A Marvelous Debut


Ms. Marvel #1

Just doing one review today, but it’s for what I think is probably the most significant pro-diversity comic put out by either of the Big Two in at least five years. I mean, it’s a comic about a teenaged Muslim superheroine, by a big-name writer, and it got a lot of publicity and a very high-profile release. Marvel knew they had something special, and they pulled out the stops to make it happen.

Our lead character, if you haven’t heard already, is a girl named Kamala Khan, a Westernized Muslim high schooler living in Jersey City. She’s got a few friends, including one who’s a bit more strict about her beliefs, and a few non-friends, who mostly seem to think she’s to be pitied because she’s not white. Her parents are fairly strict — not about religion, but about the upbringing of their children — and her brother is trying to be the best, most religious person he can be.

Kamala is obsessed with superheroes and desperately wishes her parents would let her go to parties with other kids from school. They forbid her to go to parties where there are boys, so she sneaks out one night to go to a party on the waterfront. Most of the kids are just not very nice to her and try to get her to drink alcohol. She ends up bailing on the party to go back home — and blunders into a cloud of the Terrigen Mists, which had been released at the end of one of Marvel’s recent crossover events… I really can’t remember which one, because they all blend together these days.

Anyway, the Terrigen Mists are what give the Inhumans their powers. And for the last few thousand years, the Inhumans have been leaving their hidden city of Attilan to breed with normal humans. That means that a certain percentage of the population have an Inhuman heritage, and if they’re exposed to the Terrigen Mists, they can get powers, too. And it looks like Kamala has some Inhuman ancestry.

She has a near-religious vision of Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Iron Man, who inspire her to heroism after she confesses that she’s always wanted to be like Captain Marvel. And then she wakes up trapped inside a cocoon, trying to figure out how to escape — and what she discovers when she gets out is not exactly what she was expecting.

Verdict: Thumbs up. Loved it even more than I was expecting to. And I was expecting to like it a heck of a lot.

I was a little in doubt about Adrian Alphona’s artwork, which looked a little odd in some of the previews, but the full comic definitely won me over. His artwork is quirky and a little cartoonish, but he’s really good with facial expressions and body language, and I think he’s gonna help make this comic a lot of fun.

G. Willow Wilson is the writer, a Muslim convert, best known for writing the World Fantasy Award-winning novel “Alif the Unseen,” as well as the graphic novel “Cairo” and the series “Air.” She brings a ton of personality to all the characters here — not just Kamala, but her family and friends, and even the party-hardy knuckleheads out at the waterfront. There’s not a stereotype in the bunch — not bacon-desiring, fanfic-obsessed Kamala, not her wannabe-holy man brother, not her strict, blustering, hidebound, but still patient and canny parents, not her wants-to-be-more-traditional friend Nakia, not her wants-to-be-her-boyfriend Anglo pal Bruno. They’re all interesting and non-stereotypical, and I’m really looking forward to reading a lot more about all of them.

Not that you wouldn’t expect it from a Muslim writer who’s written books starring Muslim characters, but the grandest thing about this book is probably the lack of stereotypes. Every Muslim character is a little bit different — Kamala doesn’t wear a headscarf or any other traditional Muslim clothing, and she madly desires bacon, which she describes as “delicious, delicious infidel meat.” Nakia wears a scarf, but her parents think she’s just going through a phase. Kamala’s parents are fairly Westernized, but still conservative, and her brother Aamir spends his whole day praying, partly out of devotion, partly because he doesn’t want to get a job. They’re all real people, as different from each other as any group of Christians would be from each other. It’s a wonderful contrast when most forms of entertainment still portray Muslims as fairly cookie-cutter characters.

Lemme go ahead and sum this up — I loved the comic, and I think it’s something you should read, too. Go pick up the first issue and get on board from the beginning.


  1. Voodoo Ben Said,

    February 7, 2014 @ 9:53 am

    Loved it. It’s probably the most important superhero comic being released this year, and it absolutely delivered without being preachy or over-serious.

    Would love to read you review of Loki as well, though.

  2. scottslemmons Said,

    February 7, 2014 @ 9:55 am

    I completely forgot to pick Loki up. I might try to see if I can find it this weekend…