G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, & Takeshi Miyazawa
Despite what their recent reboot event is called, Marvel comics actually did something all new and all different back in 2014 when it released the new Ms. Marvel. Carol Danvers, the black unitard-clad, blonde heroine, who had been Ms. Marvel for several years, had been promoted to Captain Marvel, creating the opportunity to have a new character fill the eponymous title. Instead of using any previous character from the Marvel pantheon, Marvel had a lightning-in-a-bottle moment, and handed over the property to a unique creative team. With the help of editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring, Kamala Khan, a young Pakistani-American woman, became the new Ms. Marvel, and the first Muslim woman to headline her own Marvel title.
Kamala’s backstory is an ironic take on the classic tragic origin: after disobeying her strict Pakistani-Muslim parents and sneaking out to a party where there would be boys and booze, Kamala Khan is unwillingly doused in Terrigen mist, which basically turns her into a super-powered Inhuman. In Kamala’s case, with irresponsibility comes great power. Unlike the cosmically powered Carol Danvers, Kamala is a polymorph, with the ability to stretch, bend, and change in size. She initially emerges from the mist with the ability to mimic forms, and morphs herself into the blonde, curvaceous Carol Danvers. In her disguise, but guided by her Islamic upbringing (“If you save one life, it is as if you’ve saved mankind entirely”), she rescues a classmate from drowning with her polymorph powers. However, after sustaining an injury, Kamala loses the ability to imitate other people. This loss is a defining moment for her character. It’s a statement that the need to blend in is not necessary. It underscores that Kamala Khan is her own Ms. Marvel with her own voice, and will be taking on various challenges differently than those before her.
It’s that different voice that propelled Ms. Marvel through the Secret Wars crisis, and made her an immediate icon. Ms. Marvel’s creative team, guided by Amanat and Wilson, has always posed social and philosophical questions to Kamala intertwined with a superhero plot. Ms Marvel’s challenges with super-powered villainy mirrors personal challenges that Kamala is having as a millennial woman, as a Pakistani-American, as a Muslim, a daughter, a sister, and a friend. But to get the feelings out of that complex texture, there is a lot of time spent watching Kamala interact with her family, her friends, and the world around her, that makes how she deals with problems, by “embiggening” herself to smash them, or shrinking to avoid them, really interesting. With all of the labels that could be put on Kamala, and all the influences converging on her, the polymorphic powers complement her need to adapt. This kind of detailed character development and story structure continues in the latest Ms. Marvel arc. Continue reading The Best of All New All Different Marvel #8: Ms. Marvel