Happy Tuesday to you readers, and welcome to another edition of Weber Has Issues. WHI exists to introduce new comics that are easy to dive into and require no previous knowledge of what has gone before.
In case you missed it, I’m very proud to announce my involvement in the first Place to Be Nation Comics Roundtable Podcast, which features our entire comics staff and can be listened to here or on iTunes (under Place to Be Podcast). One of the topics we covered was the unprecedented amount of diversity found in comics today-there’s literally something for everyone. In the spirit of that diversity, our friends at Marvel have recently released a new comic that is actually designed to appeal to non-traditional comics readers…which makes it a natural for ‘Weber Has Issues’ to examine.
Ms. Marvel #1, (Marvel Comics, $2.99) written by G. Willow Wilson and illustrated by Adrian Alphona, is a fresh take on the superhero origin story. We’re introduced to high-schooler Kamala Khan (no relation to 80’s wresting icons Kamala the Ugandan Headhunter OR Killer Khan), a Muslim teen from New Jersey who idolizes the Avengers (so much that she writes fanfic). We’re quickly introduced to her friends and family, and we see that she just wants to be popular and be accepted by the cool kids. She desperately wants to try a BLT (her faith prohibits the eating of pork).
Her family dynamic is shown at a typical Friday night at the dinner table, and Kamala feels picked on by her banker father because she’s a girl. She skulks up to her room, just like every teenager ever.
In just a few pages, we really get to know her and her situation. Kamala Khan is instantly relatable.
Kamala sneaks out of the house to attend a party on the waterfront, gets annoyed when high school boys act like high school boys, and then she storms off. She is enveloped by a fog of unknown origin (has anyone been reading Marvel’s “Inhumanity”?), knocked out, and has a vision/hallucination/communion with an alien entity who takes on the visage of Captain Marvel (the current Carol Danvers version—FYI, Carol Danvers was the original Ms. Marvel in the 1970’s). Without giving the rest away, Kamala reaches a crossroads at the end of the issue (this is part one of a five-part origin story entitled “Meta Morphosis”), and she definitely changes by the tale’s conclusion.
Man, this book was great. This comic was just terrific. Evocative of Brian K. Vaughan’s “Runaways”, “Ms. Marvel” does an excellent job of fleshing out a teen protagonist in 20 pages. At no time did it feel like Wilson was force-feeding Islamic precepts down the reader’s throat, and instead the Muslim angle gave the transformation sequence an interesting spin. Kamala is a great character, and her friends (notably Bruno, who’s off-the-charts intelligent and secretly crushing on Kamala) are well-written also. This was just outstanding writing and excellent characterization.
The art by Alphona was beautiful and contemporary. I bought and read the issue via the Comicology app on my iPad 2, but I can imagine it’ll look even better in print…particularly when this initial storyline gets collected in hardcover and then eventually trade paperback.
Also kind of fun: using the “guided view” experience on the Comicology app, which allows you to read each panel in isolated, widescreen form and lets you pick up details you’d otherwise miss. It also makes the reading of comics a bit more cinematic, with transitions and dialogue becoming a bit more intentional and sequential. I can’t imagine a comic reader not liking this, but the true test will be if people who don’t generally read comics pick this up and enjoy it. We’ll see, but Marvel has a big-time winner on their hands with Ms. Marvel #1.