For Kamala Khan

Kamala Khan, the superhero known as Ms. Marvel, has gone from being a curious announcement to one of the most beloved characters in the superhero pantheon. For more than a year now, I’ve been reading and reviewing the third (now forth) volume of the Ms. Marvel comic series, in which Kamala Khan[1] is the title character.

There are myriad reasons why I love Kamala, many of which I’ve detailed in my reviews. But one of the most important is this: Kamala’s story is her own story; she is the main character in her own life. This may not seem particularly revolutionary or different, but it is for a character from multiple marginalized demographics. It’s good representation precisely because she gets to have an individual story that treats her as a person. An important part of this is that her story gives her (and by extension, many of us) a voice. The story isn’t being used to do apologetics for those who want Muslim teenage girls to act in a certain way (whether non-Muslims who want Muslims to assimilate or conservative Muslims who want Muslims to follow their interpretation without challenging problems within the religion). Kamala’s story calls out everyone. Her family, religious leader, classmates, and fellow Inhumans all have certain expectations of her and have opinions on what decisions she should make. In this story, when someone’s actions affect Kamala, we see the situation from her point of view and are meant to empathize with her, showing the experience of a groups that is often talked about but rarely get to have their say in conversations that are about them.

For this reason, I think this is a good book for challenging the status quo among both Muslims and non-Muslims with regards to Muslim girls and women. Much of the media coverage about the series has focused (understandably) on the fact that Kamala is Muslim, and the potential for this book to give representation to Muslims and hopefully help non-Muslims understand Muslims better. For me, my feeling of relating to Kamala is even more specific than that: Part of the reason why she’s so important to me is specifically because she’s a female South-Asian American Muslim teenage child of immigrant parents who has experiences similar to my own experiences growing up – including being a fangirl, among many other things. There are the many different challenges teenagers face. Stories that only address one aspect of this complicated experience only address a small fraction of my life. Ms. Marvel has storylines and themes that address anti-Muslim bigotry and racism, sexism within outside of the Muslim community, the challenges of being part of the Millennial generation, disagreements with parents on culture, finding inspiration in popular culture, and so many other things. There are expectations that we face from both the larger society of never-Muslims in the United States and also from our own parents and religious communities. This is a good book to read to get an idea of what it’s like to be in this situation that so many of us are in: different groups of people have certain expectations of us, because they want us to agree with their culture entirely and reject others’ culture entirely. We’re trying to find our own way and make our own decisions when our choices are seen as a battlefield in a competition between the people who are trying to influence us in their fight with each other. Somehow, in all this, we have to try to figure out who we want to be.

I’m a nerd who processes things in my own life by reading stories. Kamala has given me a story that has helped me think about and deal with some of my own experiences, including things that happened in my life more than a decade ago. There are parts of my life that I’m seeing portrayed for the first time in Ms. Marvel. This series has literally made me tear up, because Kamala thinks and feels things that I’ve thought and felt. She is braver than I ever was, standing up for herself in ways that I wish I had the courage to do when I was her age; she is more than a decade younger than me, and yet she is my hero. Kamala has given me the words to express things I’d never said. My reviews of this series contain thoughts I’ve long had but often struggled to explain; Kamala’s story gave me a way to say, This is what it’s like. This is what I mean.

Kamala, like all of us, is simultaneously similar to and different from her peers. She gets to have fun and participate in fun retellings of common superhero tropes. She gets to participate in the traditions of the genre and the medium and reinvent them at the same time. There are so many superhero tropes that we fans have seen many times over the years, but to see characters from marginalized demographics have those experiences sends a message of inclusion. There are parts of her story that people of any demographic will be able to relate to and also parts which are specifically related to her own background – often in the same passage of the story. She is simultaneously an individual and a character who so many can see themselves in. The creative team treated Kamala and her story with respect, with excellent writing and artwork that convey so much in each and every issue.

