On Sunday, I completed a read of the two final G. Willow Wilson/Adrian Alphona/Nico Leon Ms. Marvel collections. The weather was 70+ degrees. The sun was bright, the clouds looked like they were made of cotton. I’m not a young Muslim girl, so I won’t write with any certainty that Ms. Marvel was inspirational, but something struck me as I finished up the series in a park.
What Ms. Marvel did was maintain the feeling of a single creative vision behind it, which is difficult, if not impossible, to pull off in today’s market. It survived cancellation. It is as Marvel a comic as Marvel can produce. I returned to the trades because there’s a singular, irreproducible voice to it, and it’s good.
The obvious comparison is Spider-Man. Normal teenager struggles between many obligations and makes it through by the skin of their teeth and the help of their friends. (Commissioning editors Steven Wacker and Sana Amanat did come out of the Spider office, after all.) Ms. Marvel feels like a Marvel comic beneath it all. Kamala Khan struggles in the superhero process. She’s not cut out for it, except that her strong moral foundation means that of course she’s cut out for being a superhero.
It’s depressing to think that this comic did inspire backlash at the time. Hate speech, death threats, probably stalking, too. Over Kamala Khan, a character so obviously in the Marvel mold. Over family and Islam being the source of the strong moral foundation that makes her fit for superheroics! The social commentary that’s part and parcel of that company’s success, in this decade is Willow Wilson telling girls they’re not required to have sex with boys who take them out on dates and that your life can be ruined on the internet much quicker if you’re a woman, among other things.
And all this makes it sound like the comic’s a serious work about important ideas. Occasionally it is, but more often, the pencillers (Alphona, Leon, Takeshi Miyazawa) depict a girl going to a New Jersey high school and her zany adventures. Visually, Alphona and Leon don’t look like the rest of Marvel’s stable. And neither do any of the guest artists like Miyazawa. Ms. Marvel was rambunctious, a joy to read in the sun, whether it was the levity that the thin lines and the manga-style exaggeration of a single moment carried or all of the MMO and RPG references snuck in by Willow Wilson.
One of the takeaways from a mainline Marvel comic, as I understand it, is that the comics should be about the people down the block or the world just outside your window. Ms. Marvel proudly is, and when I turned the last page, I wanted just one more story.