Week 3 – Ms. Marvel

“Ammi and Abu taught me to always think about the greater good. To defend people who can’t defend themselves, even if it means putting yourself at risk. I wish they could see that that’s exactly what I’m trying to do.”

I really really enjoyed both volumes of Ms. Marvel. I think I liked the second volume a bit better, but that’s almost by design, since the first volume is very much an origin story which establishes its story and its characters. After really cementing the characters and establishing the plot and the villain, the story got much more exciting and enjoyable to read.

I found myself way more invested in this story more so than All-Star Superman. It took me barely a day to read both volumes of Ms. Marvel, while it took me like a week to trudge through All-Star Superman. I think I was just way more invested in Ms. Marvel than I was with Superman. When a character is ‘god’-like, or indestructible, or immortal, I have a hard time really investing in that character. If you know a character is going to come out of every situation relatively unharmed and unscathed, why should we, as readers, care about them?

After watching the ted talk given by author G. Willow Wilson, and actually reading the comic itself, I was really impressed with the villain, and how the author kind of turned the theme into an ultimately positive and uplifting message about the future generation. A lot of the villains in comic books or in comic book movies always seem to be a bit generic, with weak, incoherent motivations and minimal back story. While I did think the Inventor could have been fleshed out a bit more, I felt like I could understand where he was coming from, even though I didn’t necessarily agree with him. And I always think that’s a good sign of a well-developed villain.

We talked a lot about this in class, but I loved how Ms. Marvel subverted so many cliché and uninspired and expected tropes that come with writing a superhero or a superhero origin story. Like we said in class, she doesn’t have a tragic backstory. Her wanting to save the citizens of Jersey doesn’t come out of malice or contempt or revenge – she wants to save her people, simply because, this is her city. Also, she admittedly says early on in volume one that saving people made her feel good. No family member of hers has died, the villain didn’t kidnap her loved one and keep them hostage. She just wanted to save people because it was the right thing to do. Another trope that was kind of subverted was that Kamala’s best friend, Nakia, is introduced early on (literally in the first scene) as very confident and assertive. Kamala is portrayed as more naïve, believing that Zoe and her band of friends were genuinely nice and concerned about her and Nakia. I feel like in every other story, Nakia would be the one to acquire powers, just because she felt more like the leader of their friend group. Traditional superhero characteristics include confidence, leadership skills, authoritative, assured, while Kamala felt like the exact opposite of that. Kamala felt more like the clumsy, quirky sidekick, and I’m glad that it was actually Kamala who ended up gaining powers, instead of Nakia, and it ultimately made for a more entertaining story.

Kamala’s religion was also a huge part of her life, but it wasn’t her entire life, it didn’t shape her entire identity. The Ms. Marvel group presentation touched on this – a lot of the time, minority characters represented in media are…just that. They’re defined by being a minority, and they have no other personality traits or characteristics, which makes for a very uninteresting and uninspired character. So, it was refreshing to see Kamala, who was a young Muslim teenage girl, lead her own comic. And in all of that, the comic isn’t preaching about religion or the Islamic faith. Like all coming of age stories, this felt so specific, yet the broader and more general themes felt so universal. I really enjoyed reading this comic, and I’m glad young girls have a hero like Kamala they can look up to.

5 thoughts on “Week 3 – Ms. Marvel

  1. I totally agree with your opinion, I found the second volume of Ms. Marvel to be much more entertaining than the first volume. I have grown somewhat tired of origin stories, and I feel this may be due to all the superhero movie re-runs and seeing the same origin stories over and over again (Looking at you Batman). I thoroughly enjoyed the entire concept of the Inventor, his ideology, and his justification for his actions.

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    1. The part of the book that threw me off a little when reading was her ability to be injured or killed in eve simple combat. In a way it was interesting because I was a little more on-edge during her first couple battles and it does make sense, why would a fight seem so interesting if you always know the hero will be fine? But I have to admit maybe because of her naivety thrown in the mix, I kind of enjoy the traditional superhero more. Reading/watching a character who is virtually indestructible is more my type of comic, its because they are abnormal that I find them interesting, they have the ability to to things I never will be able to.

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  2. Hey Melina,

    I really enjoyed your post! I think it is very accurate to say that this comic represented multiculturalism in a unique and thought-provoking way. G Willow Wilson seemed to find the right balance between exploring her culture and focusing on the learning curve of gaining superpowers. Also, I think the reason Kamala feels so good saving people and does so without much thought is partly due to her naivety, which is great.

    Cheers,

    Taher

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  3. Hi Melina,
    I enjoy reading your posts because you seem to have a knack for breaking down and verbalizing exactly why certain stories/comics work for you, and why certain ones don’t. I particularly liked you bringing up the fact that Kamala didn’t have a tragic background of any kind and simply wanted to help people when she realized she had the power to do so. That’s something that I admittedly missed in my analysis and found particularly interesting. Overall, great job on the post!
    – Hamza

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  4. I totally agree with a lot of what you talked about. Although, I think we may have a difference in opinion about our favourite volume. This might just be because I’m a sucker for origin stories though, and I especially loved how this one turned a lot of origin stories on their heads: because there are already established heroes and people with powers in this society, Kamala doesn’t need some deep motivation to take up a hero’s mantle, she just loved heroes, and I thought that was great. Also, I found that the visual gags that were present in the background in the first volume were missing and that made me just a little sad. Anyways, great post, thanks!

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