Falling in love with this book series has been such a wonderful experience. Growing up, I desperately wanted to love characters who were from the same demographics as me, but they rarely ended up being my favorite characters; this was often because they were (at best) side characters who didn’t get much of a story. How could I count them among my favorites when I knew almost nothing about them? There were rare exceptions to this (several female characters or nerds or fangirls among them) – but until Kamala, no female South Asian-American Muslim fangirl (or even Muslim or South-Asian American) characters were on that list. Growing up part of a demographic that is often underrepresented and poorly represented in media, one learns to accept steps in the right direction while hoping for better books at a later date. There are often stories of which one can say that it’s great they were created, since they’re an improvement compared to previous efforts. One can appreciate the creators who worked on them and took a chance by portraying a character of a marginalized demographic, even if the stories weren’t great. One starts to get the feeling that the truly great stories are reserved for the white, straight, male characters and that the best the rest of us can hope for is a somewhat decent portrayal. Recommendations often come with the caveat of: It’s not great, but it’s a step forward; it’s better than previous portrayals. Being able to say, of the Ms. Marvel series, This is totally frakking awesome – that’s so great. I can say, for the first time, that a character who is like me in so many ways is one of my favorite characters ever.

For Kamala, who is the embodiment and symbol of so many of our hopes and dreams, I’ll say: “We will be the stars we were always meant to be”[2] – and you are one of the stars who lights the way.

[Originally written: 6 December 2015]

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References

[1] Essays in the “Kamala Khan” category at Homeworld Journal can be found at https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/category/kamala-khan/.

[2] DeConnick KS, Rios E, Lopez A, Bellaire J, Caramagna J, et al. Captain Marvel Vol. 7 #6. Marvel, 31 October 2012.

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Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #19 “Last Days, Part Four”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Charles Beacham, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso

“If the world thing you do is sneak out to help suffering people – then I thank God for having raised a righteous child.” (Disha Khan to Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, Vol. 3 #19)[1]

“Like, even if things are profoundly not okay … at least we’re not okay together.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #19)[2]

It’s the end of Marvel Multiverse as we knew it, and also the end of Kamala Khan’s first story volume. This issue starts with the conversation that started at the end of the previous issue.[3] Kamala’s mom has managed to do what so many parents in fantasy and superhero stories often don’t: noticed that her child’s sneaking out of the house in the middle of the night. Let’s be honest: for many of us with conservative parents, they’d totally figure it out if we were superheroes. We can hope that our parents would be as supportive as Kamala’s mom.

Kamala has conversations and interactions with most of the other major characters in the story, to wrap up plot threads that started at the beginning of the series. She speaks with her parents first. Her mother is really adorable, and there’s a cute hug. Her father, who does not know that she’s Ms. Marvel and who plays the part of the character who says that it’s not like the world is ending when the world is about to end). Zoe Zimmer apologizes for her behavior earlier in the series and admits that she was jealous of Kamala – a nice passage showing that even the people who were popular and might have been mean to us in school had their own insecurities. People can grow up and reflect on their earlier actions. Kamala reconnects with her best friend Nakia Bahadir, who was upset that Kamala’s been busy and ignoring their friendship. They hug, and it’s adorable. Kamala even has a moment of mutual connection with her brother. The ending reveals that Bruno and Kamala are both romantically interested in each other, but Kamala says she doesn’t want to be in a romantic relationship right now so she can focus on being a superhero. This seemed to me both convenient and relatable. It’s a convenient way to split the difference between those who wouldn’t want a female Muslim character to date a non-Muslim and those who want the character to challenge her conservative family’s views. At the same time, it was incredibly relatable to me, as someone who is interested in dating and romantic relationships but never acted on those feelings. There are many girls and women from conservative families who focus on education and careers (and in the Marvel Multiverse, being a superhero is Kamala’s career) in order to gain independence first, before getting into romantic relationships. The characters are at Coles Academic High School, which has been set up with resources for those taking shelter including: a welcome booth, a random assortment of food supplies (coffee but no evaporated milk), a non-denominational nonjudgmental prayer area (which I found really sweet), water, blankets, medical assessment, and a dance party to face to the end of the world.

