When Marvel Comics announced their plans to launch a new comic starring a young Muslim girl in the role of Ms. Marvel it made national headlines. As the comic got closer to its release in April 2014, fans got a glimpse of Kamala Khan who would become the new Ms. Marvel. She is an American girl growing up in Jersey City, New Jersey attending a very public American school. The new Ms. Marvel fit right into the Marvel Comics picture with ease and her series became an instant hit.
The debut issue, “Ms. Marvel” #1, went onto an unheard of seven printings and Marvel announced that digital sales for the series surpass all other Marvel Comics series. It is not just some quirk of media spotlight, that attention dies off quick. The success of “Ms. Marvel” comes down to writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona telling a great story about a new up and coming high-schooler turned superhero.
“Ms. Marvel – Volume One: No Normal” Collects the first five issues of the break out series of 2014 and introduces the world to Kamala Khan a girl known for her fangirl love of Marvel’s super heroes including the original Ms. Marvel who now goes by Captain Marvel. She writes fan-fiction about the heroes while trying to find her place as a teenager being raised in a Muslim family.
Why the story is so great is that it is universal. The concepts of alienation and wanting to belong are common of all teenagers. You don’t need to be Muslim to identify with this new hero, anyone who has ever tried to fit in with a different crowd will see something of themselves in Kamala Khan. Her story does not just speak to Muslims, not just girls, but everyone who has ever questioned who they are supposed to be.
Wilson tells this story with a lot of humor and a lot of quirks that instantly makes Ms. Marvel endearing while also showing the struggles of what it takes to be a hero. The journey of Kamala is similar to the classic path of Marvel’s signature hero Spider-Man. While Peter Parker’s travails spoke to a fanbase some 50 years ago, Kamala Khan speaks to the new generation of fans through her introduction in a modern setting.
Alphona’s artwork does much to set the tone of a fun and uplifting adventure story as the artist captures Ms. Marvel’s odd and unique power set. Through some mysterious mist, explained by a separate but unnecessary Marvel story, Kamala gets the power to shape shift her body into all sorts of different disguises but also enlarging, or “embiggening,” her limbs and other features to amazing proportions. Alphona shows this and the absurdity of it all as Kamala figures out how it all works. The images work well with Wilson’s dialogue as Kamala shouts command words to make the powers work.
The sales are still growing and “Ms. Marvel” looks to be spearheading a new precedent for Marvel by outdistancing her male counterparts by finding great success in the digital market. She is breaking down the walls of the traditional comic book shop model digitally, but her sales in the brick and mortar stores are strong as well as evidenced by the multiple printings of the early issues.
Strong storytelling about a fresh-faced new hero who looks and acts different than the pin-ups historically portrayed by comics make “Ms. Marvel” the shot in the arm the company needs to bring in new readers. “Ms. Marvel – Volume One: No Normal” works in the classic comic paradigms but attracts an even wider audience.