The Birth of a New Hero in Ms. Marvel #1

thumbAfter months of buzz, the highly anticipated Ms. Marvel #1 is finally here, establishing new mythology as Carol Danvers passes her original title to new hero Kamala Khan. It comes from the creative team of award-winning writer G. Willow Wilson, known for her graphic novel Cairo and novel Alif the Unseen, and artist Adrian Alphona, best known for his work on Marvel’s Runaways. Debuting in early February to critical acclaim and fan fervor, at the time of this writing Ms. Marvel has already gone to a second printing as the Kamala Corp., Ms. Marvel fans who derive their fandom mantle from Captain Marvel’s Carol Corp., eagerly snatched this book from store shelves. And there’s a very good reason for the fervor. Joyous and refreshing, this title has everything a superhero book should: A strong mythos rooted in some of Marvel’s biggest titles, a popular forebear to pass her mantle to a new generation, and endearing young hero worthy of the task. More than that, this is a smart, relevant, and human title that has so much to offer beyond action and fantasy.

The lure of this title is the titular character herself. An average sixteen-year-old from Jersey City, Kamala writes Avengers fanfiction, idolizes Captain Marvel, and loves all things superhero. A lot of readers already know how the story goes: Her life is boring, her family is a constant source of irritation, and she’s the target of the concern-trolling white kids at her school. Living vicariously through her colorful fantasies, she is the average young comic book fan personified, seeking escape from her humdrum existence through the world of superheroes. Not only does this instantly endear readers to the awkward but lovable Kamala, but as a Muslim woman, she also highlights views and experiences not too often seen in comics.

While there has been a lot of progress with female representation in Marvel titles like Captain Marvel, Black Widow, Ms-Marvel-01-03and Journey into Mystery, Kamala does these books one better. She reaches out to a far broader audience that is often left behind in a sea of predominantly white, predominantly male protagonists. For that her arrival is very exciting for readers of all backgrounds, helping to develop a far more inclusive pantheon of heroes. After all, while Kamala is certainly not the only Muslim woman in the Marvel Universe, there is always room for more well-written characters, and she helps to bring another voice to that demographic.

When concern-troll classmate Zoe throws a party at the local park, Kamala wants to go, too naïve to see the malice behind Zoe’s patronizing remarks. Despite her friends’ warning, she asks her endearing but conservative father for permission to attend, only to find herself banned from going. Wanting to go out and have fun like the “normal” kids, she sneaks out, only to find she isn’t really welcome at the party. As she leaves, the effects of the Terrigenesis bomb Black Bolt detonated over New York reaches the neighborhood, engulfing the city in mist. As seen in the pages of Infinity and the ensuing Inhumanity, Black Bolt’s bomb is activating the powers of Inhuman descendants in the human population, manifesting these latent mutations in violent chain reactions.

Ms-Marvel-01Breathing in the mist, Kamala soon passes out, dreaming of her favorite heroes Captain Marvel, Iron Man and Captain America. Appearing to her like idols of devotional portraits, Captain Marvel tell her that she’s at a crossroads, set to decide what kind of person she wants to become. Kamala tells her that she wants to be beautiful, powerful, and less complicated, just like her hero. She wants to be normal, and with a final warning from her hero, gets her wish. Waking up from her vision she finds herself in a Terrigenesis cocoon. Panicked, she fights her way out of it, only to realize she’s been transformed into her role model. She’s certainly different, much to her surprise, but things are already looking more complicated than ever.

Full of warmth, charm and colorful fantasy, everything about this book is enchanting. Wilson creates a loveable Every Girl in Kamala, giving her a full and well-rounded world to inhabit, complete with a quirky supporting cast and plenty of subtle New Jersey pop culture shout-outs. The dialogue is natural and well-written, striking an affective balance of humor and earnestness that makes Kamala a compelling protagonist. Bringing the script to the page, Alphona’s artwork is all the more engaging. His lines are airy and light, gently exaggerating the character anatomy to affect a soft, storybook-like quality. This skillful touch develops a fun and appropriately whimsical graphic narrative, one that fits the youthful tone of the story but still maintains a level of visual complexity and fullness. Colorist Ian Herring brings it all home through the use of soft earth tones and dreamy turquoises, contrasted by the deep blues and striking reds of Kamala’s vision and final metamorphosis. Their collaboration makes for a truly lush and inviting visual experience with a cohesive and strongly defined aesthetic.

Living up to all the hype, Ms. Marvel #1 is a beautiful book from start to finish. A visual treat for readers of all ages, it establishes a hopeful new chapter in the Captain Marvel/Ms. Marvel mythology, as well as the Marvel pantheon at large. This is a must-read for fans both new and seasoned, full of a humor and humanity that injects a much-needed jolt of excitement and delight into the superhero genre. Give Kamala Khan the chance to steal your heart – I promise you won’t regret it.

Magen Cubed