It’s all incredibly heartwarming. I’m glad the finale focuses on the relationships between the characters and Kamala as person, rather than on a big fight scene. When you’ve done all you can do, fought the good fight, and now the Multiverse is about to end, how do superheroes cope? By being there for each other. Superhero comics, for all their fun fantastical elements, are appealing because of the themes of doing the right thing; persevering in the face of daunting odds; finding bravery that you didn’t know you had; and working together with other people when you can’t do something alone. Kamala’s story contains those themes throughout.

Reading this series has been such a wonderful journey for me, and I’m very excited for more of Kamala Khan’s story in the years to come.

[Originally written: 6 December 2015]

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References

[1] Wilson GW, Alphona A, Herring I, et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 19 “Last Days, Part Four”. Marvel, 14 October 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #19.

[3] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18 “Last Days, Part Four”. Homeworld Journal, 5 September 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-18-last-days-part-three/

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18 “Last Days, Part Three”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Charles Beacham, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso

“A lot of people think you’re something special, and now I see why.” (Carol Danvers to Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18)[1]

“Good luck, Ms. Marvel. For what it’s worth – I’m proud of you.”

“Thanks, Captain. For everything.”

(Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18)[2]

“I have something to tell you. I’m telling you now because I might not ever have a chance to tell you again, and I don’t want – I don’t want to die without telling my Ammi. I don’t want the last thing the angels write in my book to be a lie…I am Ms. Marvel.”

“Oh, beta…I know.”

(Kamala Khan and Aisha Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18)[3]

I love stories about mentorship, and this issue was such a wonderful portrayal of a mentor-and-student story. Stating where the previous issue left off,[4] Kamala and Carol rescue Aamir from Kamran’s experimental attempt to activate his genetic Inhuman powers. After escaping from Kamran’s gang, the three of them head back to Coles Academic High School to try to get help for Aamir and to wait for the end of the world to occur.

There’s a passage in this issue, near the beginning, in which Aamir says to Kamran that he doesn’t blame Kamala for Kamran’s actions. Kamala is surprised, because she thought that Aamir hated her, but Carol reminds her that Aamir’s her brother. The reader can tell that this scene was an attempt at the usual resolution of sibling rivalry that often happens in family stories, and in some ways, it was incredibly sweet. On the other hand, it does sidestep the issues that were a source of disagreement between the two of them. Aamir is a self-described Salafi (an adherent of a very conservative interpretation of Islam).[5] Aamir and Kamala’s rivalry earlier in the series was not just a couple of kids arguing over some silly disagreements that siblings have; they were due to his interpretation of Islam, including his views on gender[6] and religion[7] in relationships. There’s also this moment in the issue when Aamir says he doesn’t want superpowers, since he’s happy as he is, and that he will turn to his faith to help deal with these new powers that he has due to Kamran’s actions. It was an odd blend of respectable and also sadly reminiscent of people trying to pray away aspects of themselves they don’t like. As a reader of superhero comics, one can’t help siding with Kamala on this one. Still, their interactions in some ways were very relatable, as even siblings can be very different from each other. One of the things I really appreciate about this series is that it shows Muslim characters with differing views. It also shows how dedicated people can be to defending family members who are in danger, even though they might disagree with each other.

Fortunately, the interactions between Kamala and Carol in this issue are incredibly heart-warming and made this one of my favorite issue of the series. Kamala gets to meet the person she admires for the first time. This issue shows how much it means to kids and teenagers to have adults in their lives who understand what they’re going through and who are willing to be on their side. When Carol tells Kamala that a lot of people think she’s special, one can’t help thinking that it has a double meaning: referring both to the readership that Kamala has gained since her debut and (because of that readership) the place she’s earned among her fellow heroes in her universe. There’s also a nice acknowledgement in the issue that the mentors and students both gain something from the relationship. Carol gives Kamala a gift (a necklace that also functions as a GPS locator), and it’s a touching gesture that Kamala really appreciates. With the end of the world about to happen, the reader can’t hope that somehow the superheroes will be able to find each other, and especially that the adult superheroes might be able to help out the younger generation heroes. Kamala’s going to join the Avengers after Secret Wars,[8] and I’m incredibly excited to see further interactions between her and her favorite superheroes.

