Ms Marvel No NormalThe trade paperback for ‘Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal’ is out, and on the cover a Comics Alliance pitch reads “This may be the most important comic published in 2014.” But is that true? It all depends on how you define “important.”

Here’s what NPR had to say about Ms. Marvel on Oct. 16:

Consider the ways you could misstep in updating a classic comic-book superhero. Now imagine that your protagonist is A) female, B) 16, C) a Pakistani-American and, oh yeah, D) Muslim.

Could there be a tougher assignment? […] How can the timeworn superhero format possibly express the complexity of a modern teenage girl’s experience — all without objectifying her bod?

You can put it in the hands of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona, that’s how. Faced with one of the trickiest problems a creator could imagine — rebooting Marvel Comics’ decades-old heroine Ms. Marvel — Wilson and Alphona rise to it and burst through. …

Wilson and Alphona have written a comic for people who appreciate superheroes as icons, but don’t necessarily feel an ongoing emotional investment in their battles with the forces of evil. As such, the authors risk alienating the traditional fan base to zero in on a narrower demographic. Is it inevitable that an innovative female hero will have to draw her fans from this razor-thin cohort? To find out, stay tuned for our next installment.

Can a superhero comic book really be important if it’s marketed for a “razor-thin cohort” that doesn’t really possess an “emotional investment” in the battle between good and evil? Magic 8 Ball says, “not likely.”

Kamala Khan is actually a very interesting character, and writer G. Willow Wilson does a superb job conveying the trials and tribulations of a first-generation American teenager. Even her shape-shifting ability fits in nicely with the psychological tug-of-war that many teenagers go through, putting on a specific face for their friends and another for family. It is also incredibly moving to witness Kamala’s search for identity after she subconsciously uses her new powers to turn into Captain Marvel — a white woman — instead of Kamala Khan in a Captain Marvel costume.

Likewise, the complexity of Kamala’s family life is well written; her mother, her father, and her brother are all characters that readers will want to know more about. When a family risks everything to come to America to give their children a better life — and then those children frustrate or confuse them — how does that play out behind closed doors? What kind of conversations go on? Ms. Wilson deftly provides answers.

Ms Marvel FamilyUnfortunately, outside the intimate portrait of what it’s like to grow up as an immigrant in the United States, it’s hard to get excited for the book — especially for readers with limited disposable income — because so little energy is invested in “battles with the forces of evil.” That may change as the series develops, but readers without much cash to spare aren’t interested in third-rate villains from Jersey City — they care about bad guys who threaten to take down New York City. Oddly enough, Dan Slott does a good job highlighting the character’s potential in her team-up with everyone’s favorite wall crawler in issues 7 and 8 of The Amazing Spider-Man. (Perhaps Dan Slott should just stick to writing light and fun Marvel Team-up fare since more substantive stories give him a hard time?)

The title’s other weakness is its lack of nuance when it comes to addressing those with legitimate questions about Islam — even labeling such characters “concern trolls.” Lily-white mean-girl “Zoe” and lily-white meat-head “Josh” generally represent ignorance, intolerance and racism.

They can’t go to the predominantly black area of Jersey City without hand sanitizers.

Ms Marvel No Normal partyZoe is a vapid party girl who says Kamala smells “like curry,” and Josh (who bumbles around with a giant bobble-head), thinks it’s hilarious to trick a Muslim girl into drinking vodka.

Ms. MarvelThe two characters are portrayed as jerks for wondering whether adherence to Islam forces Ms. Khan to do things she’s not happy with, and then a few panels later readers see her openly resentful of the fact that women must sit below men and out of sight during prayers at the local mosque. She even sneaks out a back door, saying, “it’s not like they’re going to notice we’re gone.”

Ms. Marvel has the potential to be a great book. It also has the potential to be “important,” as Comics Alliance would say. However, at this time it seems a lot like Kamala, trying to find an identity within the Marvel universe. Right now, it’s a well-written book for a niche audience. If it aims for something more, then it’s going to have to make changes. If writer G. Willow Wilson is happy with where it’s at, then that’s fine too — but outlets like Comics Alliance should refrain from overselling the book.

Related: Marvel: We killed Peter Parker and ruined Tony Stark, but who cares — you now have Muslim Ms. Marvel

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About the Author Douglas Ernst

I'm a former Army guy who believes success comes through hard work, honesty, optimism, and perseverance. I believe seeing yourself as a victim creates a self-fulfilling prophecy. I believe in God. I'm a USC Trojan with an MA in Political Science from American University.

20 comments

  1. You did a good review. It sounds like it has some potential and could be interesting. I’m not sure where you go with your story however, if you’re not going to be invested in fighting good and evil? Also, I get easily disinterested when there is propaganda, when it becomes preachy and you’re aware you’ve just been lectured about racism or recycling or something.

