Home » Book Reviews » Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3 “Side Entrance”

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3 “Side Entrance”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Devin Lewis, Sana Amanat, Nick Lowe, Alex Alonso

“I wish I could get something besides World of Battlecraft strategy guides when I Google ‘Polymorph–’” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3)[1]

“Wait a minute. I have superpowers. I saved somebody’s life on Friday. I am 911! But—everybody’s expecting Ms. Marvel. Ms. Marvel from the news. With the hair and spandex and the Avengers swag. Not a sixteen-year old brown girl with a 9 pm curfew.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3)[2]

“This … this was not what I planned…” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3)[3]

Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3 “Side Entrance” starts with Kamala eating breakfast and (in usual superhero fashion) seeing a report about herself on the news. Since she looked like Carol Danvers while rescuing her classmate Zoe from drowning in the previous issue[4] (which I reviewed last week),[5] no one knows that it was really Kamala. While she’s trying to look up information about her superpowers on the internet, her brother interrupts and reminds he it’s time to go to the youth lecture at the local masjid (mosque). In this issue, we see Kamala in several situations: at the masjid, at school and then intervening to help someone again.

Kamala and her brother Aamir go to the Islamic Masjid of Jersey City for Sheikh Abdullah’s Saturday Youth Lecture. I was kind of dreading the passages showing Kamala at the mosque, worried about how it would be handled, but I think that the creators managed to do it well. There are often two opposite extremes in the way Islam is portrayed; some people’s portrayals suggest that all Muslims as terrorists and all mosques are places that harbor extremism, while others (often with the good intention of fighting against bigotry) go overboard by portraying things too perfectly, without any problems. The first portrayal is discriminatory; the second (while perhaps appropriate for certain anti-discrimination adverts) comes across as unrealistic, as every group has internal problems. I like the way that the creators handled the situation. We find out right away, through a comment from Aamir, that Kamala usually does not like to go to the youth lecture. This is similar to a theme found in many stories, showing children and teen characters who get frustrated with having to attend religious classes at the behest of their parents; readers of any faith can probably relate to this, whether they’re religious or not (as even someone who is religious has probably sat through some uninspiring sermons in their time). During the lecture, Sheikh Abdullah is preaching about the supposed immorality of an unmarried man and woman being alone together.

This issue really shows how having multiple Muslim characters, not just one, allows for character development and the breaking down of stereotypes. We get to see different Muslim characters with different views, so the setup is not Muslims vs. non-Muslims. We see people who disagree with each other about certain things, despite being from the same religion, and people who agree with each other on certain things, despite being from different religions. We have moments in this issue between Kamala and her brother Aamir, Kamala and her friend Nakia, and Kamala and Sheikh Abdullah. We see their interactions, talking about different topics, and they each get to be their own character, none of them expected to represent all Muslims. I really liked the conversation between Kamala and Nakia and would love to see more of their friendship in future issues.

There’s a passage in this issue, while Kamala is at the masjid, that addresses gender discrimination, and which does so in a great way. We find out that the girls have to sit in the back, separated from the boys by a barrier, and have to enter the masjid through a separate side entrance. During the lecture, Kamala tries to talk to Nakia, but the sheikh overhears them and tells them to quiet down. Kamala takes the opportunity to argue with Sheikh Abdullah (not for the first time, it seems) regarding the gender segregation in the masjid, using Islamic arguments. It’s a passage that made me want to cheer, quite honestly. While readers from any background will be able to relate to Kamala’s situation, I expect that Muslim girls and women (and probably girls and women from other religions as well) will be able to relate to the frustration of having to sit in the back, of being segregated away and treated as less important. For many of us who never had the courage to argue back about the gender segregation during religious classes, Kamala speaks for us, with an audience much larger than we could ever dream of having.

The title of the issue “Side Entrance” references the side entrance that the girls have to use when entering the masjid. I thought this was a nice acknowledgement of Kamala succeeding despite being underestimated. We see this teenage girl who is discriminated against in several ways — because of her religion, her race, and her gender — and yet she’s a superhero. There are many people who would look down on her, but they don’t realize that she’s overcoming their expectations and doing great things. Unbeknownst to them, she’s the girl who they’ve heard mentioned on the television, the girl who saved someone’s life. It takes the very common story of a person who’s not the most powerful in their everyday life becoming a superhero and adds more levels of meaning onto it.