I had so much fun reading this issue, and it ends with a nice surprise that made me smile and eagerly anticipate the finale.

[Originally written: 27 November 2015]

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References

[1] Wilson GW, Alphona A, Herring I. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #18 “Last Days, Part Three”. Marvel, 9 September 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. #18.

[3] Ms. Marvel Vol. #18.

[4] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17 “Last Days, Part Two”. Homeworld Journal, 4 September 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-17-last-days-part-two/

[5] “Salafi movement”. Wikipedia entry. Retrieved on 27 November 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salafi_movement.

[6] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #13: “Crushed, Part One”. Homeworld Journal, 30 May 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-13-crushed-part-one/

[7] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #14: “Crushed, Part Two”. Homeworld Journal, 30 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-14-crushed-part-two/

[8] EAS. Book Review: FCBD 2015 “All-New, All-Different Avengers”. Homeworld Journal, 5 September 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/09/05/book-review-fcbd-2015-all-new-all-different-avengers/

Book Review: FCBD 2015 “All-New, All-Different Avengers”

WRITER: Mark Waid

ARTIST: Mahmud Asrar

COLOR ARTIST: Frank Martin

LETTERER: Joe Sabino

EDITORS: Joe Moisan, Tom Brevoort, Wil Moss

“Our point is, the Avengers exist to protect people. To preserve innocent life. That is job one.” (Sam Wilson/Captain America, FCBC 2015 “All-New All-Different Avengers”)[1]

Free Comic Book Day (FCBD) is a yearly event held on the first Saturday of May. As the name implies, it’s a day when free comic books are available at participating comics shops. Comics publishers often release specific free comic books for the event.[2] This year, one of Marvel’s FCBD books was an issue that contains two short preview stories for upcoming series: The All-New, All-Different Avengers and The Uncanny Inhumans.[3] Since I plan to read the former, I decided to review the first preview story.

Our new Avengers team features seven main characters: Sam Wilson/Captain America, Jane Foster/Thor, Iron Man, Vision, Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel, Miles Morales/Spider-Man, and Sam Alexander/Nova. (Whether or not the person inside the Iron Man armor is Tony Stark is unknown and has been the topic of fandom discussion. There’s a side comment in this issue that suggests it may not be him.) The story begins hilariously with Kamala Khan issuing the command “Avengers Assemble!” – followed by Miles Morales wondering if they’re allowed to say that yet. It’s Kamala Khan, Miles Morales, and Sam Alexander’s first day as Avengers.

Our heroes are investigating an attack on Manhattan’s Federal Reserve Bank. Sam Wilson sends the three teenagers inside to find the criminal while the four more-experienced Avengers fight the dragon outside. Unfortunately, things do not go as planned, and the villain Radioactive Man escapes. Initially, Sam is furious at the teenagers, but then they explain that the villain escaped while they rescued a civilian from falling to his death. After hearing this, Sam says that he knows he recruited the right people to join the team, because they gave first priority to saving a person’s life.

It’s a short but sweet story, and one that nicely sums up what it means to be a superhero. It will likely appeal to readers like myself who like superheroes who are trying to be idealistic and do the right thing – characters who are flawed and have seen horrors, but who still believe in good. The younger characters are clearly excited to be Avengers, and the adults are trying to give them advice and train them. The writing is funny and the artwork is bright and colorful. The creators efficiently used the limited space they had (half an issue) to tell a story that does what it’s meant to: get fans excited for the upcoming story about this new team.

The All-New, All-Different Avengers series is going to start after the Marvel Multiverse is finished crashing, burning, and reforming.[4] Despite the fact that the long title makes me laugh, I’m really looking forward to this story. This team consists of characters I’m excited to read more about. I tend to like superhero teams with some adults and some teenagers, because it provides the opportunity for a lot of heart and humor as the older, more experienced superheroes mentor (or try to mentor) the younger ones. This FCBD story has already caused me to start imagining possible stories in my mind.

Avengers Assemble!

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References

[Originally written: 24 May 2015]

[1] Waid M, Asrar M, Martin F, et al. Free Comic Book Day Vol. 2015 “The All-New, All-Different Avengers”. Marvel, 2 May 2015.

