After a Spiderman and X-Men filled youth, I largely stopped reading comic books. What little comic book reading I’ve done since then has been mostly The Walking Dead with a few other Image Comics thrown in. So Ms. Marvel is my first foray back to Marvel (the real stuff, not that talkie stuff the kids are into these days). I will be back.
You see, Ms. Marvel is really, really damn good. Ms. Marvel returns to ground well trod by comics: the immigrant experience (Superman); gangly, gawky teenage years (Spiderman); and being the Other (X-Men). But it remains fertile ground when done well, and Ms. Marvel is exceedingly well done. Not in the big ways of great action set pieces or an epic storyline, because at the very least we haven’t had time to get there, but in the little ways. All of them, from Ms. Marvel trying to control her new powers to simple moments between a frustrated, loving father and a teenage girl outgrowing the nest.
The teen girl is Kamala: a young, Pakistani-American girl. A more devout female friend (Nakia) and brother, a more Americanized male friend (Bruno) (and love interest?), a “mean girl” (Zoe), long suffering and hardworking immigrant parents round out the main cast for now. The rebellion comes early when Kamala sneaks out to go to a high school party where she has her first sip of booze. It ends like it ended for most of us, with an encounter with a terrigen bomb that activates her Inhuman genes. (You might not understand any of that any more than I did; it’s ok, you don’t really need to because the comic doesn’t much concern itself with the source.) The result is Kamala gaining powers; that is, the power to manipulate her body—both to do stuff like create giant fists and to make herself gigantically huge or ridiculously tiny—and a healing factor.
Like I said, the story doesn’t start with a bang, but the volume sets up a Big Bad, someone named the Inventor with suitably villainous inventions. But Kamala starts by pulling girls out of the lake and foiling convenience store robberies. Which is good, because we get treated to wonderful scenes of Kamala trying to control her powers and repurposing a burkini as a superhero costume. And of course all that little stuff, including not just the two-way tension between being a superhero and being a normal teen, but the three-way tension among a stricter faith, mainstream American consumerism, and immigrants striving for the American Dream.