Ms. Marvel #1 A Brave New Step for Marvel or a Giant Mistake?

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When it was announced that the title of Ms. Marvel was going to be rebooted as a 16 year old Muslim girl named Kamala Khan I was curious if it could work, or if it would be a massive and offensive failure. Teenage superheros are one of Marvel's greatest inventions and successes going all the way back to the creation of Peter Parker, so theoretically it could be great, awesome and make for a groundbreaking comic book that is safe and a great example for young girls who want their own superheros. Making her a young Muslim girl again was them trying to push the boundaries and make a role model of one of the fastest growing minorities in America. That is why, on my weekly trek to the comic book store, I decided to give it a try as I thought how bad could it be? Little could I guess the answer to that tough question.

Within the first two panels we find our main character and her friend in a deli with Kamala trying to get as close as she can to a B.L.T sandwich and then, out of nowhere, she says “Delicious delicious infidel meat.” Immediately I thought "Uh oh, this just jumped the rails and it has only just begun."

The fact that a book starts out making fun of one of the most well known parts of both Islamic and Jewish dietary laws to me is very troubling, and I wonder if they would take the same scene and replace her with a young Jewish kid. The fact that they also bring in such a politically charged word as "infidel" somewhat disturbs me about this potentially great set up for a series. I decided to see what great writing the next page would bring to make everything OK. Enter ditsy blonde, racist stereotype number 616, a.k.a. Zoe fluttering into the deli with her football player boyfriend to make random poor immigrant jokes and ask if everyone present wanted to go to party on the waterfront that night. Just when I think it might be safe to turn the page Zoe compliments one of the girls on her head scarf and then promptly asks if she has to wear it to avoid an honor killing. After being told no they have the gall to have her utter the phrase “ Wow, cultures are so interesting.”

Once they thankfully make her disappear we find out something that is so far the only good thing about Kamala, that she has an obsession with The Avengers. Finally! Something redeeming about her and that adds to the story and the character. Especially, since from the cover, you can tell that she is going to get super powers. From there we are treated to a brief scene out of one of her Avengers/My Little Pony fanfics, which I will admit, was fairly funny. I do find it pretty cool that in her free time she is concerned with how her fanfics are received online and gets excited over every upvote they receive.

Bring on the “crazy immigrants don't understand.” We meet her mother, who promptly says, “ What is a fan feek?” We get to the dinner table and what do we see? Her father sitting there reading a newspaper and across from him is her older brother dressed in full Islamic garb praying fervently and talking about how much holier he is than his father. Again there is absolutely no point for the interaction except to say look at us we have the all-American grumpy Muslims. After more "Woe is me. Look at me. My family is Muslim.” we get to the beach party. Without spoiling anything she gets her powers and the issue ends with her suited up until next time.

Now the tough question, was it a good story or was it headline bait? For over two months before it came out it was being heavily talked about. Not only to the usual comic book news sites, but every mainstream outlet that Marvel could find to push it and talk about how inclusive they are. Frankly, I was not very impressed at all and for me it failed miserably. I would not, in good conscience, give this issue to a girl and say have fun or, worst of all, read it to one. While, as a character, Kamala is not bad the book suffers from way too much preaching and also use of sensationalized language that walks the line dangerously close to racism at times. One of my favorite things usually about Marvel books is that a big deal is not made about someone being different. So far they have generated plenty of news stories about how brave they are to do this book. In my opinion, I think it is the opposite, and the book is heading into a very scary place. Time and issues will tell if it can improve or not.