Ms. Marvel has gotten a lot of buzz. A lot. People are always going to talk when one of the two big publishers puts out a comic starring a character who is not the standard white man. In this case, we have Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, a teenage girl who is Muslim and the daughter of Pakistani immigrants. More than enough to get me interested. What got my hopes up was that this book has been selling way, way above expectations. Ms. Marvel #1 has gone through at least half a dozen printings (very, very unusual in comics) and is a top selling digital title. Obviously, people are liking it, and talking about it, and getting others to read it.
And guess what? It really is very, very good. In some ways, Kamala reminds me of a young Peter Parker, at least the Ultimate version that I loved so much. She’s a genuinely good person who wants to do the right thing (hence the superheroics once she gets powers) who is kind of dorky and very relateable. I love her. She’s funny and earnest she just sounds so much like a real teenager. Really, she had me from her stolen sniffs of “infidel meat”- bacon. And nobody who writes Avengers fanfic that funny can be bad.
And hey, great supporting cast. I’m especially fond of Kamala’s friend Nakia, and of Bruno, the neighborhood boy who has a transparently obvious (and really cute) crush on her. But I also liked her family. Her parents are strict, but also very loving, something that fictional teenagers don’t often get. Even the mean girl is almost delightfully awful. She’s backhanded mean, the kind that’s nice to your face while waiting for an opportunity to unleash.
Kamala being a Muslim is something that gets significant play, but I never felt like it was being beaten to death. She wants to fit in and be like the other kids she knows, which is not compatible with the way she was raised. Her parents are protective, but not insanely so (there’s nothing wrong with freaking out when you find out your teenage daughter has made a habit of sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night). Yes, both these things specifically come from having a Muslim family, but her family could have just as easily been Christian, or Hindu. Or hippies. And yes, Nakia does wear a hijab, by her own personal choice, but it’s literally brought up once and then pushed to the side, even as the art is consistent in showing her covered. (It may be relevant that Wilson is herself a Muslim woman who covers her hair.) What I’m saying is that, while Kamala’s religion does shape certain details of the book, it isn’t about that. It’s about a basically normal girl who just happens to be a Muslim, and a geek, and a superhero.
I’d been hoping for quite a lot from this book. Happily, I got a book that’s very well-written, with great characters and dialog and really good art. I’m more than happy to be jumping on the Ms. Marvel bandwagon.