I don't review comic books for a couple of reasons, the main one being I read almost no new comics. I tend to buy in trade or, these days, to read comics on Marvel Digital Unlimited (it takes six months for books to show up there). The other reason is because comic storytelling is so decompressed now that reviewing issue by issue feels like reviewing a TV show commercial break by commercial break. It makes sense to review trades, where full stories are collected, but reviewing individual issues - they're just not complete stories anymore.
That is the case with Ms. Marvel #1, the first part of a five part story. But I'm reviewing it anyway because I want to draw your attention to the book, which is currently on stands and which you should support. There are two reasons you should support it: the most important is that it's good. I liked this issue! But the other reaon is because it's about a female Muslim character, and Marvel needs to be shown that people want to buy comic books about superheroes who aren't just white dudes. The sad reality is that one of the reasons why there's so little diversity in comics is that not enough fans support diversity by buying books with leads who are female or people of color.
But I wouldn't be pushing this book if I didn't actually like it. Kamala Khan is a Pakistani Muslim girl living in Jersey City. She's American-born, but her culture isn't the same as all the kids in school, and she feels weird and out of place. She has dietary restrictions unlike the other kids, she has rules unlike the other kids and she even has holidays unlike the other kids. Plus she's a 16 year old girl, beginning to feel the limitations of her life and wanting to take the first steps into adulthood. She does that by sneaking out at night to a party, but finds that experience unsatisfying. She's walking home when she's overcome by a strange mist and things begin to get truly weird.
Writer G Willow Wilson has created a classically Marvel lead in Kamala. She's a nerd, writing Avengers fanfic, and her life is filled with the kind of boy and family issues that will be identifiable to any 16 year old, whatever their cultural background. She just happens to have a couple of extra issues on top of those. Wilson quickly populates Kamala's world with a best friend who is exploring her own Muslim beliefs, a white boy who has a crush on her, a popular blonde girl whose interest in Kamala's culture is condescending, moderate parents and an extremely devout brother. It's obvious that the characters around Kamala can create enough conflict to keep the series going even if she didn't get super powers.
Adrian Alphona is the artist, and his style straddles realism and cartoonishness so well that he can mix the two in a single panel and you don't bat an eye. Alphona co-created The Runaways, and his work is similar to that but feels slightly more free, like he can open up a bit more. His storytelling is terrific, and while the book is filled almost exclusively with scenes of Kamala talking to people, Alphona keeps every panel interesting. He has one amazing page where a hallucinating Kamala sees her favorite heroes, and it's an image that I hope defines the style for the book going forward. It's fun and it's fascinating and it's clear and it's lovely, all at once.
If you haven't read a comic in a while know that Ms. Marvel #1 ends just as it's getting started; it's a regrettably common thing these days (it's why I wait for the trade - I like getting the story). But the issue, which serves largely as prologue (and is the kind of stuff Stan Lee and Jack Kirby would have dealt with in two pages back in the 60s), is packed with excellent character detail and strong art. I don't begrudge those who decide to tradewait on this, but if you're at all interested in Kamala Khan and the new Ms. Marvel your three bucks today will go a long way towards letting Marvel know there's an audience for this sort of character.