Marvel Comics has GOT to be feeling on top of the world lately. Their characters are regularly making millions of dollars in films, they’ve got a highly-rated TV show on a major network, and they continue to make headlines by introducing characters that feel of-the-moment.
Their new volume of Ms. Marvel, which released its 1st issue on Wednesday, features one of the latter, playing more like a young-adult book that just so happens to be set in the Marvel Universe.
You’d think that, given this is technically a “legacy book” (i.e. a new character taking the moniker and costume of an already established hero) a huge amount of backstory would occupy most of the issue. Well, ordinarily, you’d be right, but not here. Instead, writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona introduce the new Ms. Marvel–Kamala Khan, a 16 year-old Pakistani Muslim-American from New Jersey–the same way Stan Lee and Steve Ditko introduced Spider-Man over 50 years ago: as an awkward teenage outcast.
Only rather than being mocked for being a nerd (although she is one–a funny sequence centers around the fact that she writes Avengers fanfic), Kamala is ostracized for her heritage and beliefs. The requisite bitchy popular girl doesn’t mock her outfit; instead, she cracks jokes about honor killing. Yeah, the phrase “high school is hell” could not be more applicable.
Anyway, throughout this issue, we see Kamala deal with Zoe, the aforementioned queen bee, her friend Nakia (who insists on being called that instead of Kiki to reflect her Turkish heritage), and the Shaggy to her Velma, Bruno, as well as her overbearing parents and her brother, the shiftless, orthodox Aamir. The main conflict doesn’t really center around how Kamala gets her powers, but instead of her sneaking out to go to a party. It’s a conflict a thousand stories told, but the creative team here manages to make everything feel brand new and exciting, not just because of the perspective they’re writing from, but because it rings with authenticity.
Wilson, a lauded writer (her first novel won the 2013 World Fantasy Award) who converted to Islam in college, and has previously written for Vertigo and DC, was the absolute perfect choice to write this book. She marries the general pain of adolescence with the specific viewpoint of someone patronized or ostracized for her faith and heritage and it’s a wonderful, intriguing blend. Kamala is an instantly endearing character who will resonate with people in and out of regular comics fandom.
Alphona’s art reminds me of Chew’s Rob Guillory. It’s cartoony without being cartoonish, vibrant without being flashy, and stylish without a lack of substance. He fully sells this world we’re dropped into, and I sincerely hope he remains on the title for a long time.
As I said earlier, this is technically a legacy book, as Ms. Marvel is the former moniker of Carol Danvers (who you can learn more about here and here) who is now Captain Marvel, and who Kamala idolizes. But honestly, you don’t really need to know ANYTHING about Kamala’s hero to know how much she idolizes her.
This is an excellent jumping-on point and a start to what looks like to be the biggest and best thing to happen to superhero comics in a long time. Check it out!