- Publisher: Marvel Comics
- Writer: G. Willow Wilson
- Artists: Adrian Alphona, et. al.
- Editor: Sana Amanat
- Release: 05 February 2014 - 14 October 2015
So yeah. This series stars a sixteen-year-old, Pakistani immigrant girl named Kamala Khan. (If you read her name without thinking of Captain Kirk's immortal scream from Star Trek II, you are stronger-willed than I. Even the series itself falls victim to it later on.) Well, on her way home from a bad party, she finds herself enveloped in a strange mist, sees a vision of Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Captain America reciting Urdu poetry, and the next thing she knows, she has shapeshifting powers. First of all, a disclaimer: I am not making any of that up. Second, you may be wondering, as did I, how did this event come about? Surely it was a completely random occurrence, you might think. Well apparently, this mist was the product of something called a Terrigen bomb, which awoke various powers in a select few people. I'm guessing this happened in a different story, so a little extra knowledge on current events in the Marvel universe would not go amiss.
So enough about Kamala as a superhero, how is she as a Muslim character? See, here's the thing: if I told you, without any other context whatsoever, that someone at Marvel was creating a Muslim hero, odds are your impression of her would be that her appearance, or even her powers, would be an obvious, overly basic representation of her religious heritage.
For example.1 And that would not be farther from the truth. In fact, one of the things that struck me the most about Kamala, both in her civilian and hero personae, is that apart from when attending her local mosque, she never wears a headscarf. Now, as an outsider, I have my own preconceptions about Muslims. Not that they are all terrorists out to destroy the Western world, perish the thought. Heck, I'd go so far as to say that over 99% of Muslims are law-abiding citizens. But I still tend to instinctively identify them as, for lack of a better term, some kind of "Stop Having Fun" guys; I mean, they strictly adhere to certain rules which I may or may not view as reasonable. Speaking as an outsider, I'm not a fan of the hijab in principle. I wouldn't go yanking off the hijabs of women I pass walking by or anything, but I'd prefer them to stop and think about why they wear it. For what it's worth, both the writer (G. Willow Wilson) and editor (Sana Amanat) are Muslim women (either by birth or conversion), and also grew up in Jersey City to boot, so I have faith that they know what they're doing.
|The situations Kamala deals with in her civilian life are actually quite universal.|
|DISCLAIMER: I was not making up that|
So, enough of the heavy stuff; let's get technical. Ms. Marvel has had numerous artists throughout its run, but most issues were drawn by Adrian Alphona. His style is... an acquired taste, shall I say, because it's kind of sketchy. That may bug some people and not others, so if I may make a more objective observation, I do like the numerous background jokes he throws in here and there. For example, Kamala can be seen in a few panels eating her preferred breakfast cereal called "GMO's" (a play on Cheerios and Genetically Modified Organisms, if you didn't get it). My personal favourite artist to have worked on Ms. Marvel is Takeshi Miyazawa from issues #13-15, whose style is far cleaner and more closely resemble true manga, but again, that's just my opinion.
I came in to Ms. Marvel expecting a different, more positive, portrayal of Muslims in America, and I got that all right, but so much more on top of it. I got somebody trying to find her own place in an unforgiving world, but rising up at the end of it all to stand up for my generation, as a Millenial. And while the ending of this 19-issue series wasn't quite satisfying, there is thankfully a second Ms. Marvel series, continuing to this day, picking up where the first one left off (as part of the franchise-wide "All-New, All-Different Marvel" quasi-reboot). This year I've started getting into western superhero comics, and I couldn't ask for a better jumping-on point than Ms. Marvel. Thank you, Kamala Khan, for teaching me how to love again.
Artwork: 3 out of 5
Dialogue: 5 out of 5
Plot: 4 out of 5
Characters: 5 out of 5
The Call: 90% (A-)
Furthermore, if I may be allowed to editorialise for a bit: Ms. Marvel, both the series and the character herself, are perfect reasons why Donald Trump should not be elected President of the United States. Although Kamala herself was born in Jersey City, her parents emigrated from Pakistan before she was born. If a president like Trump were calling the shots at the time, Kamala's parents would never have made it to America, and her story would not even have the chance to have happened. So that's two strikes against his racist isolation doctrine. Whereas the world according to Trump collectively sorts people into preordained and assumed roles, I, on the other hand, personally believe that everybody in this world has the potential to contribute to their society. This also ties into what was the most emotionally engaging moment I read in the series thus far: the bit where Ms. Marvel encouraged all those teenagers not to throw their lives away, and contribute to a better society in their own ways. As the great philosopher Bobby Nunn once said, "Don't knock it until you try it".
I'm IchigoRyu, and I approve this message.
You are the resistance.
1 Wilstein, Matt. "Twitter Goes After Conan O'Brien for 'Racist' Muslim Female Superhero Joke". Mediaite, 9 November 2013. http://www.mediaite.com/online/twitter-goes-after-conan-obrien-for-racist-muslim-female-superhero-joke/
2 MrEnter. "Avoiding Unfortunate Implications: The Characters". deviantART, 10 April 2016. http://mrenter.deviantart.com/art/Avoiding-Unfortunate-Implications-The-Characters-602166339