HEY, KIDS! COMICS! KAMALA KHAN IS THE ICON OUR WORLD NEEDS (OH, AND ‘MS. MARVEL’ #1 IS TERRIFIC)
By Arpad Okay. What is the coolest thing about the new Ms. Marvel? That she’s officially an Avenger? Between her, Miles Morales, Jane Foster and Sam Wilson, the new Avengers team is as refreshing as it is progressive. But really, is it that she dungeon crawls Ancient Scrolls Online? That is definitely a front-runner for me.
Is it her secret identity that keeps her humble? She gets to go full Avenger and live the dream, but she needs to keep it from her friends (and more importantly, her parents) at the same time. She can’t go around throwing her last name on buildings like Tony does. She’s got to stay grounded. (At the very least, for her gaming group.)
Is it that she is a Muslim and an American and those are the kinds heroes we need to see the right now? I would say so, but only kind of. We need Kamala Khan because the character that G. Willow Wilson writes is authentic. She’s for real, and that is truly what America needs right now in its heroes. In its everything. The realness.
Marvel, when it’s at its best, transcends the surreal and the magic inherent in its universe, placing us into the real lives of characters we love. The brightness emanating from their heroes shines so much that you accept all the weird nonsensical stuff around them (like lightning golems and calmly resuming life after the world nearly ends) because of their realness. Kamala is believable and relatable, handled with such finesse that all the fantastic Avengers stuff that surrounds her feels real, too.
I grew up with Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, an escape from the world for troubled and unique outsiders, but Marvel has evolved from those days. Kamala is Inhuman, sure, but she’s still a Jersey girl with Jersey problems. She has our flaws. She wants what she can’t have. How do you stay mad at the girl who stole your guy when how they met was her saving his life? While you were off fighting giant frogs. Which is how your guy became her guy, because you were always busy. Fighting giant weaponized frogs.
A universally relatable debacle.
Ms. Marvel breaks from the expected at every turn. Takeshi Miyazawa, who handles the bulk of the art for the issue, has a gift for capturing a character’s feelings through their expressions. A sophisticated knack for allowing the inside story to be told while simultaneously telling an outside story. A well-told tale with a truly diverse cast of characters, this is what we want from Marvel on the screen, not five years from now, not ten. Now. Let Ms. Marvel be a bellwether and not the exception to the rule.
But just when I thought I had a grip on this comic, Wilson flips me like Rena Titañon. Kamala Khan has got Avengers problems now, and Ms. Marvel finds her celebrity being used to sell gentrification. Her neighborhood is being redeveloped at the cost of, well, her neighborhood. And the face of the future of New Jersey, Ms. Marvel, is being used by the developers on their billboards. When I call Kamala Khan an icon, I mean it like in real life, where San Franciscan street artists used her image to plaster over anti-Muslim bus ads. What this comic hits on is too much like real life, where moral vacuums exploit legends to sell energy drinks and ringtones. How did Ms. Marvel let this come to pass, Kamala?
“Maybe she’s been so busy trying to save the Tristate Area from intergalactic threats that she’s sort of accidentally let a bunch of things slide!”
That and some help from a Hawkeye-level real estate conspiracy. The folks buying up the market — whether it’s for sale or not — have laser weapons and attack drones. Sure, things at Kamala’s school are weird, but this is weird weird.
“Now I’m some kind of symbol, and I don’t have any say in what it means.”
Welcome to the Avengers, Kamala. Is it Captain America’s fault that he replaced Black Widow on all those motorcycle toys? I blame the moral vacuum that allows people to exploit legends. Here, with Ms. Marvel #1, I wanted the realness and I got it. I cannot wait for more.
Written by G. Willow Wilson.
Art by Takeshi Miyazawa and Adrian Alphona.
Colors by Ian Herring.
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna.
10 out of 10