Book #273: Ms. Marvel: No Normal Review

5 Star Ratings

 

Ms. Marvel: No Normal feels like one of the most important comics I’ve read in a long time.

When Ms. Marvel hit the shelves late last year, The Mary Sue’s Anthony McGlynn wrote a piece about why Kamala Khan is such an important character.  He explains:

Ms Marvel Cover“When we think of superheroes, we think of strong, foreboding figures who have otherwordly control over themselves and their element in other to fight the good fight. Classic superheroes are, by and large, white, male (with some very notable exceptions), muscular; and each has proven their weight in worthwhile stories and historic events, to find themselves with a cult of personality that means even just their logo on an object makes that object desirable.

What we don’t think of are insecure teenagers from an ethnic minority who are just as obsessed with heroes as we are and who, when given their powers, struggle with the notion that they are now the thing that they hold so dearly. And that is exactly what Marvel presented to us in February this year, when Ms. Marvel of the Marvel NOW! imprint landed on our shelves.”

 

Honestly, I should just end my review with that.  This comic reaches up and pulls down every barrier above it: it introduces a young, female, Muslim character who wrestles with her place in the world.  She’s funny, clever, weird, and makes bad decisions.  She looks to her parents and what they’ve taught her to determine the person she will be, but she’s also blazing her own path.  In short: she’s a pretty awesome chick.

But here’s the thing: I know what it feels like to not fit in.  I’m not white, I’m not blonde, I’m not stick thin.  I’ve always been geeky and different, and—I will freely admit—I spent a lot of time wishing I was someone else when I was a kid.  Like…a lot.  I always felt cheated that I didn’t have green eyes and red hair.  Heck!  I already had freckles (which, I must be the only latina EVER to have freckles), so why not?  I felt this way even though I grew up in a place that was almost 80% Latino, so I certainly wasn’t singled out for my race, ethnicity, appearance, or religion.  I fit right in.

You guys: I was SO LUCKY.

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So when Kamala Khan walks through the terrigen mists and wishes to become the blonde, beautiful Ms. Marvel, I totally understood.  Maybe I even sympathized a little more as an adult.  I’ve moved away from home to a place that’s less than 10% Latino, and I’ve felt more different here than anywhere I’ve ever lived.  That’s not a bad thing, necessarily—I’m comfortable with myself and my culture.  But I do wonder what it would be like to be the American ideal: white, tall, gorgeous, powerful.  It seems like life would be easier that way.

G. Willow Wilson’s book throws that out the window right away, though.  Things aren’t easier for Kamala when she takes on someone else’s skin.  They’re harder, and she finds that wanting to be someone else isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Wilson puts her finger on the pulse of this book right away; she immediately hits on an important message that transcends age, nationality, and class.  She reminds us that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, and that no matter what images society shoves in our faces, we deserve to be happy in our own skin.

That’s not to say that Ms Marvel: No Normal is some sort of self-help comic.  Nope, not even a little.  Wilson does a fantastic job highlighting the superheroic life of an Inhuman (a descendant of someone who was experimented on by aliens.  Seriously, it’s not as goofy as it sounds.  Have you been watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D?  Get on that pronto, and this will make more sense).  These comics are full of action and adventure, even as they definitely feel like they’re true to their intended audience: teenage girls.

Perhaps that’s the coolest part of Ms. Marvel.  It’s a comic aimed at GIRLS.  Even the X-Men comics of the 1990s, which were WAY more inclusive than anything out there and were pretty much my favorite things in the world, was targeted toward young men.  This book takes superheroes and says, “Hey!  You, over there with the awesome Captain America kicks you decorated yourself!  Life can be tough, but you rock.”

Read This If: 

You care about the state of the comics industry and/or like revolutionary books

You like reading comics that can change the world

You were a nerdy teenager that wanted superpowers

Skip This If:

You don’t like reading comics, no matter how awesome they are

You aren’t into coming-of-age stories

Superheroes aren’t your thing, no matter the flavor



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