Big things are coming for this title.
G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona are making history with Ms. Marvel #1. Sure, Kamala Khan may not actually be the first Muslim character starring in their own superhero series as Marvel often claims (the recent Green Lantern created by Geoff Johns is at least one example off the top of my head). And others may argue, in the same way that they argued about the gay marriage of Northstar, that the premise of the series comes from a headline-seeking Marvel. But whether you’re cynical about the stats or see the concept of the series as a gimmick, the fact remains that this title is an important launching point in the battle to feature more characters who have been thus far been under-represented in mainstream comics.
So it’s important, but the more important question should actually be whether or not it’s good. The answer? Mostly, yeah.
To be honest, on an initial read, the story is a bit traditional. Kamala Khan is a sixteen-year-old girl with a similar sort of friends/foes, family, and teenage drama that one would expect from a series about a teenage girl. But in that same way, the book is extraordinary in how ordinary it is.
All of these characters feel like real people that you know. Kamala’s sense of alienation, her overprotective parents, her funny friends. Her and her family’s belief isn’t beaten over readers’ heads in ways that some might have feared. It is used beautifully to tell us about who she is, while also being a roadblock to being accepted by all of her peers. Her friends are supportive, while poking fun. Her antagonists don’t so much antagonizing, but serve as figures of annoyance or for her to envy. It all has a sense of authenticity to it.
One of the key examples of this comes in the form of a fairly minor character. This book’s mean girl isn’t your typical movie mean girl, who is so obnoxiously bitchy that it passes the point of believability. Instead, this book’s mean girl is the type of person who tries a little too hard to be friendly, even when you can tell they don’t actually like you. She tries so hard to be so nice that her concern crosses over into unintentional racism. It’s awkward, funny, sad, and it hits the mark.
That sense of normalcy is mirrored in every friend and family member in Kamala’s life and is important when Kamala gains superpowers by the book’s end. It grounds the book in reality, even as Kamala is given powers that will eventually allow her to soar.
Everything I’ve said about the story is equally true of the art. If you’ve read Runaways before, you know the talent that Alphona brings to this book. Just as the story grounds Kamala’s friends, the artwork brings every character to life. And when the story allows, the artwork absolutely soars with wild, over-the-top character design and action.
If the slow build in this first issue doesn’t grab you (and it should, all of these characters are so well realized in 20 short pages), that’s okay. Because the art is king so far.
Big things are coming for this title. The character work done in the first half of the issue won’t be for the more impatient of readers but the build to the climax has me hooked. So in other words, even though I find the name a bit silly, I can’t help but declare myself the newest member of the Kamala Korps.
G. Willow Wilson (W), Adrian Alphona (A), Marvel Comics, $2.99, February 5, 2014