Have you ever read a comic book that you were so excited to read each month because it was so different from everything else you’re reading? Among all the gloom and doom and darkness that seems to be invading modern comic books it seems like every book now has to feature a hero or villain that is brooding and angsty. The heroes in those books have a job to do because comic books and superheroes are serious business. But every once in a while a comic comes along that asks a very important question “Why can’t comic books be well written, lighthearted and fun for everyone?”
Enter the all new Ms. Marvel series from writer G. Willow Wilson and artists Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt. The series is about a Muslim girl named Kamala Khan. She lives in Jersey City. All her life she has felt like an outcast because of her religious beliefs and her different family dynamic. All Kamala wants is to be like other “normal” people and be able to just be a regular Jersey teenager who hangs out with her friends, goes to parties, play video games and just be like everyone else.
However one night when she is walking home, a mysterious mist floods the streets and she collapses only to wake up with polymorphic superheroic powers. Now Kamala must discover what exactly these powers mean, how they work and that maybe that you can become the best hero just by being yourself.
Kamala’s origin story is very well put together and it’s smart in that it doesn’t just rush a new reader right into the action. Wilson takes her time and lets us get introduced to this new character and her world. Each issue you can feel Kamala getting closer and closer to truly understanding how to use her powers. We get the sense that she will come into her own soon enough and discover how to really be a superhero.
Another enjoyable element is that Kamala’s Muslim faith and upbringing plays a big role in the story. So often in comic books a new character will be introduced with a certain religion or characteristic that is just there so that they can bring it up every now and then so the writer can call it a characteristic. But in Ms. Marvel, Kamala’s faith is a huge part of who she is – who she and her family are. They go to mosques, they wear headscarves, and she has to seek advice from her Sheika. Her religion is actually an integral element of the story and the character and is woven well throughout the first seven issues.
Though the religious aspect of the story is important, the strongest element in this series is its characters. Rarely has a comic book had this strong a set of characters. Whether it be Zoe, the ditzy blonde girl in school who thinks that she is really reaching out as a friend to Kamala when she really isn’t or it be Bruno, Kamala’s second-best friend, who only tries to look out for her — even if that means getting her in trouble with her parents. And there’s a plethora of other great supporting characters in this book, such as Sheika Abdula, who initially comes off as a grouchy old man who has disdain for Kamala but is actually very kind and understanding to her plight.
The best set of characters in this book, though, are Kamala and her family. G. Willow Wilson does a fantastic job injecting her family with humanity and believability. They don’t feel like cartoonish over-the-top stereotypes they feel like real people. Kamala’s brother Jamir is very religious but you understand that he has a deep interest in the teachings and ideals of his faith, Kamala’s mother Disha is very shrill and hysterical but it’s because she doesn’t really understand what the American teenager is like, compared to her upbringing. And Kamala’s father Abu-Jann is very stern but clearly cares about Kamala and understands her better than the rest of her family. None of them come off as completely annoying and you really care about Kamala’s relationship to all of them and how much they all care for each other.
But my favorite character is Kamala Khan herself. She’s a breath of fresh air in an industry in which it seems all comic book heroes have to be darker and edgier. Kamala is smart. She’s funny. She’s likable. She’s responsible. She’s clumsy. She’s nerdy and loves to write fan fiction about the Avengers. She’s an incredibly likable character and superhero but the best part is that she always feels like a teenager. She’s unsure and insecure of herself; she has parents that worry about where she is and what she might be doing; she has school and friends that need to be attended to.
Even when she is out being a superhero, Kamala still comes off as a teenager. When she teams up with Wolverine in issues six and seven she can barely contain her excitement at meeting the real-life Wolverine in person. All of Kamala’s personality and charm add up to a character that is one of the best to come out of Marvel in years.
The book is also incredibly funny. Dialogue between Kamala and her friends play out beautifully and much of it is quite hilarious. Particular mention has to go to issues six and seven when she teams up with Wolverine to find a missing X-student. The banter that goes back and forth between Kamala and Logan is so entertaining that it could have gone on for four more issues and it would have still been entertaining. If Wolverine wasn’t dying next month I would want him to return to this series over and over again.
All my talk of character and story and I haven’t made a mention of the gorgeous artwork by Adrian Alphona and Jacob Wyatt. Alphona is probably best known for his work on Runaways in the early 2000s and his art has only gotten better since then. It’s bright and vibrant and very cartoony looking, and it’s a perfect match for the tone and feeling of this book.
As good as Alphona is on this book, Wyatt is even better by bringing something completely different to Alphona’s work. Wyatt is able to bring a wonderful sense of personality and charm to this series through his very minimalistic look. He adds several fun and charming artistic choices to Kamala when she is teamed up with Wolverine. For instance, when she is trying to sound big and brave in front of Wolverine she actually starts shrinking down to kid size. Or when she has to carry Logan through the sewer water because he isn’t a great swimmer and her face is in a very anime- esq expression due to the weight of his metal bones.
As perfect of a fit as Alphona is for this book, I think Wyatt is even more appropriate due to the charming artistic choices he brings to the series. The art in this comic has been looking amazing for seven issues straight now.
In its short six-month life span, Ms. Marvel has quickly become the best book that Marvel is putting out. It features fun stories, great characters and pleasant, charming well-fitting art. It all works to create a wonderfully satisfying whole.
Marvel lately has been obsessed with putting out new number one issues of everything and has been cancelling and relaunching everything like crazy. But I hope that Marvel lets this book for as long as it possibly can. Ms. Marvel is a great read for kids, adults teens, women, Muslims, everyone! This series is about as perfect as it gets when it comes to superhero books.