl coming of age who also has to deal with being granted superpowers. However, author G. Willow Wilson takes it one step further and gives us Kamala Khan, our awkward Pakistani-American Muslim teenage girl protagonist from Jersey City. How’s that for pushing the envelope?
Ms. Marvel volume 1 is titled, “No Normal,” and collects the first five issues of the monthly comic book series. This first story arc focuses on the origin of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel, and takes readers through the life of your typical teenage American dealing with typical teenage American things like self identity, fitting in, crushes, peer pressure, strict parents and how to control newfound superpowers. Luckily for new readers, you don’t need any prior knowledge of the Marvel Universe to understand the backstory – just know that there’s a mysterious green mist that unlocks superpowers in certain humans and Kamala Khan got caught in it.
After discovering her shapeshifting superpowers, she takes on the persona of Ms. Marvel, a classic Marvel superhero whom she adores. The rest of the story involves her exploring her new identity and deciding who she can and cannot trust with her new secret, while trying to fit in at school and please her overprotective and traditional immigrant Muslim parents.
“This is not evangelism. It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith. Her brother is extremely conservative, her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant, and her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” – G. Willow Wilson
Although there are bad guys, the focus is more on Kamala’s growth and establishing her as a superhero. Wilson does a great job of bringing the reader into Kamala’s mind and you really understand her somewhat awkward decision making processes. Admit it – we didn’t make the best decisions as teenagers, and neither does Kamala, but that’s part of growing up.
Artist Adrian Alphona brings a completely fresh look to this new Marvel series – his artistic style does not look like the standard Marvel “house style,” which makes the book really stand on its own. The characters are more exaggerated than cartoony, and it makes them more identifiable. The best work Alphona does is in the characters’ facial expressions, bringing out the many emotions Kamala goes through as her thoughts fly around a mile a minute. I also enjoy the backgrounds – there are always interesting details and little Easter eggs to discover.
The best part about Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel is that she’s vastly different from every other superhero out there right now. To create a normal, relatable female superhero who isn’t overly sexualized and objectified, or defined by her relationship to a man, is a much-needed breath of fresh air.
Does it get Shortboxed?
Yes. G. Willow Wilson hit the ball out of the park with Ms. Marvel, and all the buzz and book sales prove it. Ms. Marvel is bigger than the book itself – it represents a shift in the landscape of superhero comics, and will usher in a new generation of comic book readers, many of whom will be young girls who look up to Kamala Khan. She’s here and she’s not going anywhere.
Where to get it
Ms. Marvel volume 1 is moving a ton of copies, so you should be able to walk into your local comic store (LCS) and pick up a copy. You can also get it on Amazon for $11, or if you prefer reading your comics digitally, you can download the monthly issues on Marvel Digital. “No Normal” collects issues 1-5, and is currently an ongoing monthly series.
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