In the world of Marvel Comics, there are plenty of iconic heroes. Spider-Man. Captain America. Iron Man. While they are all familiar faces, sometimes there can be something good in seeing something new. Most of the time, these changes can come in the form of creating some new look or having someone (usually temporarily) taking on their mantle. These changes can offer a good new look or element to the character, but there are plenty of times when such tactics are just used to help boost fledgling sales. However, Marvel has had a change in mantle for one such character that is not only a breath of fresh air, but a fun read as well. Once known as Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers has taken on the name of Captain Marvel in more recent years. Instead, the mantle of Ms. Marvel is in the hands of a bright new addition to the Marvel Universe: Kamala Khan.
Set in Jersey City (situated in New Jersey and across the Hudson River from Manhattan), Kamala Khan is a teenage girl navigating those classic teen issues. She’s trying to find her voice in this world, also grappling with feeling “different” because is Muslim and a Pakistani-American and the judgments from others because of that. One night, when she decides to disobey her parents and sneak out to a party, she ends up being caught in the middle of a mysterious mist that rolls through. Unlocking genetics that she didn’t even know she possessed, Kamala finds that she has gained the power of morphogenetics (meaning she can stretch herself and become small or giant, change her appearance, or even heal herself). After saving one life with her newfound gifts, she is inspired to continue using these gifts for good, inspired by her fandom for superheroes to take on Carol Danvers’ old identity as Ms. Marvel.
Now, the concept of a teenage superhero may not be exactly new. In fact, Marvel showed how effective such a character can be when they introduced the world to Peter Parker, better known as the Amazing Spider-Man. In this case, the series has been well-written, with not only Kamala as a fully-fleshed character, but also the world around here. Jersey City feels like a natural part of the Marvel Universe, almost like a second-string city stuck in the shadows of its top-tier neighbors across the river. Its inhabitants are souls who feel familiar, from Kamala’s friend Bruno and her family to classic high school jocks and alpha girls like Josh and Zoe. Conflicts, whether more personal interactions or big brawls with supervillains, have their characters at the heart, not only spectacle.
In fact, one of the biggest things to note of the writing of Kamala is one of the things that caught everyone’s attention when the character was announced: the fact that she is a Muslim Pakistani-American. It is not often you see such a character in major superhero comics. It’s only natural that such a character would get that initial burst of attention because of that difference. What has helped to give her legs as a character, however, is that those aspects do not define her character. Much like Daredevil and his Catholicism, they offer insight and elements that help factor into her personality, but they are not the things that make her who she is. They are just a part of her, as much a part as her geekiness and her fandom for heroes like Captain Marvel, Wolverine, and Spider-Man. In fact, when the series does touch upon and explore her feelings of being “different” because of her heritage or how she does not fit the standard expectations of beauty, it feels like it’s written more from the standpoint of the almost universal issue of how teenagers feel awkward and different in those years. Who hasn’t felt “different” during those pivotal years? Kamala Khan feels like a person and that is a wonderful thing.
The series is still new, so thankfully if you want to catch up, it’s pretty easy to do. Currently, there are three paperback volumes that have been released for this Ms. Marvel series. I suggest picking them up and showing some support for a new face in the Marvel Universe.