[2] “FCBD Site FAQs”. Free Comic Book Day. Retrieved on 24 May 2015 from http://www.freecomicbookday.com/Home/1/1/27/984.

[3] “Free Comic Book Day Vol 2015 Avengers”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 24 May 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Free_Comic_Book_Day_Vol_2015_Avengers.

[4] “Secret Wars”. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 24 May 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/Secret_Wars.

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17 “Last Days, Part Two”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Charles Beacham, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso

“What she’s saying—weirdly, it makes me think of one of Sheikh Abdullah’s lectures. We all face the end alone, he said. And we alone have to account for our time on Earth. The good and the bad. ‘What will be in the book of your life?’ he used to ask. ‘How will you be remembered?’” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17)[1]

“You seem very…at home in your powers.”

“It took me a long time to get here. For a while, I just kind of felt weird and gross.”

“And now?”

“Now I feel weird and awesome!”

(Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17)[2]

“I know our job sucks sometimes. Sometimes we have to choose between a bad thing and a worse thing. But you have to remember to take care of yourself. You’re important. People need you—people love you. More than you probably realize.” (Carol Danvers to Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17)[3]

“You know what I’ve gotten really sick of over the years? Moral relativism from second-rate bad guys.” (Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17)[4]

What happens when Kamala Khan meets Carol Danvers when the world is about to end? She freaks out with excitement and doesn’t quite know what to say at first, which would probably happen to a lot of us in that situation. Then, the two of them head off to rescue Kamala’s brother Aamir, who was kidnapped by Kamran in the previous issue.[5] During their search, they have some fun conversations together and encounter some challenges.

This is the team-up that fans of Kamala Khan and Carol Danvers have been looking forward to. Carol is Kamala’s hero, and when they finally have a chance to meet (outside of Kamala’s imagination), Carol gives Kamala advice on their journey through the city while looking for Aamir. As was the case in Kamala’s team up with Logan/Wolverine in issue #6[6] and issue #7,[7] Kamala learns from the older hero and has an adventure. During the middle of the issue, Kamala and Carol encounter some people who were going around the city stealing supplies and give them a productive job to do, helping out at the high school, where lots of civilians have gathered for shelter. I liked that the story shows heroes during an emergency situation trying to handle real-world problems (such as civilians becoming fearful). There’s also a sweet moment when they find some cats; Kamala wants to save them, but Carol explains to her that one of the difficult parts about being a superhero is that you can’t always save everyone. We get to see how far Kamala has come in terms of being a superhero and feeling more comfortable being herself, as well as how eager she is to learn even more.

Later in the issue, they encounter Kaboom, one of the people working together with Kamran. I have to admit that, after often hearing people accuse those who believe in equal rights of “moral relativisim”, it was nice to hear a superhero turn the accusation around and use it against the villain Kaboom who’s hypocritically lecturing Kamala about letting Aamir make his own choices when the Inhuman group Kabooms is part of has been using force to try to get people (including Kamal and Aamir) to join their group. It’s a good example of turning the arguments of the bad guys around on them.

This arc is about how superheroes face the end of the world. In the words of Kamala Khan, “Jersey City’s finest are still out in force.”[8] Even at the end of the world, they still have a job to do. Although this issue is more focused on Kamala and Carol looking for Kamran and Aamir, the creators incorporate aspects of Kamala’s faith. The Islamic concept of the angels on each person’s shoulders writing in that person’s book of life[9] is one of the things I actually remember from my sporadic religious classes. Religious or not, I think many of us think about how we’ll look back on our lives at the end. Superheroes like Kamala and Carol inspire us to live a life that we’d be proud to look back on. That is, after all, what superheroes are about.

[Originally written: 27 November 2015]

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References

[1] Wilson GW, Alphona A, Herring I, et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17 “Last Days, Part Two”. Marvel, 5 August 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17.

[3] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17.

[4] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17.

