The headline is there to suck you in. The body of this article exists to make you fall in love with Marvel’s new Ms. Marvel comic, because it really is one of the most bestest comics in the spinner racks these days.[divider]Who was the old Ms. Marvel?[/divider]
First, some backstory, because comics, which is not anything if not decades full of confusing backstory. Ms. Marvel was a female character who was created in 1968 to serve as a counter for the original and confusing Captain Marvel of DC comics, who is now called Shazam! And, yes, that exclamation point goes with the name. Bazinga!
Carol Danvers held the title of Ms. Marvel for many a year of comic history. She was a sexual icon in black spandex, long stocking boots, and red stash. At first, Carol Danvers was non-superpowered officer in the United States Air Force, but as a result of an explosion which caused her DNA to merge with that of an alien Kree, Danvers powers up and goes on to occasionally use the codenames Binary and Warbird in addition to Ms. Marvel.
In recent years, Carol has has risen to now status in 2012 as Captain Marvel under writer Kelly Sue DeConnick with a whole new suit and outlook on life.
Now lock that backstory away in your cerebral cortex, because with the title of Ms. Marvel being vacant, someone else is destined to step in and fill that void. But who? Well, how about a fan-fiction-writing Terrigan-mist-inhaling 16-year old Pakistani American teenage girl from Jersey City who is Muslim and adores her idol, Carol Danvers?[divider]Who is the new Ms. Marvel?[/divider]
The series protagonist, Kamala Khan, is a normal 16-year old geeky girl who lives in a working class Muslim family. She wants to go to parties to fit in, but her family’s lifestyle holds her back, meaning she instead spends most of her time at home, writing fan fiction about her hero, Carol Danvers.
But one night, Kamala sneaks out to a party against her families wishes and gains shape shifting abilities when exposed to an Inhuman Terrigan mist. Now amazed (and scared) by having super powers, Kamala takes up her icon’s old alias and costume, becoming the new Ms. Marvel.
All the while, Kamala is trying to work out her new powers while juggling the pressures of school and family life.
[divider]Why should I jump on the Ms. Marvel bandwagon?[/divider]
Ms. Marvel is getting a lot of positive attention, and for good reason. First, it is beautifully written. The writer is G. Willow Wilson, an American who went to college and converted to Islam during that time. So she has a working understanding of the religion and is also woman writing for a female lead.
The formula to open the series is very similar to Spider-Man with Kamala working through typical teenage problems while dealing with superpowers. What makes this series special is the tried-and-true regular person gets super powers formula that makes for an engaging piece that is more human and down to Earth from many other comics. This is a grounded coming-of-age superhero story where our main heroine just happens to be Muslim.
Wilson portrays Kamala as highly likable from the start. We connect with Kamala through her family, which has nothing but her best interests in mind, but struggle to determine approprite boundaries and freedoms for Kamala. A self-proclaimed nerd, Kamala is a bit of an outcast (both inside and outside of her Muslim community), has anxieties about fitting in, worries about her appearance, and has difficulties with boys.
But more than all that, she has a good heart. Wilson gives Kamala a massive amount of charm and humanity, and backs her up with a very strong supportive cast of characters. The series is wonderfully written.
The series is also wonderfully drawn. Adrian Alphona’s art gives Wilson’s story visual wit and charm. Alphona is responsible for drawing Runaways, so he knows exactly how to draw and express teenage characters, and unlike the original Ms. Marvel, doesn’t portray them as super models.
The art has subtle colors and a vaguely cartoony style that works perfectly for the series. Alphona is also an excellent storytelling through his art, as all the panels are visually clear and while sequentially being really easy to follow and understand. And Ms. Marvel’s new costume is practical in the same vein as Carol Danvers’ current costume.
The comic is rated Teen, but aside from some minor PG language, it could almost pass for an all age’s story. Ms. Marvel is certainly one of the more human and charming books on the stands today. It has heart, humor, and a starring character unlike anyone else in comics, and does all those things right.