Impression of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel #1

(Spoiler Alert: Marvel will never stop putting shitloads of ads in their comics)

I am mostly excited about the latest volume of Ms. Marvel for what the comic signifies by its premise and the fact of its publication by one of the Big Two- a series about a teenage Muslim-American girl who gains powers atypical of women in comic books (the ability to alter her mass and shape). This new Ms. Marvel signals Marvel’s recognition of the range of comic book readers, but more importantly, the range of cultural experiences available that are often ignored by the medium wherein white men are still the most prevalent face despite the diversity prevalent in the United States. All that’s to say that I hoped this comic would be good in and of itself, but was happy enough with the fact that it was coming into existence.

The great Sara Pichelli cover.

So before going on to talking about how the premiere issue worked or not, let me now say that I am a little disappointed by what feels a bit like a shallow conception of Kamala, our protagonist, and her Muslim heritage. At one point Kamala complains that her family has strange holidays and eats food unfamiliar with the mostly white people that comprise her school. This sentiment from Kamala, said in a moment of frustration about her parent’s strictness, felt to me as though they were meant to confirm some stereotype about how young Muslims perceive themselves that would suit the presumptions of a non-Muslim person. However, perhaps Wilson does this because Kamala herself may only be able to discern these distinctions due to her youth, in addition to her concern with passing and bodily insecurities.  Maybe it will be Kamala’s journey as a result of her powers (as prophesized by Captain Marvel in one scene) that will make her recognize the nuance involved in navigating the world as an ‘other.’ God, I hope that happens in some form.

Other than my issue with cultural represantion though Ms. Marvel’s first issue works well to introduce us to Kamala and her supporting cast. On page one, we meet Nakia, Kamala’s more conservative Muslim friend, and Bruno, a teenager with an obvious crush on the Avengers-obsessed Kamala and the next page we’re introduced by the popular kids at Kamala’s school who just happen to be white and, as Nakia says at one point, “are only nice to be mean.” We then see Kamala’s brother, father and mother in a dinner scene that nicely establishes their family dynamic at this point in their lives. Her brother, Aamir, is a devout Muslim, who’s currently unemployed to the chagrin of his banker father who obviously cares for both his children, but is strict with Kamala due to, in her opinion, her being a girl. Meanwhile, her mother is at a loss to understand Kamala because of her daughter’s very American interest in the superheroes that litter Manhattan. The reader gets all of this in just a few pages wherein Adrian Alphona’s expressive character designs, reminiscent of his wonderful work on Runaways) do a lot of heavy lifting to convey the general dispositions and moods of the characters.

Preamble to sneaking out

The issue closes with Kamala sneaking out to a party only to leave in a huff thanks to Bruno’s well intentioned over protectiveness. En route home a mist comes into the area, knocking Kamala out and into a vision wherein Captain America, Iron Man, and Captain Marvel ask her what it is she wants. Kamala states she wants to be like Captain Marvel (only in her former identity, thigh-high boots and all). The last page ends with Kamala emerging from a cocoon transformed in an unexpected manner, which made me wish that I wouldn’t have to wait around for another issue to see Kamala sort out her power set, and figure out the whole great power, great responsibility shtick.

I’ll probably get the next issue in the hope that Wilson and Alphona will do what they can to complicate Kamala’s life as she figures out how to be a superhero along with her sense of self and cultural identity.


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