Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel Series
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artists: Adrian Alphona, Jacob Wyatt, Takeshi Miyazawa among others
Colors: Ian Herring
Letters: VC’s Joe Caramanga
Review by PeteR
“Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” Benjamin Franklin
Disclaimer: Reviews, ultimately are opinions. This review is going to occasionally slip into my liberal political biases. It will also touch on religion and sexuality (Gasp!). If that sort of thing upsets you, STOP READING NOW!
When the new Ms. Marvel was first solicited in 2014, I was planning on giving it a pass. Oh boy, another angst ridden teenager comic book title. How many times, I thought to myself, could they recycle the Peter Parker motif? It’s been done to death. A few weeks later, blazoned across my news feed, was a report that Fox News had eviscerated the new Ms. Marvel Issue #1. Even though I had not read it myself, I could tell from the report that the commentators had not read Ms. Marvel #1 either. It appeared to me that Fox was doing their usual knee jerk reaction to something that might challenge their world view narrative. In this case, their message was – ‘Muslims are bad and wholesome American children should not be exposed to anything that might portray members of the Muslim faith in a positive light.’ One of my rules is any comic book that upsets Fox News, I need to support. (Breathe, remember, this is an opinion.)
So far, there have been two separate series that feature the adventures of Kamala Khan as Ms. Marvel. The first series lasted nineteen issues and was canceled during the third incarnation of Marvel’s Secret Wars, as the world was about to come to the end (again). The second Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel series had a publication date of January 2016, and the most recent issue is #18, which was scheduled for release on May10, 2017.
Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel series depicts the adventures and challenges that young Kamala Khan experiences. She is a sixteen-year old Muslim girl living in Jersey City. She is trying to balance being a teenager as well as a social pariah due to her faith and its customs. Her parents had emigrated from Pakistan in the hopes of raising their children in a safer country with greater opportunities. Her father doesn’t understand her, and her mother is terrified for her. Her best friend is Bruno, a super smart classmate she has known since she was in pre-school. Bruno knows Kamala’s secret identity and tries to cover for her, when possible.
Kamala Khan was exposed to the Terrigan mists and gained the power to control her size and density. Kamala’s favorite hero is Carol Danvers who has gone by both identities, Ms. Marvel and currently Captain Marvel. Kamala takes the name of Ms. Marvel as a tribute to her most admired heroine. In short order, Ms. Marvel battles an evil chicken clone of Thomas Edison, has a team up with Wolverine, occasionally has LockJaw as a companion, and tries to stop Loki from spiking the punch bowl at a high school dance.
Other members of the cast include her older brother, Amir, and Kamal’s friends Nakia, Zoe, Josh and Mike. The other primary cast members are all the residents of Jersey City. Jersey City’s populace mostly supports Ms. Marvel. She needs the occasional ride from them, steps over their buildings, and does her best to protect them. Occasionally the citizens of Jersey City have turned on her when, for instance, they are hypnotized by Dr. Faustus or possessed by an evil computer virus.
Willow Wilson infuses her characters with compassion, humanity and charm. Regardless of religion, gender, or sexuality, Wilson’s subjects are trying to make the best of their lives in spite of their circumstances. There are so many moments in Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel that reinforce the basic goodness of humanity. When Kamala’s father has to ground her for sneaking out at night to save the city, he also sends her to talk with Sheikh Abdullah at their Mosque for guidance. Instead of the expected pious lecture, Sheikh Abdullah tells her, “If you insist on pursuing this thing you will not tell me about, do it with the qualities befitting an upright young woman: courage, strength, honesty, compassion and self-respect.” Both the reader and Kamala are taken aback by this show of support.
Towards the end of the first series, as the world is coming to an end, Ms. Marvel motivates her classmates to set up a shelter at the high school. When she catches a gang of looters, rather than having them arrested, Ms. Marvel succeeds in appealing to their better nature so the looters use their talents to contribute to the common good rather than take advantage of it.
Issue #17 of the second series maybe the creative highpoint for comics in 2017. Kamala’s friend, Zoe has her computer hacked. It turns out she is gay and has a crush on one of the girls in her class. When she is publically outed, her friends gather around her in the hallway of their high school and give her a group hug as a show of support. I actually teared up reading those pages. It was reaffirming to the soul to read about unconditional inclusion of a member of the LGBTQ community rather than seeing them shunned, marginalized or threatened.
The illustrations for Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel have been crafted by a variety of artists and inkers. I have enjoyed all of their work on this series. The artwork by Canadian Adrian Alphona stands out to me the most. He is able to capture nuances of shifting moods well. Alphona provides his characters with different body shapes which more realistically reflect the diversity of society, while keeping an eye out for what makes all of us ludicrous in our own special way. The other thing I enjoy about Adrian Alphona’s artwork is his usage of something E.C. Comics humor artist, Will Elder, called Chicken Fat. When you read any of Will Elder’s work, particularly the pre-magazine Mad Comics, every panel is bursting with funny visual side gags dancing about the edges. Adrian Alphona does a variation of that, and if the reader takes a little extra time to investigate what is going on in the background of various panels in Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel, there is a great deal to smile about.
Ian Herring’s coloring for Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel sets the mood for action, family, and cityscape scenes with alacrity. VC’s Joe Caramanga did the majority of the lettering chores for the series and does a terrific job highlighting various sentiments by use of font size and boldness.
Why you should buy this book? In many ways Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel portrays America in its best possible light. The society depicted engages in tolerance and acceptance of all beings (including Gods, Inhumans, Mutants and Aliens). The reception people are initially greeted with is decency rather than fear. Social expectations are challenged with often surprising results. An underlying theme is civilization is best served when people work together for a common goal rather than for selfish gains. We currently live in a reality of racial and religious (among other things) profiling. Anyone who does not fit in a specific demographic can quickly find out that some of our elected and spiritual leaders will not treat them equally and possibly have them alienated as being the “other”. Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel series is a refreshing breath of decorum that depicts how society (including Gods, Inhumans, Mutants and Aliens) should comport themselves without being preachy, condescending or relentlessly politically correct.