In the middle of the issue, we see Kamala at Coles Academic High School on Monday. (This is presumably the Monday right after the Friday on which she saved Zoe.) During free period, she’s continuing her efforts to find information about superpowers, while ignoring Bruno (who she’s still upset with, because he told her parents about her going to the party in issue #1).[6] I thought this part was rather hilarious, as she keeps finding things from video games rather than real information. Bruno is working on a science project for his scholarship application to Rutgers (The State University of New Jersey).[7] Bruno’s younger brother Vick seems to be up to something; he asks Bruno to steal money from the cash register from his job at the Circle Q. Bruno refuses. Kamala’s powers start acting up, so she runs out of the classroom so that nobody sees. She hides in the locker room, where she tries to use her powers intentionally. She ends up (rather foolishly) destroying part of the locker room and getting detention. After school, Kamala is in detention and gets a phone call from her mother. Her mother is yelling at her over the phone in Urdu; though her mother’s lines are not translated, I think readers will get the general gist of what she’s saying. This is intended to be one of those superhero passages in which the new superhero is trying out their powers and does something foolish or irresponsible and gets in trouble for it, but they can’t explain because that would mean revealing that they’re a superhero. It was rather irresponsible of Kamala to tear up the benches in the locker room, honestly, but it does set the stage for her learning how to use her powers and hopefully not do that kind of the in the future.

The ending of the issue shows Kamala once again intervening in order to help someone, this time trying to stop a robbery at the Circle Q, where her friend Bruno works. She was headed over there anyway, to make up with him, and when she reaches the door, she sees a person in a mask with a gun. We see some panels letting us know that the robber is actually Bruno’s brother Vick (who’d been hoping a different employee would be there). Vick mentions something about the Inventor, foreshadowing future events. Kamala, not knowing that the robber is Vick, makes an entrance, looking like Carol Danvers again, with the hilarious statement, “Put the gun down and step away from the cashier, you wannabe hipster punk.”[8] In the ensuing struggle, Kamala initially appears to have the upper hand, but then Vick shoots her. The issue ends on that cliffhanger.

One again, I have to praise both the writing and the artwork in this issue. The characters speech and thoughts are incredibly realistic, resembling real life. The artwork is great and helps convey important backstory, character development, and worldbuilding. We see how the choices to show certain passages helps the different parts of the story hang together and also foreshadow future events. One of the people whose name isn’t on the cover of the comic (but is on the title page) who I’d like to mention here is one of the editors Sana Amanat. I’ve seen in articles and interviews about this series (such as the article “Mighty, Muslim and Leaping Off the Page” by George Gene Gustines)[9] indicating that Kamala Khan was partly inspired by a conversation between Amanat and fellow editor Steve Wacker about Amanat’s childhood growing up as a Muslim-American. There are so many elements of the story that I can relate to, growing up in a Muslim family in the United States, that I think Amanat’s contribution shows on the page. More generally, when reading Ms. Marvel Vol. 3, it really shows that the people working on the series appreciate how the story of a character can contain elements that are both universal and individual; they do a good job of showing experiences that Kamala has due to her background and also experiences that anyone can relate to.

Overall, this issue is really fun and inspiring continuation to the series. We see that the road to becoming a superhero isn’t as easy as Kamala may want it to be, but that doesn’t mean it’s the end of the story. As with all things in life, to be a superhero, one has to keep trying. In the next issue, we’ll see what happens to Kamala after she’s been shot and how she resumes her efforts to get better at her heroics.

[Originally Written: 12 July 2014]

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References

[1] Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. “Side Entrance”. Ms Marvel Vol. 3 #3. Marvel, 16 April 2014.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3

[3] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3

[4] Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. “All Mankind”. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2. Marvel, 19 March 2014.

[5] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #2 “All Mankind”. Homeworld Journal, 22 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-2-all-mankind/

[6] Wilson, G. Willow; Alphona, Adrian; Herring, Ian; et al. “Metamorphosis”. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #1. Marvel, 5 February 2014.

[7] “Rutgers University”. Wikipedia entry. Retrieved on 12 July 2014 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rutgers_University.

[8] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3.

[9] Gustines, George Gene. “Mighty, Muslim and Leaping Off the Page: Marvel Comics Introducing a Muslim Girl Superhero”. The New York Times, 5 November 2013. Retrieved on 12 July 2014 from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/06/books/marvel-comics-introducing-a-muslim-girl-superhero.html.

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