Comic Review: Ms. Marvel #1

When Marvel first announced its all new wave of Marvel NOW! titles, the one that I was most excited about was Ms. Marvel #1.  Marvel NOW! is part of Marvel's efforts to introduce readers to the comic books without feeling like they're missing anything.  Some of the books have relaunched (not re-booted) of existing titles and others introduce new characters to the world.  Such is the case of Ms. Marvel.  This Ms. Marvel, however, is not Carol Danvers, the woman who held that title for years until she recently took on the moniker Captain Marvel.  Instead, this all-new Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a Muslim teenager of Pakistani descent living in New Jersey who finds herself imbued with superpowers.

Now, I applaud comic book companies for trying to diversify and represent what the world really looks like.  Unfortunately, diversifying is not as easy as making somebody a different race or gender or sexual orientation and calling it a day.  I've heard so many times from some people that these things shouldn't matter and that it's your character that should count.  Again, that would be all swell and good, but, it's just not that simple.  And, if you haven't walked a mile in the shoes of somebody who grew up in this country with different cultural values or found themselves being paid less because of their gender or bullied in school because of their sexual orientation, chances are, you'll never get it.

What I love about this new Ms. Marvel is that writer G. Willow Wilson, who created the series along with editor Sana Amanat and artist Adrian Alphona, avoids all the trappings of just calling Kamala Khan a Muslim Pakistani American.  In fact, rather than starting her out of the gate running as a super hero, she takes some time introducing us to this complex young lady.  We see where she hangs out, we see how she is teased in this post-9/11 world for being a Muslim, we see her family cultural dynamics, we see Muslims of varying degrees of conservatism, we see she writes fan fiction about the Avengers and we see that she just wants to fit in.  I very much relate to her as I, in my youth, had to deal with living in the Midwest in a post-Vietnam War world where anti-Asian sentiment was still percolating.  I remember being on a bus and being told by one of my classmates that my parents killed his dad, uncle and grandfather (all of whom, I learned, were killed in the Vietnam War, Korean War and in Japan during WWII respectively).  So, the teasing Kamala experiences in this issue is palpable to me.

I also love Adrian Alphona's art work.  It's got this quirkiness that is different, yet really accentuates the awkwardness of Kamala and how she interacts with the world around her.  It just feels so much thought went into this issue.  Not a calculating type of thinking, but one that comes out of a love for seeing this character come to life,

If Ms. Marvel #1 is any indication of how the series is going to be, then I am very firmly planted as one of its fans and look forward to being a longtime reader.  The writing of this character should serve as a template to comic book companies wanting to write a character with a "diverse" background.  Remember, diversity may not be the sum total of a person, but it is a very important part of the experience in each and every one of us and not to be dismissed.


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