A couple months ago Marvel announced a new Ms. Marvel title with the relaunched hero assuming the form of a teenage Muslim girl. The internet, as you can imagine, had some things to say about this matter. The decision was celebrated by many pining for more diversity in characters and creators in the comic book industry. Others, though, were not so fond of this development.
A pastor I follow on twitter expressed his displeasure with the idea of a Muslim superhero and snidely asked if Marvel even had any Christian superheroes. I, being who I am, replied in the affirmative and listed off a couple prominent Christian characters, such as Daredevil and Nightcrawler. Of course there was no reply to my comment. I assume he intended his snarky comment to be taken rhetorically. I can relate. I am often annoyed when people point out my wrongness when I'm trying to be clever.
But if you say something stupid on the internet about comic books and religion, don't be surprised if I call you out on it.
Fast forward to Wednesday. This past Wednesday. Ms. Marvel issue number one hit the shelves. And I...had very little interest in this book written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona. I don't know much about the history of Ms. Marvel. But the internet hype was abuzz and early previews seemed generally positive, so I added it to my buy pile on a whim.
That was a great decision.
Ms. Marvel tells the story of sixteen year old Kamala Khan, a Muslim girl growing up in New Jersey. She is an awkwardly charming girl that just wants to fit in and be popular. Contrary to the fears of conservative Christians, this book isn't about trying to convert your kids to Islam (kids read comics?) or declaring war on American freedom and culture. No, Kamala is really a typical American teenager who just happens to be Muslim. She doesn't force her religion on others nor does she rebel against it. She struggles with the restrictions of Islam, but does not break those rules.
What struck me most about this issue is just how funny it is. It opens with Kamala visiting a local convenience store to sniff the bacon on the BLTs served there. She loves the smell of the "infidel meat" but refrains from partaking. Her older brother, however, is a persistently devout Muslim who spends his days in prayer. Kamala's father thinks it's just a ploy so her brother doesn't have to go out and find a job.
It is the little moments like this (oh! can't forget Kamala's obsession with writing Avengers fan fiction) which endeared the character to me. It reminded my of Bryan Q. Miller's run on Batgirl. The highlight of that book was the awkwardness of Stephanie Brown trying to be a normal girl while striving so hard to be a worthy superhero. That book was just fun to read and I truly miss it (curse you New 52!).
Ms. Marvel was fun to read. It was a blast. As for the whole Muslim thing, which is why this comic has garnered so much attention, I almost find it irrelevant. That's not to downplay the wonderful characterizations that the creators included in this book, but I didn't find this comic so amazing because it is about a Muslim girl. I wouldn't find it amazing if it was about a Christian girl. I find it amazing because it is a good comic book. In the end that is what matters most.
I don't read much Marvel. Most of what I read I pick up from 99 cent sales on ComiXology. The only exception is the current run of Deadpool. I'm not sure yet, but I may just have to add Ms. Marvel to that short list of exceptions.
Ms. Marvel Comic Snaps!
|Delicious infidel meat|
|I know people who are only nice to be mean|
|Don't trust people.|
|This right here? This made me a fan of Kamala.|
|Um, the Avengers saved My Little Unicorn? Maybe?|
|Some people love the classics|
|Too close to home?|
|Guys, don't do cocaine. Even with your parents' permission.|