The shorts this week are more like one long, in that I read the first volume of a comic series and I always have way more to say about the first volume than the ones that come after. So, here are some thoughts about six issues of a so-far-pretty-awesome comic!
Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1, by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona
I almost couldn’t not read this first volume of the new Ms. Marvel, because it has been everywhere on my internets for ages. Excitement when it first came out, more excitement with the release of the first collected volume, and not terribly much less excitement in between. I had bought the first issue when I saw it in my comic shop and never bothered to read it, but with so many people telling me how awesome it was, and with an urge to throw my dollars at a project that sounded so fantastic, I went ahead and ordered the trade and threw myself into it.
First, for those not inhabiting my particular corner of the internets, a quick summary: Kamala Khan is a Muslim, Pakistani teen living in Jersey City who becomes the superhero Ms. Marvel but still has to, like, be a Muslim, Pakistani teen living in Jersey City. Lady superhero? Sold. Non-white superhero? Tell me more. Jersey City? Eh, that’s okay.
But really, I was lured in by promises of fanfic writing and Wolverine crushing (as in having a crush on, not, like, smushing), but I guess none of that happens in the first six issues. Super disappointing. I suppose that means I have things to look forward to, though…
What actually happens in these first issues is a lot of backstory. We meet Kamala and her friends and establish that Kamala’s family is pretty conservative and incredibly protective of her as the only daughter. Kamala’s friends are a little protective, too, especially around some falsely nice classmates who clearly do not understand how to interact with a person unlike themselves. And, to be fair, Kamala doesn’t really know how to interact with anyone — she is torn between frustration with her family’s rules and her need to defend them to her classmates, she makes trouble at Saturday School over sexist rules and teachings, and she has a boy totally crushing on her and she doesn’t even know.
The big theme of this volume, titled No Normal, is that Kamala really really really wants to be just like everyone else because it would be so much easier. When she first gets her Ms. Marvel powers via creepy mist, she finds herself involuntarily turning into the tall, leggy, blonde, skimpily clad Carol Danvers (the erstwhile Ms. Marvel turned Captain Marvel) in addition to growing and shrinking and stretching slightly less involuntarily. But as the story progresses, Kamala realizes that a) that outfit is hella uncomfortable and b) being herself requires way less effort all around. I think my favorite part of all this is that Ms. Marvel’s new outfit is a burkini, which, holy cow, why isn’t every superhero wearing one?
As almost an afterthought to all this coming of age and discussion of religion and ethnicity, there is also — you’ll never guess — villainy! Kamala finds herself rescuing (well, trying and then later succeeding) that aforementioned boy’s brother from a shadowy group serving a shadowy leader called The Inventor and possibly also the Birdman, which probably means something to someone but definitely not to me, so I am intrigued to see where that plotline goes. I hope that with the big exposition out of the way, we can move on to adorable fangirling and also asskicking posthaste!
Recommendation: Read it. Do it now.