Faith in the extraordinary
The new Ms Marvel is Marvel’s first Muslim character to head their own series. She is a Pakistani-American from New Jersey with shape-shifting powers, and she embodies all the angst that is appropriate for her role.
Kamala Khan [Marvel never miss a good alliterative name!] is an ordinary teenager who is desperate to try something different. From the very beginning we see her wanting to step outside her cultural boundaries at the mere smell of a BLT. Zoe Zimmer [there it is again!], the not so culturally informed teenager leads Kamala on to what will be her origin story.
The Khan family cover all aspects of a family, an overbearing mother, concerned yet easy going father, devout son and the questioning… soon to be super-powered daughter. When she thinks there’s no way to talk sense into her family she decends the tree outside her window and goes to the party that all the cool alliterative kids are going to. But her escape isn’t quite what she expected, picked on by Zoe and embarrassed by Bruno she storms off into the mysteriously misty night.
Rule number one when you live in a world with superheroes and villains [maybe not rule number one, but it’s right up there] don’t trust an unexplained mist. We don’t know exactly what it is but it has an odd effect on Kamala and she see’s a super-vision and her geek icons start talking to her. Even though she’s “totes hallucinating” her vision helps her at her crossroads between faith and her desires.
As Kamala struggles with her new changing features she is faced with the challenge of saving Zoe. She knows she must act, and we see her change from self doubt to determination. As she reflects back to her faith she is buoyed by a quote her father uses… “whoever kills one person, it is as if he has killed all of mankind… and whoever saves one person, it is as if he has saved all of mankind.”
After saving Zoe and being thrown into the limelight Kamala tries to adjust to having a regular life and a super secret one. And as most comic book geeks will tell you, having two identities isn’t the easiest thing to cope with. By the end of this book she is starting to realise that she can accomplish almost anything as long as she has some help.
As her father says, “you don’t have to be someone else to impress anybody, you are perfect just the way you are.” Although he meant this as encouragement to his normal daughter, I think it still applies to a super one. No matter your faith or choices you can use your own personal strengths to make the world just that little bit better.
As the first Muslim lead I thought she made a fantastic impression, and I also think it is a fantastic way to bring cultures and diversity to a growing audience of children and adults.
The book itself has the usual excellent graphics you see in Marvel, from the darker moody images in the mist to the bright and inspiring ones of Ms Marvel sweeping into action. There is no particularly difficult text in the book and it is always clearly set in the Marvel style. In the text itself there is very little that needs explaining, apart from the use of the word “embiggen” and “dismebiggen” with regards to her powers… you’d be forgiven if you have flashes of The Simpsons when reading it on the page.
This along with seven other titles were shortlisted for the Stan Lee Excelsior Award.