    1. Thanks, insanitybytes22. I wanted to review Ms. Marvel for quite some time. I figured since I wrote a blog post after the series was announced that I should try and read it and give it a fair shake. There are certain comic book creators out there who would like their followers to believe I’m incapable of writing an honest review. Wrong. I always strive for honesty in my reviews. The problem some people have had with my reviews is that I’m willing to call out politically correct pap when I see it.

    2. “Also, I get easily disinterested when there is propaganda, when it becomes preachy and you’re aware you’ve just been lectured about racism or recycling or something.”

      Same here. I get turned off when writers decide to lecture me about how bad they think I am for having conservative views. Message fiction in general turns readers off and generally doesn’t sell, whether it’s a comic, novel, TV show or movie (anti-war movies always bomb at the box office). That’s why you have to put storytelling and entertainment first.

  2. Solid review, as I have asked in the past could this book be better if they explore the true history of the character more? I think it currently focuses on making us look bad and it neglects telling the complete honest story. With more truth and depth this book could be a good tool for diversity, with a slanted agenda it could end up as trash.

  3. Thanks for the honest, refreshing review. I say refreshing and honest because it’s the first review of the book I’ve read that didn’t have the liberal catch phrases “white privilege” and “check your privilege” in it.

    Sounds like it’s decent but it can’t decide what it wants to be. I also have issues with the way the way that girl and her friends are depicted as stereotypical racists. That isn’t going to endear it to people beyond its niche audience.

    1. Thanks for the honest, refreshing review. I say refreshing and honest because it’s the first review of the book I’ve read that didn’t have the liberal catch phrases “white privilege” and “check your privilege” in it.

      I almost wish that someone would tell me to “check” my “white privilege” to my face one day so I can burst out laughing right in front of them.

      Sounds like it’s decent but it can’t decide what it wants to be. I also have issues with the way the way that girl and her friends are depicted as stereotypical racists. That isn’t going to endear it to people beyond its niche audience.

      Yep. I don’t agree with the way that all of the messages are presented, but it is good writing. If Marvel had any guts, it really would explore things like Islamic terrorism in the book. It would be fascinating to see Kamala come to grips with that, the effect it would have on her family, etc. A mature writer could balance the need to show that the vast majority of American Muslims are just like Kamala, while also showing that there is a strain of Islam that produces The Boston Marathon bombing, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the “Jersey Six” terror plot on Fort Dix, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s 2009 Christmas Day attempt to take down a plane over Detroit (i.e., the underwear bomber), and so on and so forth.

    2. “I almost wish that someone would tell me to “check” my “white privilege” to my face one day so I can burst out laughing right in front of them.”

      No one’s ever said that to my face. Usually the people who have told me that have been safely behind a computer where they would be spared seeing me laugh at them. I’ve always laughed at the notion that I’m “privileged.” It’s like the new race card.

      “Yep. I don’t agree with the way that all of the messages are presented, but it is good writing. If Marvel had any guts, it really would explore things like Islamic terrorism in the book. It would be fascinating to see Kamala come to grips with that, the effect it would have on her family, etc. A mature writer could balance the need to show that the vast majority of American Muslims are just like Kamala, while also showing that there is a strain of Islam that produces The Boston Marathon bombing, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the “Jersey Six” terror plot on Fort Dix, Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab’s 2009 Christmas Day attempt to take down a plane over Detroit (i.e., the underwear bomber), and so on and so forth.”

      I think those would be interesting ideas to explore as well. I don’t know if they will, though.

    3. Side note: Poor Xmenxpert must have really had his feelings hurt during his exchanges with me. If I remember correctly, he was a big fan of Ms. Marvel. Given his epic rants in other posts, I’m assuming if he saw this one he’d want to comment. I guess he can’t, fearing that I might say “Translation: [Insert accurate reading of Xmenexpert PC gobbledygook here]” 😉

    4. “Side note: Poor Xmenxpert must have really had his feelings hurt during his exchanges with me. If I remember correctly, he was a big fan of Ms. Marvel. Given his epic rants in other posts, I’m assuming if he saw this one he’d want to comment. I guess he can’t, fearing that I might say “Translation: [Insert accurate reading of Xmenexpert PC gobbledygook here]”

      Ha, ha! He threw a tantrum and bailed because he couldn’t handle it when you, Hube and everyone else demolished his PC gobbledygook on a regular basis. I remember he was pretty obsessed with diversity and ranted about the “white default” and “white privilege” and other such PC nonsense. Remember, he also threatened to boycott Marvel Studios until they satisfied his feelings. I’m sure they’re weeping… all the way to the bank.

      You’d think now that they’ve announced a Black Panther film and a Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers film, this would satisfy him, but he’d probably just dismiss them as tokens.

