Saturday, April 18, 2015

Ms. Marvel: No Normal Vol. 1 TPB Review

First time I'm actually reviewing a trade paperback. Well, there's always something new to do, especially on a blog with arguably no real niche. But hey, what are you gonna do...

For a while there I dreaded reading this book, fearing to, like so often, dislike a popular thing and then going on the internet and telling people that they are completely wrong for liking it. Thankfully, this was not the case here. 

Ms. Marvel #1 (2014)
To keep the recap short, the new Ms Marvel title, launched in 2014, stars Kamala Khan, a child of Pakistani immigrants, born and raised in New Jersey, because while we can have diversity in superhero comics you still need to make damn sure that all your characters are Americans to not burst the insulated little bubble the average comics reader has comfortably found shelter in. Kamala is your average fangirl, writing fanfiction (or as her mom calls it "fan feek") and doing teenage girl stuff, while still having to tolerate annoying idiots fearing she'll go all holy war on their asses, that she gets oppressed by the men in her household, etc, etc. As someone who grew up in the region of Germany with the highest level of immigrants, most of them of the Muslim persuasion, I can attest to the truth in this idiocy of the local dipshits. After Kamala sneaks out of the house to attend a local high school party late at night (side note: is that actually a thing in America?) she wanders into some sort of mist that is explained in the Inhumans book so good fucking luck actually trying to figure out where that came from until way later, and she gets superpowers from it, most of them relating to shape shifting in one form or another. Being a huge fan of Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers she decides to adopt the personality of Ms. Marvel and now solves crimes in New Jersey. 

... Sorry, I got nothing

Let me start of saying that I really enjoyed this book and that most of the rest of this article is gonna be spend explaining to all the idiots out there what they don't understand about "diverse" characters introduced in superhero books at the moment. People don't like Miles Morales, Jaime Reyes, Kamala Khan or all them new fangled characters because they are non-white. I mean they are still American so diversity only goes so far anyway because of the already mentioned comfort bubble. People like them because, other than a lot of old fashioned heroes, they are actual characters. And that already brings us to my main point: in five issues of this book Kamala Khan has received more characterization as Batman or Superman or Thor or any number of heroes in the last fifteen years. All the characters are, though sometimes through very forced and still unnatural sounding dialogue, betraying the relative novice though still solid writing of G. Willow Wilson, already well rounded individuals with clearly defined and distinct personalities. 
Even though Kamala took the mantle of Carol Danvers, I already know more about her than I do about her predecessor. It has nothing to do with the character's ethnicity, but all to do with whether or not the writer is actually allowed to write a character instead of having them tread water for brand recognition. It's not just Kamala, but all her supporting cast have been nicely rounded, so that within a few issues you are well aware of everyone involved and can emphasize with their motivations. 

If there is anything to complain about, then that Ms. Marvel falls into the old trappings of superheroes: the secret identity. Back in the Old DCU, Jaime Reyes' story showed how you do it and it is disappointing that a book that is on its way to take its place right next to the old Blue Beetle title still falls into the same old spiel of hiding the hero's secret identity to create unnecessary drama. Though in this case one could argue that since Kamala is such a huge in-universe superhero fan that she believes that it is just something she has to do. Time will tell what is going to happen on that front. 

The art is decent enough, though I admit that I might still have to get used to it, and it definitely enhances the strangeness of Kamala's power set. One huge plus is that artist Adrian Alphona really knows how to draw distinct faces and clothes. Now this might sound basic for an artist but if you have read any number of superhero comics you know that most of them are differently colored naked people without genitalia and the same blank facial expressions of a Russian blow-up sex doll.  

Kamala Khan and supporting cast

Overall, while the writing still needs 50cc's of subtlety injected in certain places, it is still one Quintilian times better than most of the cavalcade of mediocrity that Marvel and DC call their monthly output. A book for people that actually like good stories and characters. Pick it up. 

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