[5] EAS. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #16 “Last Days, Part One”. Homeworld Journal, 4 September 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-16-last-days-part-one/

[6] EAS. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #6 ‘Healing Factor, Part One”. Homeworld Journal, 25 May 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-6-healing-factor-part-one/

[7] EAS. “Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #7 “Healing Factor, Part Two”. Homeworld Journal, 25 May 2016.

https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/25/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-7-healing-factor-part-two/

[8] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #17.

[9] “Kiraman Katibin”. Wikipedia. Retrieved on 12 October 2015 from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kiraman_Katibin.

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #16 “Last Days, Part One”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Adrian Alphona

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Charles Beacham, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso

“When I said a broken heard feels like the end of the world … this isn’t quite what I was talking about.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #16)[1]

Kamala’s still feeling upset after Kamran’s betrayal,[2] but she doesn’t have much time to be sad, because the Marvel Multiverse is about to crash and burn iridescently in the event known as Secret Wars,[3] before reforming in the (exciting but laughably named) All-New All-Different Marvel.[4] People are panicking as chaos descends on the Earths, and Kamala tries to step up and act as an organizer to get people to work together. She doesn’t exactly know what’s happening herself, but she’s trying to figure it out. If the end of the Multiverse wasn’t enough to be getting along with, Kamran shows up again with a devious plot. Kamala has to figure out how to save her brother, save the innocent civilians threatened by the end of the Multiverse, and figure out how to be a superhero in a situation that we know she will not be able to stop.

This story arc will feature the team-up fans have been waiting for: Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. The story ends with a page that is sure to make fans feel elated. Kamala is standing on a rooftop and suddenly a familiar superhero is standing beside her – in the last panel of the issue. I’m really looking forward to the rest of this story arc, due to the team-up between Kamala and Carol. Throughout the series, since the very beginning of Kamala’s story,[5] we have known that Kamala was inspired to become a superhero because of the other heroes in the Marvel Universe, such as the Avengers, and especially Captain Marvel. As fellow superhero fans, we get excited for Kamala to be able to meet her favorite superhero and look forward to reading about their story together.

One thing I wanted to mention was a little moment in the story during the conversation between Kamala and Kamran that I could really relate to: Kamran tries to make Kamala feel guilty for not being able to protect her family when he’s the one who drugged her parents to kidnap her brother Aamir. This is a familiar tactic that wrongdoers and manipulators use against their victims, trying to make them feel guilty. They know just what will hurt their target the most. Many people will be able to relate to this, but I think the fact that Kamala is a teenaged girl adds another aspect to that passage, as girls are sometimes told they have to preserve the “honor” of their family and blamed if others hurt them. It’s a good follow-up to the previous story arc, in which Kamran tries to blame Kamala for his own actions.[6]

We see lots of civilians in this story, as everyone is trying to figure out what to do. Characters are trying to gather everyone at the school, which is being used as a shelter. I found it interesting that teenagers are organizing everyone. Where are the adults in the situation? I guess it’s one of the conventions of stories with teenaged superheroes: the adults aren’t around so that the teenagers can be the heroes. It’s also possible that, hopefully, the adults are trying off-panel to figure things out on a larger scale to try to stop the end of the Multiverse. Of course, Kamala and other characters are trying to help the civilians, which is what superheroes should do.

During these efforts by the teenagers, there’s a moment between Bruno and Josh that I found interesting. We know Josh from earlier in the series, including issue #1[7] and issue #2.[8] Bruno is Kamala’s friend and has been in the series throughout. Bruno and Josh are working together to get the civilians to the school and fight off looters. There’s a moment when Josh calls Bruno a “geeky guido” (with “guido” being an insulting reference to Bruno being working-class Italian-American). Bruno points out that it’s an insulting term, and Josh says it’s an “old habit”. It’s not mentioned again, as they have other things to focus on at the moment, but I found it interesting. We don’t know as much about Bruno as we do about Kamala, since he’s not the main character, but there are moments earlier in the series when we found out some facts about his background: he’s working during high school to help support his family;[9] he’s trying to get a scholarship so he can go to college;[10] he’s a grandson of Italian-American immigrants.[11]