    5. You’d think now that they’ve announced a Black Panther film and a Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers film, this would satisfy him, but he’d probably just dismiss them as tokens.

      It will be interesting to see what the new complaints will be now that Marvel is going to have a female-lead movie along with Black Panther. To me, Black Panther isn’t really that big of a deal because the success of the Blade movies speaks for itself (and those didn’t possess the kind of quality audiences expect from a Marvel Studios film).

    6. “It will be interesting to see what the new complaints will be now that Marvel is going to have a female-lead movie along with Black Panther. To me, Black Panther isn’t really that big of a deal because the success of the Blade movies speaks for itself (and those didn’t possess the kind of quality audiences expect from a Marvel Studios film).”

      Very true. A lot of people overlook the Blade trilogy’s success, probably because it’s easier for SJWs to complain about the “white privilege” rather than acknowledge that it was a successful series with a black lead. It helped keep the superhero film genre afloat at a time when “Batman and Robin” left it for dead.

      I look forward to Black Panther. I’ll probably check out the Captain Marvel movie if it looks good. As long as it’s not another Catwoman or Elektra…. ugh.

  4. Good review Doug.

    I’m glad you touched on the confused duality of the comic.

    On one hand, the comic approaches things whereas Kamala is portrayed as an ordinary teen (with funny moments such as that “I’m in a Spiderman team-up” part). On the other hand, the comic uses very cliché plot devices such as the racist high school characters (what is this Degrassi?).

    I think the writers need to decide which hand they should be using.

    1. “On one hand, the comic approaches things whereas Kamala is portrayed as an ordinary teen (with funny moments such as that “I’m in a Spiderman team-up” part). On the other hand, the comic uses very cliché plot devices such as the racist high school characters (what is this Degrassi?).”

      I always hated that show Degrassi. It’s one of the most ridiculously PC shows out there. My sister used to watch it and it really exaggerated high school problems. I was in high school at the time she watched it, but my high school was never as dramatic as it was on that show. Sure, quite a few girls got pregnant at fifteen, there was strife between different cliques from time to time and there was a “gun scare” in my junior year (that turned out to be a MySpace hoax), but it never to the level you’d see on Degrassi.

    1. There are a lot of conservatives who read this blog who are very much like me. My guess is that you probably haven’t spent too much time around intelligent conservatives. If you ask more questions on this blog, then my guess is that some of the stereotypes your college professors are spoon-feeding you will crumble. In order to inculcate you, your professors need to first succeed in having you not talk to guys like me…

    2. What on Earth do you mean by conservative is the real question.

      Social conservative?

      Political conservative (a meaningless term since it has been coopted by neocon chickenhawk profiteers) ?

      Artistic conservative?

      At its most basic “conservative” was defined as a person who wanted to preserve what already existed previously, as having innate value, and who wanted all inevitable change to be no swifter than it absolutely had to be.

      It’s part of the marxist anti-Western dialectic to constantly redefine words, shift goal posts, undermine normality and normal meanings of concepts.

      So define what you mean by the absurd label “conservative”.

      I’m a nativist anti-radical, I’m not conservative. People like me are who you are probably lumping the writer in with, and we are not the same.

      A more meaningful comment on this writer’s work would surely have to be, “BASED ON YOUR PREVIOUS WRITINGS THAT I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE TO READ, I am surprised to see such a supportive review of this work.”

      And even then it implies a simplicity of thought on the part of a writer, and reactionary hidebound conditioned reflex form of thought, that properly belong to the marxist mind-slave and not to a freeborn free thinker of any persuasion.

    3. “A more meaningful comment on this writer’s work would surely have to be, ‘BASED ON YOUR PREVIOUS WRITINGS THAT I HAVE HAD THE PLEASURE TO READ, I am surprised to see such a supportive review of this work.'”

      It always amuses me when guys like Jacob say, “I am surprised a conservative writer like yourself would say [insert opinion that proves I am not beholden to any political party].”

      My guess is that if I were to ask them who the last conservative they spoke to face-to-face was, then the answer would be, “Ummmm…So, see any good movies lately?”

  5. Clever propaganda is the most dangerous propaganda of all. Going into this odious exercise in islamic propaganda, the creators knew the real challenge was to humanize the face of the enemy of civilization. The inhuman angle, the “they’re just like us” angle, the use of a teenage girl character (“what kind of MONSTER would attack this character”) is just so much taqiyya.

    In a future age when islam and its puppetmasters are crushed, perhaps the time will be right for an islamic fake character like this. Until then, it belongs in the same pile of twaddle as all the other right-on attempts at propaganda.

    The long march through the institutions has clearly included the institution of American cultural icons such as four-color reading material and this is a serious situation. Mind control by any other name.

    Let its time be cut short; let its place be taken by another.

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