It isn’t an obvious name to place, ethnically I mean: G. Willow Wilson. That is until you search the Google pages and find out our author is an Eisner nominated female writer, who also happens to be Muslim. I did ponder this as I finished reading the third issue of Ms Marvel, because it is a very insightful and sensitive. The plot is somewhat archetypal but based around a Muslim family in the United States. It is well thought out and expressed with believable characters who seem to interact in a very realistic way. When I say realistic, I should probably use the word normal because that is exactly what it is. There are no stereotypical archetypes to fall back on because they do not exist. The difficulty the industry faces with writing characters from ethnic minorities is that require solid research and investigation, if not personal experience. I struggle to think of a Muslim character in mainstream comic and I certainly struggle to find a young female one at that. That is what G Willow Wilson brings to the table: a well-written character that has never been encountered before.
Kamala is a teenage girl who struggles with her identity as a Muslim in modern day America. Her hopes and dreams are that of any teenager with the added pressures of being part of a strict minority family. This could so easily be handled idly and bluntly but it does descend into that cliché as there is no overt racism towards her and she is far from secluded because of her skin colour. Wilson impressively brings in the terrigen mists as a plot device to give her newfound abilities, not only making this a crossover book but a stand alone work in the world of unbearable mass events. Alphona and Herring create incredible art together and the comic is bright with a soft aesthetic. At first glance it is a little caricaturist with her father Amin with a huge build but sullen face seemingly carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders. Her devoutly religious brother is similar because he is always quite still and serene with his eyes closed as he speaks. However Kamala appears generally anxious and worried but it is all change when she receives her powers. Her timid thin frame becomes larger and with a brighter and more hopeful face. This is especially true when she experiments in the gym and develops a semblance of control; it is great to see her happy and hopeful. Alphona manifests her emotional transitions physically with his art, which is a refreshingly distinct approach. He keeps a fine inking process almost devoid of black, keeping the work light, allowing Herring to keep the colour gentle with a pastel palette. This certainly keeps the enthusiasm and exuberance of our young protagonist at the forefront of the comic. Both artists have produced the most fantastic looking hair throughout the book, whether it is the scraggy uncontrolled locks of Kamala or the elegant tresses of Ms Marvel.
Kamala is lovely and resonates with me personally as a second-generation ethnic minority in a developed country. Not only does she suffer the trials of being a teenager but they are more nuanced than the classic boy romance issues, which is actually touched upon. She does have over-reaching parents providing intense pressure to succeed academically and an annoying “religious” brother. Each member of her house is an individual and unique in their personality. There are no stereotypes to draw upon in the comic industry, which makes this comic very refreshing. The religious aspects of her family are handled impressively because there are no underlying messages regarding the pros and cons of Islam. She is a young girl who has been raised traditionally and in that, examples include eating Halal meat, rarely allowed out in the evening and has to listen to lectures at the mosque behind a partition. The final example is delightfully accurate and I cannot praise highly enough the realistic responses of the male elders. Even the general connotations associated with Islam are handled without fear or alienation. It is actually her brother that states her parents thought the Inhuman mist could have been due to a terrorist attack. Even though she lives in a city that features constant alien invasions and superhero friendly fire, it is quite refined that her parents would think that the terrigen mists are due to extremism as opposed to super villainy, as it is a concern closer to their own personal worries. All these subtle scenarios are handled with poise and adeptness.
It is difficult for me to personally comment on how a traditional Muslim family is imagined in the world of Caucasian comic readers as I have some insight, but I doubt it is like this. This is why the writing is excellent and brings about aspects of her life that resonate with everyone, especially when it comes to being brave and strong in her role as Ms Marvel. In fact you readily accept and empathise with her home situation and Wilson uses it to build an emotional framework for her character. Kamala is continually worrying about her strict parents whilst trying to understand her powers and how best to use them. It is your classic kid hero trying to lead a double life but struggling because of not only the enormity of the task but also the harsher consequences of failure. This pervading theme comes to a seemingly unfortunate conclusion as the final pages reveal a completely surprising twist. Future issues will resolve these themes and I have a great deal of faith that Kamala will handle her superhero powers with responsibility but will continue to struggle to handle her parents. Once again an all too realistic situation that faces people of every race everywhere.
“Terrorist can’t hurt me. If I get in trouble I’ll just send that new Ms Marvel a text”