I’ve been on a Marvel binge lately, gearing up for Avengers: Age of Ultron. With the inclusion of at least two new characters we know about and some that we don’t, I’m hopeful that the new Avengers film might at least pass the Bechdel test this time around. (I’ve always wondered if Joss Whedon, who is a feminist, is embarrassed about that. Black Widow is awesome and all, but the tokenism of her character in the first Avengers movie reeks of the The Smurfette Principle).
Lest we get too depressed about the sorry state of superheroes in Hollywood, however, the mighty (and wildly successful) new Ms. Marvel is here to save us all! I’m a bit late to the party on this one, but I just finished the first two volumes of the comic written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona and want to encourage everyone to read Marvel’s latest and greatest superhero.
Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a Pakistani American teenage girl from Jersey City who discovers her shape-shifting abilities with a little help from Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Wolverine, among other beloved Marvel characters. Ms. Marvel is (thus far) a traditional origin story: a young teenager discovers how to use her special powers while fighting small-time, albeit nefarious, local villains (apparently as plentiful in Jersey as they are in Manhattan).
If there is a danger in the drive for more diversity, it is tokenism, which reduces a character to a single identity and erases the reality of full personhood. Ms. Marvel deftly skirts such dangers. Kamala’s identities as a woman and a Muslim are not merely ornamental to her superhero’s saga. Rather, her identities fuel the superhero she will become. Every superhero has a guiding morality, and Kamala’s is based on her Muslim faith: whoever saves a life, saves the entire world.
Ms. Marvel is current through issue 15. Volume 3 will be available on Amazon beginning June 23rd.