Today I Read…Ms. Marvel

MM No NormalToday I read Ms. Marvel: No Normal, Generation Why, and Crushed (issues 1-15).

Kamala Khan is totally normal. You know, for a Muslim American teenage girl, who isn’t allowed to date. Or go to parties with boys. Or eat bacon cheeseburgers. Or wear revealing clothing. Or ride in cars with boys she’s not related to. Okay, so she’s not so normal, and it’s not bad, she loves her family and her culture but sometimes it’s really hard being different from everybody else in Jersey City. But Kamala is about to become even more different from everybody else, when she suddenly gets superpowers! And if you have superpowers, and you’re obsessed with superheroes and the Avengers and especially Captain Marvel, aren’t you obligated to help other people? (But she’s not wearing the bathing suit, who cares that it’s a classic, it’s cold and drafty and it’s giving her a wedgie.)

MM Generation WhySo, superpowers, secret identity, costume that doesn’t give her wedgies, sidekick, secret hideout (the Circle Q counts, right?), definitely NOT telling her overprotective parents that she’s sneaking out to fight bad guys (is being mad at her their superpower? Must investigate), a giant teleporting dog for a pet…does she need anything else? How about a supervillain brainwashing kids into doing his bad-guy-bidding-stuff? Not in Kamala’s city! Now if only she knew how to fight…

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MM CrushedThis series has been getting great reviews, so I was curious to read it. And it’s sooooo good! Kamala is a great fangirl, who dreams of how cool it would be to be an Avenger, until she actually gets superpowers and there are more problems than she had anticipated. Like the fact that she doesn’t actually know how to fight, or how to use her powers, or just how hard it is to come up with a costume that works with her powers that doesn’t constantly get destroyed or is too uncomfortable to wear. Flowing hair looks cool, but it gets in your face, and wedge heels are impressive until you trip in them, and bathing suits get really cold when you’re fighting. And lying to your parents about where you’ve been and what you’ve been doing? Not that easy, especially when you know they really do just want you to be safe and happy, even if their rules make you different from all of your friends. And keeping a secret identity is hard, and sometime fighting means you have to hurt people.

But despite the problems, Kamala always keeps her belief in superheroes and the good they can do, She has a collection of superhero-themed shirts that she wears in her civilian life, for Captain Marvel and Captain America, she writes fanfic and gets excited when people upvote it, she tells Wolverine that he was her first pick in her fantasy hero team-up bracket.

She also has to deal with the usual issues facing young people, like what happens when a really cool, smart, good-looking guy turns out to be a total jerk (who wants to take over the world). And figuring out how to make a difference in the world when older people keep telling you that young people are selfish and superficial and only interested in their cell phones.

Marvel has really been working on improving the diversity of their better-known heroes lately, making Thor a woman, and a black Captain America, and a Muslim Ms. Marvel. It’s nice to see, and it gives some interesting story opportunities to show how hard it can be to combine multiple worldviews–Kamala has been raised by fairly strict religious immigrant parents who want her to be a part of their culture, but she is also American and wants to be a part of American teenage culture, and now she has to include the Inhumans and superheroes into her life and worldview. Finding out you’re part alien and can change your shape may not happen too often in real life, but feeling like you’re torn between two worlds, between what your parents and your friends tell you to be? Yeah, that happens.

I really like the series, and I’m looking forward to my local library getting in the next trade.

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