Over the years comic books have gotten a little bit of flack about being inaccessible to female readers. Indie comics have long been a haven for just about everyone, but mainstream Marvel and DC titles have had issues balancing fantastical stories about legendary characters, with artwork that was oversexualized and clearly aimed at the teenage male audience. Even as recently as last year, Marvel got into a bit of hot water regarding a variant cover of Spider-Woman.
So while DC and Marvel still have miles to go before they can truly sleep on this issue, they have started making progress. Last year Marvel released a new title focused on a brand new Ms. Marvel. A quick recap: Ms. Marvel for many years was a caucasian, blonde-bombshell named Carol Danvers. After a recent story arc, Carol took on the mantle of Captain Marvel, replacing the previous Captain Marvel. This left the Ms.Marvel title vacant. That’s pretty much all you need to know going into new Ms. Marvel.
In the new series, Ms. Marvel is a 16-year old girl from Jersey City, New Jersey. She’s a bit of a fan girl. She has posters of the Avengers hanging on her wall, and sports a t-shirt with the Ms. Marvel classic logo of a lightening bolt. Her name is Kamala Kahn, and she is the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, who are carefully portrayed as both over-protective, and very doting. She has one brother, who as involved in the muslim faith as she is not. And most important, she is a very real female character.
So while DC and Marvel still have miles to go before they can truly sleep on this issue, they have started making progress.
One evening, after sneaking out to a party that she was not really invited to, a cloud of Terrigen mist (part of a recent Avengers storyline, and also featured in Season 2 of Agents of Shield) wafts through Jersey City. Kamala finds her self with powers, shape shifting powers, and finds herself taking the idealized form of Carol Danvers.
This is a great moment. Because it speaks on so many levels. Kamala didn’t think she was good enough, in who she was. It wasn’t necessarily a conscious decision, and I think speaks to the frequent body image issues that girls, especially of Kamala’s age can face in today’s society. Kamala overcomes this though, eventually making her look more like herself when she is in “hero mode.”
Early issues show Kamala trying to balance her faith, the approval of her parents, her duties to her friends, and now her commitment to fighting off Jersey City’s own super-villain, named “The Inventor.”
I recommend the new Ms. Marvel series for its awesome writing, funky art style, and inspiring characterization. Check out Issue #1 on the Marvel website.