Review: Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal

Ms Marvel vol 1Title: Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal
Writer: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona
Genres: Comic Books/Graphic Novels, Superheroes
Pages: 120
Publisher: Marvel
Review Copy: Purchased
Availability: Available now

Summary: Marvel Comics presents the all-new Ms. Marvel, the groundbreaking heroine that has become an international sensation! Kamala Khan is an ordinary girl from Jersey City – until she is suddenly empowered with extraordinary gifts. But who truly is the all-new Ms. Marvel? Teenager? Muslim? Inhuman? Find out as she takes the Marvel Universe by storm! As Kamala discovers the dangers of her newfound powers, she unlocks a secret behind them as well. Is Kamala ready to wield these immense new gifts? Or will the weight of the legacy before her be too much to handle? Kamala has no idea either. But she’s comin’ for you, New York! It’s history in the making from acclaimed writer G. Willow Wilson (Air, Cairo) and beloved artist Adrian Alphona (Runaways)!

Review: I decided to stray from strictly YA books for today’s review. Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal was my first foray into mainstream American comic books, and I’m thrilled to report that it was the perfect entry point for me. You don’t need to know several decades of comic book history to understand what’s going on; our heroine, Kamala Khan, is engaging; and the writing hits several of the best parts of an origin story.

Kamala is a Muslim Pakistani-American teenager who, in addition to suddenly acquiring shape-shifting powers, also deals with microaggressions, sexism, and a YA favorite: figuring out who you are. While the dialogue occasionally leans toward preachy, particularly in dealing with Zoe’s mix of insensitivity and meanness, there are several great moments where Kamala gains inspiration and support from her religion in order to go forward with various heroic actions. I also greatly enjoyed Kamala’s brand of geekery and humor. Several of my favorite origin story tropes pop up in this volume, including having the first big failure and needing to recoup in order to try again. I also enjoyed the mishaps and mayhem that Kamala inadvertently caused as she was getting used to her powers and superhero life.

I was less fond of the “strict immigrant parents” archetype, but G. Willow Wilson did a good job of giving Kamala’s father non-strict moments that were really quite lovely. I hope that in future installments, both Kamala’s father and mother (and her brother) will be able to branch out from primarily serving as obstacles to Kamala’s story and become better rounded characters. Kamala’s friends also felt a little underdeveloped, though they did have a promising assortment of building blocks for interesting personalities.

Artist Adrian Alphona made a strong showing in this first volume. While I occasionally had difficulty figuring out precisely how Kamala used her powers or movements in action sequences, the artwork enhanced the story. (Kamala has some great expressions, especially in comedic scenes.) Each important character is distinctive, and many of the locations are memorable. Alphona also hides some fun jokes/Easter Eggs in the artwork, and the many details help the world of Ms. Marvel feel grounded despite the shapeshifting heroics.

Recommendation: Buy it now. (In fact, I just bought the second and third volumes and pre-ordered the fourth.) Ms. Marvel, Volume 1: No Normal occasionally leans toward preachy and has some underdeveloped characters, but it is otherwise a delight. It’s a great place to jump into the Marvel comics universe.

Extras
9 Times Ms. Marvel Tackled Real Issues by Sofía Marlasca (spoilers for future issues)

Rebooted Comic Heroine Is An Elegant, Believable ‘Marvel’ by Etelka Lehoczky

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