Ms. Marvel
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Drawn by Adrian Alphona, and others.
Published by Marvel Comics


Spider-Man was the quintessential teen superhero. When he was introduced in the early sixties, teens in comics were either sidekicks like Robin, or less genre characters like Archie. But Peter Parker both fought villains and managed the travails of family and high school. Marvel has attempted to replicate this formula many times since, with varying levels of success. The most recent, and possibly most successful attempt, is “Ms. Marvel” by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona.
Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American Girl living in Jersey City. When a supernatural event gives her superpowers, she has to figure out how to navigate being a costumed heroine like her idols, Captain Marvel and the Avengers, while also dealing with her daily life.
“Ms. Marvel” is great because it is authentic where most most pulp fiction goes over the top. That isn’t to say that this isn’t a comic full of super-heroic action and giant robots, because it totally is. But WIlson has taken great care in not only creating deep characters, but also presenting a broad range of characters within the community of Jersey City. Identity is the central theme of this story, and the level of nuance she brings to the topic is stunning for a funny-book.
In a marked contrast to Stan Lee’s throwing a mountain of slang against the wall and seeing what sticks, WIlson starts off her book talking about concern trolling. In a media landscape where the Muslim community is so often reduced to images of terrorism and privation, this is a huge deal.
Kamala’s rebelliousness and her struggle with her own identity plays out nicely against her shapeshifting powers. When she gains them, she says she would like to be her hero, Captain Marvel, ‘in the classic, politically incorrect costume, and kick butt in giant wedge heels.’ but when she turns into that, she finds it is entirely wrong for her. She’s at her most powerful when she uses her powers to stretch or heal herself. Basically, she’s a shapeshifter who turns into herself, which is a really clever concept, especially in a teenage book.
Alphona’s art is great as well. His style is sketchier here than it was in previous cult-hit teen comic “Runaways,” but he still shows that he really gets how to draw teenagers, who all too often in comics come out looking like slightly shorter adults.
While the directness of this comic might be a bit off putting to adults, this is a perfect comic for teens of all kinds. And the reveal of the bad guy, The Inventor, is so much perfect comics fun, that I won’t spoil it here. But is well worth checking out for that moment alone.
Ms. Marvel is available from Comixology, The Marvel Unlimited App, or your local comics shop.
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