Feminist Fridays: Ms. Marvel edition | Vol. 2 / No. 17.2

A pretty awesome Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel at Montreal's 2014 Comiccon / Photo: Flickr user Pikawil CC BY 2.0 with modifications
A pretty awesome Kamala Khan / Ms. Marvel at Montreal’s 2014 Comiccon / Photo: Flickr user Pikawil CC BY 2.0 (with modifications)

In this week’s #FeministFriday post, Elle talks Marvel with a review of the first Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel trade paperback, Ms. Marvel: No Normal.

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Hot on the heels of my happiness from the all-female Avengers team, I now get to talk about one of my new favorite comic characters: Kamala Khan, aka, the new Ms. Marvel. (I’m not entirely certain if friend R is encouraging or discouraging my future as the Feminist Fury at this point, because he keeps handing me role models.) When I first heard about the new Ms. Marvel, I was incredibly excited. Not just because it was a new female superhero, not just because it was written by a female author (The same G. Willow Wilson who is writing the A-Force storyline) but because she seemed new, exciting, and well-rounded. She was going to be a female Muslim character in the Marvel universe, one who didn’t wear a niqāb, have the power to turn into a cloud of dust/sand, have the mutant codename of “Dust,” and need to be rescued from slave traders (I am so not even joking about this character existing).

For the record, I’m not trying to diss the niqāb, just the writers that are so uncreative that their attempt to create a Muslim character is basically “Ooh, ooh, how stereotypical and Orientalist can we be right now? Very? Let’s go with very.” Kamala sounded like a girl very much of my generation, and dealing with a lot of the issues that come with having a hyphenated identity in the United States: she’s a Pakistan-American trying to reconcile her faith and culture with an unwillingness to be labeled and a desire to have the mythical “normal” teenage experience.

I was seriously tempted to buy the single issues of Ms. Marvel when they first came out, but reminded myself that A, I was broke, and B, I lose single issues of comic books so fast it isn’t funny. So it wasn’t until the happy rediscovery of an old Barnes and Noble gift card that I was able to purchase the first trade paperback, Ms. Marvel: No Normal. I have to admit I also had some trepidation when I first heard about the series, because there are usually three things that happen when I am really excited about a new pop culture phenomenon: 1: it turns out to be terrible or at least have some kind of flaw that makes it harder (though certainly not impossible) to love the rest of the work (I’m looking at you, Steven Moffat), 2: it kills off my favorite character in some bizarre fashion (*cough* Joss Whedon *cough*), or 3: it turns out to be even better than I expected and I fangirl everywhere and it’s really embarrassing until I force all of my friends to read/watch/listen to the same thing and they finally understand me. Luckily, I’d been hearing mostly good things about the series so I was pretty sure that 1 wasn’t going to happen. I was hoping for 3, but I was purposefully avoiding spoilers so I had no idea about 2 (I still don’t. This thing could go all “I am a leaf
on the wind” on me at any moment).

People: Option number 3 happened.

It is so, so good. It exceeds my expectations. I kinda want to be Kamala when I grow up. Kamala is an amazing character, and while her storyline borrows from the stereotype of “restrictive Muslim parents keep teenage daughter from having fun,” the representation of her family life goes way beyond that.

(*SPOILER WARNING for the rest of this article. I’m going to try to avoid giving away major plot points, but my discussion is going to include some specific dialogue and situations from the comic. I trust you all to be responsible for your own comfort level of having things “spoiled” for you.)

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Elle Irise is a regular contributor to This Week in Tomorrow. When she’s not fangirling everywhere, forcing all of her friends to read/watch/listen to something until they finally understand her, she studies gender in popular culture.