There are immigrants in the United States, and in every country, from wide variety of backgrounds, and I appreciate that the series acknowledges that. Too often, in political discussions, this fact is brought up disingenuously, to promote discrimination rather than promote equality and solidarity between people. Certain groups of immigrants, usually people of specific racial and religious backgrounds from certain European countries, are considered acceptable immigrants, while other groups are considered unacceptable, with variations due to time period and other contexts. When people discuss discrimination they face, others who are now more accepted (by being more-recently included in the “white” category in some contexts) will bring up their own background to tell others to stop complaining about discrimination. In this series, Kamala and Bruno are friends. When Bruno mentions his immigrant background, he does so to point out a similarity between his family and the Khan family, not to deny the existence of discrimination. Bruno’s family doesn’t have as much money as Kamala’s family and he does face stereotypes due to his background. At the same time, Kamala’s appearance makes it clear to others that she’s not white, so she would face discrimination in certain situations when Bruno might be considered white. She also faces discrimination due to her religion in a way that would probably happen less often to Bruno, since she’s Muslim and he’s Catholic in a majority-Christian country. The series acknowledges (albeit briefly) that European-American immigrants also face discrimination and socioeconomic marginalization in society, but also does not use it as an insult against non-European immigrants like the Khan family. Learning a little about Bruno’s background in the series has made me curious to learn more about the experiences of his grandparents when they moved here and his experiences as well. In the tradition of Steve Rogers, who’s a child of Irish immigrants (or Superman who’s literally from another planet) there are superheroes who are immigrants or the descendants of immigrants. Issues of social justice are nothing new to superhero comics; we’ve just decided we can include these issues more clearly and with greater diversity.

This issue mostly sets up a premise that will continue in the remainder of the story arc. One of the interesting aspects of the Last Days stories is that, because they are being published after Secret Wars is already underway, we know that the superheroes will not be able to stop the end of the Multiverse. Therefore, this is a story about how people react when something disastrous happens and about how people keep trying, even right up until the very end. Superheroes are supposed to do the right thing, so I’m really looking forward to seeing how two of my favorite superheroes deal with the end of the Multiverse.

[Originally Written: 29 August 2015]

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References

[1] Wilson GW, Miyazawa T, Herring I, et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #16 “Last Days, Part One”. Marvel,

[2] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15 “Crushed, Part Three”. Homeworld Journal, 30 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-15-crushed-part-three/

[3] Secret Wars. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 23 August 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Secret_Wars.

[4] All-New, All-Different Marvel. Marvel Database. Retrieved on 23 August 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/All-New,_All-Different_Marvel.

[5] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #1 “Meta Morphosis”. Homeworld Journal, 17 June 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-1-meta-morphosis/

[6] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15 “Crushed, Part Three”. Homeworld Journal, 30 June 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-15-crushed-part-three/

[7] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #1 “Meta Morphosis”. Homeworld Journal, 17 June 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-1-meta-morphosis/

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

[9] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #1 “Meta Morphosis”. Homeworld Journal, 17 June 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/17/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-1-meta-morphosis/

[10] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #3 “Side Entrance”. Homeworld Journal, 22 June 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/22/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-3-side-entrance/

[11] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #14 “Crushed, Part Two”. Homeworld Journal, 30 June 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-14-crushed-part-two/

Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15 “Crushed, Part Three”

WRITER: G. Willow Wilson

ARTIST: Takeshi Miyazawa

COLOR ARTIST: Ian Herring

LETTERER: Joe Caramagna

EDITORS: Charles Beacham, Sana Amanat, Axel Alonso

“I gave him power over me – power over what I do, power over my identity. No more.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15)[1]

“You think being tough is the same as being mean. I thought you were this romantic hero. But you’re just a villain. You’re just a bad guy’s lackey in a pair of nice shoes.” (Kamala Khan to Kamran, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15)[2]

“I’ve faced giant robots, bird-men, Viking dudes…never a broken heart. I don’t know how to fight this feeling. I’m just glad I don’t have to fight it alone.” (Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15)[3]

The story continues where the previous issue left off,[4] with Kamala facing the three Inhumans who have kidnapped her: Kamran, Kaboom, and Lineage. The latter is very obviously the leader of this group. This group of Inhumans wants Kamala to join them and it’s revealed that they have resorted to kidnapping to try to force her to do so. Kamala disagrees, fights back, and escapes with her friend Bruno.

