At the same time, I worried: would the representation be excessively stereotypical? Would it be inaccurate? Would it have a hidden agenda? Would it fail miserably to appeal to its desired audience for one reason or another, bad luck or bad marketing or whatever, thereby causing gender, ethnic and religious diversity in comics to suffer a setback? Would it be too preachy or too message-y?
After reading the graphic novelization of the first several issues of Ms. Marvel: No Normal, I'm…well, I'm pleasantly surprised. Yes, there are a few stereotypes, but character types are to be expected in a superhero comic. I mean, it's a superhero comic. There is diversity, and plenty of it--not simply because the main character, Kamala Khan, is Pakistani-American and Muslim, but there is diversity depicted in the variety of beliefs and practices within Islam: Kamala's brother is so devout it drives everyone a little nuts, her best friend Nakia is Turkish and chooses to wear the hijab—against her parents' wishes, and Kamala herself is trying to find a middle road, wanting to do "regular American" teenage things while still loving and respecting her parents, who are strict and want to keep her safe. She's always been a superhero fangirl, and looked up to Ms. Marvel as a strong female role model…and then she ends up with some superpowers of her own. Then things really get complicated.
|Click to embiggen.|
Valleys: For me, I suspect the valleys here are things that would bug me about most superhero comics: moments of ridiculous dialogue and characters who are exaggerated for comic effect. At least the exaggeration and ridiculousness seems even-handed and no one group (or ethnicity) is targeted more than the others, as far as I could tell. If you don't like superhero comics to begin with, this one probably isn't going to offer you TOO much that breaks the genre mold.
Conclusion: This was fun. I will probably pick up the next installment just to see how Kamala copes with her new powers and new identity—another thing I did think was done well here was her struggle for how to view herself, and how to make something new of herself that wasn't done before by the previous Ms. Marvel. I was prepared to be annoyed that her superpowers, at first, came with a righteous head of blonde hair, but instead, Kamala goes on to reject the classic image of Ms. Marvel and redefine what it means to be all-American, reminding us all that there is no single, all-encompassing definition for it.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of my friend Ross, who loaned it to me. You can find Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!