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Hugo Nominees 2015 – Ms Marvel: No Normal


Ms Marvel is a really fun, adorable comic — yet another win for a reader who “didn’t like graphic novels” a few weeks ago, and who now is glaring at her library’s waiting list, eager for more.

It was hard to miss this reboot of Ms Marvel when it came out. A Muslim, Pakistani-American Ms Marvel? The internet went into fits of glee, and it was one of the best-selling comics of the year. And that’s no surprise, since not only is it refreshing diverse, it’s also incredibly fun to read.

Kamala Khan is a fantastic and refreshing female protagonist — a gaming expert, an Avenger fangirl, a fanfic-writer, and a little bit of a rebel. She’s undergoing something of an identity crisis, wishing she was more like the “beautiful” cool girls but not actually wanting to be like them, when a strange cloud smothers her and she wakes up with the ability to transform herself at will.

The result is a story full of diversity, family, friendship, and humor, with an interesting setup for stories to come.

Unsurprisingly, Ms Marvel explores a lot of common “superhero origin story” themes, and this is both a strength and a weakness. The first volume barrels through a lot of superhero-identity questions in one go, and a lot of the themes were dealt with so bluntly that they seemed to lack finesse. Kamala, for example, starts the books wishing she could be pretty and blonde like Captain Marvel, but realizes through her body-morphing powers that “being someone else isn’t liberating. It’s exhausting.” These themes are important and interesting, but this volume discussed every one of them head-on, and then quickly moved on to the next.

A lot of the plot-points are also fairly by-the-book for a teenage superhero’s origin story — most notably, perhaps, the fact that she hides her powers from her parents. At some points, this made the story feel a bit too predictable, and I was longing for the inventiveness in character to be reflected in the plot.

But perhaps that’s a good thing too. Ms Marvel‘s biggest strength point is its diversity, and the familiar teenage superhero story is familiar precisely because it rings true to the teenage experience. Cynical older readers might comment that they’ve seen all this before and want something new, but there are female readers, Muslim readers, Pakistani readers — many readers beyond the white male reader — who haven’t seen this before in a character that they can see themselves in. Ms Marvel doesn’t necessarily have to re-invent the wheel in superhero storytelling, because its characters are fresh and new, and provide representation to a lot of readers who’ve been sidelined or excluded before.

All in all, Ms Marvel is an exciting mix of classic superhero and refreshing diversity, with slightly predictable plotlines transformed by fresh, well-written characters and a gorgeous art style. I’m probably one of the last people to pick this one up, but if you haven’t read it yet, give it a chance. Even if you’re not usually a comic book person, it’s definitely worth a look.


Rhiannon Thomas is the author of A WICKED THING and KINGDOM OF ASHES. She lives in York, England.

3 thoughts on “Hugo Nominees 2015 – Ms Marvel: No Normal

  1. There’s a good blog post by <a href="; Pixel and Panels="" that talks about how Ms Marvel is the modern reboot of Spiderman because she’s dealing with origin superhero stuff but in a modern relatable way that Spiderman couldn’t do anymore.
    I think you’re right in that it doesn’t matter if the tale starts the same if its characters are different or relatable for more people or fun because at some point it should organically lead in a different direction. Plus isn’t there a theory that it’s basically what storytelling is, the same 5 tales told in a slightly different way?
    For me, I tend not to read many DC/Marvel comics, tending to prefer stuff from Image but this interested me despite the fact that I tend not to like the classic comic book stories. For example I couldn’t get into the 2012 Captain Marvel as it felt like business as usual just with added women. (I only read 5, it may have been different further on)

    1. Kelly sue is a brilliant writer and if you dislike the characters in captain marvel you probably would have hated it more before she came along fixed a bunch of stuff.

  2. This comic is good at times but there are a lot of instances where it is obviously written to patronize young white feminists. Im American but was born in Afghanistan and there is literally no time I spend walking around contemplating my race or my role in this world. I am not conflicted about 9/11, I dont give 2 craps about allah or jesus for that matter both are just fiction in my world. I feel like very few pakistani women will buy this comic and relate to this character. Spider man the origin story I can relate to bc he was a nerd and was picked on but didnt scream or beat up his bullies he did the right thing and saved lives. Ms marvel openly talks about how who she is and what she does being important because she is representing her race nationality women and blah blah. Its a little on the nose. Peter parker never said how important for nerds or white guys it was for him to fight doc ock in his spider pajamas, he never thought about it because realistically he wasnt concerned about microagression and how he was percieved. He saves everyone because its the right thing to do. Spider woman from time to time complained about how she was marginalized however.

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