Is it possible to write a metaphor to address victim blaming and rape culture in a positive way? Yes, it is, and the creators of this issue do it wonderfully. There are multiple moments in this issue that clearly reference and comment on situations in which victims are blamed for harm that others do to them; this issue challenges the victim-blaming narrative. Kamala’s actions in the previous two issues were the perfect set-up that would lead some people to wrongly conclude that a victim deserved to be raped or otherwise taken advantage of. (She went out with the boy willingly, she was out in the middle of the night, she disobeyed her parents, and so many of the things we hear.) In this story, Kamran uses victim-blaming language to make it seem that he did not do anything wrong in deceiving Kamala by offering to give her a ride to school and then taking her to their headquarters instead. Anyone who’s ever heard these types of arguments will recognize the phrases that Kamran uses, to try to guilt the victim into not holding the wrongdoer responsible for their actions. Kamala doesn’t believe him. The story is squarely on Kamala’s side, and that’s something I really love.

There’s another reason I really appreciated the direction that the creators decided to go with this story line. They had the courage to address and challenged an assumption that some parents have: that their children should automatically be able to relate more to someone of their own background rather than someone of a different background. The sexuality of Muslim girls and women is much discussed but very seldom do we get to see story in which a Muslim teenage girl gets to make her own decisions without being blamed for others’ actions towards her. Often, these stories are told in a way that privilege cisgender men: either privileging white men by showing them as the real hero of the story with the Muslim woman as a side character who is overly sexualized and needs rescuing, or privileging Muslim men by challenging stereotypes about them while leaving stereotypes about Muslim women an unchallenged part of their religion and culture. Muslim girls and women do face sexism, and it was relatable to see a story that acknowledges that and challenges of the common arguments put forth as apart of male privilege: the idea that women belong to men of their own race or religion. In this story, we see the situation from Kamala’s perspective, and she is allowed to make her own decisions without being blamed for the actions of others who try to hurt her. When she realizes the situation she’s in, she realizes that the way Kamran has treated her is unfair. She is portrayed as strong and confident.

G. Willow Wilson’s writing addresses the theme of this issue and this arc in a nuanced and sympathetic way that will have readers relating to Kamala and cheering for her to succeed. We want to hug her to make the sadness go away and simultaneously laugh with her at the jokes (including references to Star Trek and Star Wars). Takeshi Miyazawa’s artwork in this story arc is really great, showing the character’s emotions through the artwork really well. The various situations (such as conversations between characters and action scenes) are both really well done. The characters and backgrounds are both detailed. Ian Herring’s colors are really bright and fun; they’ve been a constant for this series, even when the line work artist has changed, and it’s so fitting for Kamala’s story.

The end of the issue sets up the storyline that will be the focus of issues #16 to #19, Ms. Marvel’s Last Days story arc. Several Marvel series have Last Days story arcs that tie in to the Secret Wars event; as might be expected, Last Days shows what the heroes were doing in during the last days before the Marvel Multiverse crashed and burned iridescently.[5]

I look forward to each issue of Ms. Marvel with the same anticipation I felt about J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series – perhaps even more. I’m very much looking forward to the conclusion of this volume and the beginning of the next volume of the Ms. Marvel series.

[Originally Written: 23 August 2015]

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References

[1] Wilson, G. Willow; Miyazawa, Takeshi; Herring, Ian; et al. Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15 “Crushed, Part Three”. Marvel, 13 May 2015.

[2] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15.

[3] Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #15.

[4] EAS. Book Review: Ms. Marvel Vol. 3 #14 “Crushed, Part Two”. Homeworld Journal, 30 May 2016. https://homeworldjournal.wordpress.com/2016/05/30/book-review-ms-marvel-vol-3-14-crushed-part-two/

[5] Secret Wars. Marvel Database Wiki. Retrieved on 23 August 2015 from http://marvel.wikia.com/wiki/Secret_Wars.