Written by: G. Willow Wilson
Art by: Adrian Alphona
Cover by: Sara Pichelli
Color Art by: Ian Herring
Ms. Marvel #1 was one of Marvel’s freebies at ComicFest 2018. Marvel offered some great starters to get the nascent comic reader excited about what they’ve missed out on. If you are new to the Marvel Universe or just haven’t really checked out the amazing story of Ms. Marvel, then let me give you a quick rundown.
Spoiler Alert: If you haven’t read this issue (originally published in 2014) there might be a few spoilers in this article.
What’s It About
Ms. Marvel #1 is a comic about Kamala’s superhero origin, but it is also about so much more. It’s a story of a teenager—a typical American teenager. Because in today’s America, your “typical American teenager” might be Jewish, Catholic, Hindi, Christian, or Muslim—they might have a skin tone anywhere on the spectrum of color from pale white to tan, to mocha, to very dark brown. In short, there is no single “a typical American teenager” skin tone, ethnicity, or religion but there is something they all share in common—coming of age. The struggles in school whether social or academic are endemic to most American teens. Issues with identity, the choice to conform or refuse fit in, and dealing with the need to be accepted are a part of Kamala’s life with which so many people can relate. It is the combination of Kamala’s coming of age story and her coming to power story that makes this series such an engaging and truly enjoyable tale.
More Than Just Another Super Hero
Ms. Marvel #1 starts with a look at Kamala’s life before her superpowers. We see her as a teenager. She goes to high school, has friends, enemies, and even a “frenemy” of sorts. She tends toward nerdy hobbies, including an obsession with the Avengers. As many teens do, she deals with a strict mother, an overprotective father, and a sibling who is (for lack of better phrasing) blessed with a lack of ambition. But her family loves her and she loves them.
Right from the start Ms. Marvel #1 shows us how gender, ethnicity and religion impact Kamala’s day to day life. We are introduced to how others see her and how she sees herself. Marvel isn’t shying away from real world issues like Kamala’s classmate Zoe making Islamophobic comments about her family, Kamala sneaking out to a party, being tricked into taking a drink that contains alcohol, or her calling out her parents double standards (and getting in trouble) but they never paint Kamala’s family as bad or mean. In fact, I’d say that it’s depicted as healthy loving family on the whole with quirks as any American family might have.
In Ms. Marvel #1, the Khan family is Muslim, and yet each of the characters could easily fit into anyone’s slice-of-life story. This is one of the most important aspects of this entire series as it lays to rest the fears and misunderstandings that are all too often associated with Muslim families.
In Kamala’s family, Mom worries for Kamala’s future so she is strict. Her father is overprotective because she is a girl; he sees boys as a danger and yet he is still wise and at times kind. Kamala’s brother Amir is your standard twenty-something underachiever sibling and, while more amusing to us, he annoys Kamala. Yet, here she is an American teenager in midst it all, born in Jersey City and growing up in modern day America. She makes straight As, but feels she’ll never reach her parents’ high standards. Kamala respects her heritage and yet acknowledges how different it makes her life from those around her. She begins this issue wanting to be as normal as everyone else. While the antics of her family annoy her, there is no question that she loves them and they love her — in so many ways Kamala truly represents a very real portrait of an average American teen.
As teens often do, she feels restricted and rebels. It is this rebellion, that exposes her to the Terrigen Mist, the mutagenic gas that unlocks the potential powers of latent Inhumans. Our Avengers-obsessed, Kamala passes out and hallucinates. When she wakes she is now the blonde-haired, blue-eyed version of the previous Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers.
From there, you will need to read Ms. Marvel Vol #1 to follow the story of how she learns to control her powers and how she comes to terms with who she should be as a superhero. Ms Marvel Vol #1 explores what Ms. Marvel #1 began: Kamala Khan’s journey as she embraces her superhero identity, tests her powers and faces the decision of whether to conform or just be herself.
If You Missed It
If you missed out on your free Ms. Marvel #1 from ComicFest 2018 you can still grab a copy to read on Marvel.com or grab the full trade paperback Ms. Marvel Vol #1 which collects issues 1 through 5 at Amazon. This is a series I truly love and highly recommend.