In Ms. Marvel #4, the Jersey City police showed up at a convenience store (run by her “second-best friend” Bruno) where Kamala Khan had been shot. The duo were fortunately physically unharmed and let off the hook by the authorities. Kamala took on the name Ms. Marvel and attempted to rescue Bruno’s brother Vic — who shot her, and who was mixed up with some Jersey punks — without success. Ms. Marvel #5 picks up right there.
Ahmed Ali Akbar: In your last review, Aditi, you mentioned you wanted the title to have Kamala negotiate not only “the extent of her powers and mastering them, [but also] coming to terms with the realities of not having ‘perfect hair and big boots’ even then, [and] navigating her relationship with her parents….” I think this issue did a fabulous job with that. In #5, Kamala fails to rescue Bruno’s brother Vic, comes home hungry and defeated to worried Pakistani parents, trains her new powers in an increasing level of intimacy with Bruno AND triumphantly saves Vic on her second attempt. So much happens in this issue. Were you satisfied with the way things moved forward?
Aditi Shiva: Yes, I was! I thought it successfully advanced the plot and action without compromising on character development, on emotion. I think this series has achieved this fine balance quite well in each issue so far.
Ahmed: I especially liked the sensitivity and complexity I expressed some hesitation at the depiction of the Muslim men in the series. of the parent-child relationship depicted in this issue. In my review for the second Ms. Marvel, I expressed some hesitation at the depiction of the Muslim men in the series so far and particularly with the character of Sheikh Abdullah. G. Willow Wilson, the author of Ms. Marvel, replied to a conversation Aditi and I had on Twitter about the subject, saying: “I would not discount Sheikh Abdullah just yet.”
— G. Willow Wilson (@GWillowWilson) May 13, 2014
This issue really nailed the father character, I think. His dialogue hits that sweet spot of perfectly loving, concerned and strict. When Kamala comes home, her last thought before passing out in her chic shalwar-kameez/superhero outfit is “As great as it feels to be powerful…I kind of want my mom.” She wakes up to her mother scolding her, auntie-style. The father takes over as the voice of reason and delivers a terrific piece of dialogue on identity and safety for a young immigrant woman.
For the most part, Wilson has assuaged most of my fears and Kamala’s story is liberating creatively for young desi men and women both.
Aditi: So I just read through the issue again and noticed that it’s “dedicated to all our dads, babas and abus” — it came out in late I noticed that it’s “dedicated to all our dads, babas and abus.”June right after Fathers’ Day, come to think of it! As I read the issue I immediately thought back to our Twitter discussion, Ahmed, and I was really glad you raised in your review of Issue #2 your concerns regarding the presentation of the Muslim male characters in this series. It was something I hadn’t considered.
Ahmed: Her father continues to be the moral inspiration for Kamala. Her father continues to be the moral inspiration for Kamala.In her first act of superheroism back in #2 , her father’s advice from the Qur’an — “Whoever saves one person, it is as if he has saved all of mankind” — acts as an analog to superheroic guiding principles like Spider-Man’s “With great power, comes great responsibility.” He’s her Uncle Ben. You even called the Spider-Man similarities in your review of Issue #1.
Aditi: I loved Kamala’s interaction with her father in this issue — the way he stepped in, and his kind gesture: “Sit. Eat. You are obviously hungry.” He comes across as calm, patient, really wanting to understand his daughter.
Ahmed: I loved that too. Definitely the high point of the issue for me.
Aditi: The way Kamala’s Abu says, directly to her, “I am terrified by this new Kamala” — it was his honesty that really warmed my heart. Open communication between parent and child!
Ahmed: Am I crazy to think her Abu is definitely going to find out about Kamala’s alter-ego? I mean, she admits to him that she Am I crazy to think her Abu is definitely going to find out about Kamala’s alter-ego?was going out in disguise to help a friend in trouble! This is the mainstream Marvel universe people, a universe so chock-full of superheroes that editorial decided the world needed to enact a Superhero Registration Act AND depower enough mutants to make the mutant-as-minority metaphor a little thin. Not to mention Kamala clearly dislikes lying to her parents.
Aditi: While we’re on the subject of how male characters have been presented in this series so far, I’d like to discuss Bruno as well. I previously wrote that he’s “refreshingly presented as sensitive and protective, but neither is he a pushover.” While he seems to have a soft spot for Kamala, their relationship is depicted as that of equals, and I enjoyed the “training montage” (I can’t resist a good training montage — I wonder what Kamala’s soundtrack would be…M.I.A.’s Bad Girls!?) in the second How weird it must be to suddenly have your best friend…be able to grow small enough to fit into your gerbil’s cage.half of this issue, where we see him timing Kamala’s runs, trying out his “super snot” polymer for her Ms. Marvel costume, showing up at the Greenville house Kamala plans to infiltrate to get Vick out. But it’s mostly about the trust — he good-naturedly goes along with all this despite how weird it must be to suddenly have your best friend get shot and emerge absolutely unscathed, and then to have her be able to grow small enough to fit into your gerbil’s cage.
Ahmed: Yeah, Bruno, Vic and the rest of her high-school life have thus far been the foreground for her superheroism. However, I’m not totally sold on the supervillain yet. Considering how grounded the rest of the series is, I found The Inventor a bit campy and half-hearted. I guess it makes sense that the supervillains in Jersey would be a bunch of Jersey punks, but I don’t find myself as engaged with the non-character development related plot points.
Aditi: Yeah, I agree. I don’t yet have any background for the Inventor so I don’t quite know what to make of him. I admit that ever since Kamala entered the Greenville house in #4 to rescue Vic, I’ve been a little confused about what’s unfolding, plot-wise, but I’m willing to give it more time to convince me.
I think Ms. Marvel’s creators were wise in dedicating the bulk of With Ms. Marvel a new reader, maybe one who sees something of themselves in Kamala especially, could pick this up and enjoy it on its own merits.the first story arc to really allowing readers to get familiar with Kamala Khan, the heart and soul of the series. This has made the series accessible, which is great because it can be pretty intimidating to jump right into the Marvel universe if one isn’t familiar with past storylines and references because they’re all so intertwined! But I feel like with Ms. Marvel a new reader, maybe one who sees something of themselves in Kamala especially, could pick this up and enjoy it on its own merits. At the same time, the cultural references have been handled quite well — realistic, but not over-the-top.
Ahmed: That’s a very good point. The series has confidently presented the Marvel universe through Kamala, and it’s a universe that is accessible and complex but doesn’t feel as heavy as continuity can sometimes feel.
Aditi: The series seems to have achieved a certain critical mass (going into second, third printings, etc.) and loyal fanbase. I wonder if they will boldly push the character further to develop her even more as an individual — are there are any surprising, unexpected aspects of her character, perhaps not necessarily even derived from her identity as a teenage girl, or as a Muslim, Pakistani-American, that we haven’t already picked up on? Overall, I think we’re in good hands and I look forward to seeing what’s in store for Kamala!
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Aditi Shiva is from Singapore and works as an editor of comics and young adult fiction. She tweets at @aditishiva.
Ahmed Ali Akbar is a graduate student at Harvard Divinity School, focusing on race, class and history of American Muslims and South Asian diaspora. He is editor of Rad Brown Dads and a contributor to Salaam, Love.
Ms. Marvel (2014) is written by G. Willow Wilson and edited by Sana Amanat. Issue #5 features art by Adrian Alphona, colors by Ian Herring and letters by Joe Caramagna. The cover is by Jamie McKelvie, and is colored by Matt Wilson. Join the “Kamala Korps” and find out about upcoming issues on the series’ official tumblr. Issue #6 released on 16 July.