After months of hype, Ms. Marvel #1 has finally hit the newsstand. Marvel was praised for its commitment to diversity by releasing a solo comic with a teenage Muslim heroine as the lead. While nobody can deny that this is an important comic, is it a good comic? The answer, as well as some spoilers, can be found after the cut.

On paper, Marvel picked a perfect creative team to bring the character of Kamala Khan to life. Writer G. Willow Wilson is the most prominent practicing Muslim in mainstream comics. Artist Adrian Alphona made his name on a comic about a diverse group of teenage superheroes. Both creators make references to their previous works: A heroine’s struggle to understand her place in the world is a common theme in Wilson’s comics, and the scene of Kamala writing fanfic is similar to the introduction of Alex Wilder and Victor Mancha in Alphona’s Runaways. The creators definitely play to their strengths here, and the tropes used here are familiar, but not worn out.

Any discussion of this new iteration of Ms. Marvel demands mention of Islamic culture. In the first third of this issue, Wilson has done more to feature diversity among the Muslim community than any mainstream comic, TV series, or movie has done in forever. Right off the bat, we see a group of characters who interpret the faith and culture in different ways. Kamala’s best friend, Nakia, wears her hijab against the wishes of her parents. Her brother Aamir is more devout than their father (at the very least, he is more vocal about it). Bruno (the teased love interest for Kamala) appears to fit in with his fellow non-Muslim students, but exhibits very traditional attitudes with respect to Kamala obeying her parents and keeping halal.

The various flavors of Islam represented here are necessary for Kamala Khan to work as a character and not be problematic. In this issue, Kamala expresses a desire to be tall and blond, to taste bacon, and to be normal (i.e. NOT Muslim). On the final page of the comic, after having her powers triggered, she unconsciously morphs into the tall, blond, Carol Danvers. If she was introduced in the pages of, say, Young Avengers, she could be seen as a self-loathing token Muslim and invite charges of whitewashing. In the context of her own comic, surrounded by a three-dimensional cast of Muslim characters with their own strengths and quirks, these desires speak instead to the universal struggles of adolescence, identity, and a need for acceptance.

The political and cultural implications of the book notwithstanding, this is a good superhero comic. Wilson crafts a  solid opening act that introduces us to the main character and the world she lives in, illustrates the metamorphosis our heroine goes through (she literally breaks through a cocoon towards the end), and ends with a cliffhanger that will definitely get people talking.

Alphona’s art is playful and fanciful without distracting from the story, and his characters have a slight cartoon-like quality without devolving into caricatures. Alphona’s art is alternately softened and strengthened by colorist Ian Herring, whose candy-colored hues help enhance the dreamlike narrative and make it easier for the reader to see the world through the eyes of the titular heroine, who is, at the end of the day, a teenage fangirl with an active imagination. The results are intriguing enough to follow along monthly, although a fairer assessment of the series might warrant waiting for the collected edition.

Ms. Marvel can be purchased at your Local Comic Book shop or at Comixology.

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Reads comics. Watches movies. Passable at karaoke. Kicks ass at trivia.

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