Ms. Marvel #1 Spoiler-free Review
G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, Ian Herring
Kamala is a Muslim girl born and raised in Jersey City, two enormous pieces of her identity that find themselves clashing throughout the issue. At a local Circle Q, she finds herself sniffing the BLT sandwiches longingly, wishing bacon weren’t forbidden by her religion – but abiding by the rules nonetheless. And yet, desperate to fit in with the cooler students, like leggy blonde concern troll Zoe or meathead jock Josh, she sneaks out of her home to attend a party that will have both boys and booze, two things she knows her parents would disapprove of. Despite the specifics of Kamala’s background, her story in Ms. Marvel #1 is a universal one, a struggle to which we can all relate with ease.
While Wilson and Alphona definitely play up the stereotypical aspects of most of their cast, that type of shorthand is fundamentally necessary for a first issue prominently featuring new characters. What’s important in a debut is getting a feel for what the series is about and who our lead character is, and they nail both of those aspects and build the beginnings of an impressive supporting cast to boot. Zoe, Josh, Nakia, Bruno, even Kamala’s family – while they do fall into (mostly) neatly defined archetypes, Wilson writes them with a great deal of wit and, more importantly, with character. And even ignoring them, Kamala is such a wonderfully relatable lead that she could easily carry the first arc or two all on her own. Thankfully, she shouldn’t have to, as Ms. Marvel #1 builds on a single basic character-driven conflict that sprawls in different directions throughout the issue, smartly weaving various types of stories in and out of the narrative.
Penciller Adrian Alphona and colorist Ian Herring really impressed me here. Alphona’s cartoonish, exaggerated art helps get us immediately inside the heads of the characters. I spoke above about Wilson’s quick characterization, but it wouldn’t work without Alphona and Herring. It takes two panels and three words to cut right to the heart of Kamala’s relationship with Bruno. For example, a pair of gorgeous, moody panels focus more on atmosphere than on character but tell us exactly how they feel as the distant chill of mist envelopes the city. Alphona and Herring do great work supplementing the script by fleshing out the cast as Wilson builds it, using movement, decoration, dress, everything to tell us who these people are before Wilson even has to bother. It’s wonderfully detail-driven work.
With Ms. Marvel #1, G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona have created quite possibly the most relatable super-hero origin story since Spider-Man first swung onto the scene in the 1960s. Because if you ignore the tangible details – Kamala is an outcast because she’s Muslim (a nerdy Muslim to boot); Peter was because he was a nerd – the fundamental story is remarkably similar. Like early Spider-Man stories, Ms. Marvel #1 gets to the heart of what it means to wish so badly that you had the power to be someone, something you aren’t – and the danger of actually getting what you wished for. It’s the story of figuring out who you are and separating that from who your parents, your culture, and your friends want you to be. It’s the story of balancing desire and responsibility. It’s superhero comics at their absolute best.
My Rating: 5 / 5