When I first heard the news that a Muslim woman was the new face of Ms. Marvel, I was beyond excited. For the first time in years, I finally had a great excuse to walk into a comic book store, breathe in the ink and paper, and look at more than just the Doctor Who action figures. Finally, a comic about self discovery, super powers and fighting injustice that not only deal with issues of religion, race and identity — but celebrated the first Muslim heroine to headline her own major series!
What’s not to love?
The first issue opens with Kamala Khan, a teenage Pakistani-Muslim American, complaining about how everyone else around her gets to be “normal” — which in Kamala’s mind means being able to go to parties, be free from dietary restrictions, cultural expectations, and traditional gender roles.
Like many teens (and adults!), the poor girl doesn’t know who she wants to be, or how to become that person — and soon realizes that rejecting her morals and being something she’s not is horribly exhausting.
Kamala’s story is similar to many superhero narratives where an unpopular kid is suddenly granted an empowering and amazing transformative ability — literally. After disobeying her parents in order to attend a party, she’s exposed to a strange and mystical fog that grants her the power to change her body into anything she wants.
She wakes from the experience to find that she’s transformed into a stereotypical, blond bombshell superhero — complete with a revealing, sexy spandex costume. And while she painfully fluctuates between her true self and the stereotype, she wonders why she still doesn’t feel strong or beautiful — even though she’s become exactly what she thinks is strong and beautiful.
When her intimidating popular classmates show up, she feels incredibly uncomfortable – like she has to become someone else to be accepted by those around her. And to escape the feeling that she’s now trapped in a body that she doesn’t identify with, she shrinks to the size of an insect. Then, when a classmate is in danger of drowning, she embraces her new powers and saves the day.
Kamala quickly learns that looking the way female super heroes are normally portrayed in comic books and in movies (with epic wedgie-inducing leotards), doesn’t actually make her more confident. What’s meaningful to her and her sense of Self is having the ability to rush to someone’s aid. It’s not the costume that makes someone a hero, but the desire to help others: To save one life is to save all humanity.
In the second issue, Kamala embraces more of her internal superhero without compromising her morals (cue modest costume). But what I really love about the writing and issues of representation, exclusion and identity, is that it’s not coming off as inauthentic. This iteration of Ms. Marvel is creating characters that move beyond the overrepresented, negative stereotypes of Muslim women in a new and exciting way.
Kamala is geeky. She loves the Avengers. She’s short. She’s so much more than a Muslim stereotype.
The fact that she’s dealing with issues like Muslim-American identity, mosque inclusion, and struggling with her faith is important – and not because Muslims should be airing their dirty laundry for mainstream community discussion. But because when it comes to representation, we’re frequently told that Muslim women are oppressed.
Kamala Khan shows us otherwise — and by doing so, sets the scene that there is no reason Ms. Marvel can’t be Pakistani or Muslim (or short and geeky too).
THIS GIVEAWAY IS NOW CLOSED.
Winners to be announced shortly.
Thank you to everyone for participating.
It took me WEEKS to find a comic store who’s still ordering the first issue. And I’m happy to say that for this giveaway we’ll have two lucky winners!
All you have to do is leave a comment on this post with a valid email address (either in the comment itself or in the email field when you fill out the comment form).
The two winners will receive one copy of the first issue (third printing) for FREE!
I’ll announce the winners picked at random after the contest closes.
You have until midnight GMT on Friday June 6, 2014 to enter.