Ms. Marvel #14
Art: Takeshi Miyazawa, Jake Wyatt, Jenny Frison
Colors: Ian Herring
Letters: Joe Caramagna
Kamala Khan created by Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona
Ever since a young Kamala Khan took ownership of the longstanding mantle of "Ms. Marvel" she's had to navigate a complex web of paradoxical identities from the mundane to the fantastical. But this cultural melange has made her one of the most compelling new characters to come out of Marvel. The comic's blend of measured optimism and good humor has also kept Kamala from becoming just another dour attempt to replicate the historic success of Spider-Man. But has she finally met someone who's going through the exact same thing as her in this latest chapter? "All this time, I thought I was alone... that I was the only nerdy Pakistani-American-slash-Inhuman-in the entire universe. And then suddenly I wasn't." Oh Kamala, if only life were that fair.
Artist Takeshi Miyazawa joined the series in the last issue when this particular story arc began, and he's proven to be an apt choice. His manga-influenced style is particularly adept at capturing the varied moods of the book's youthful cast and the story's melodramatic milieu. What can be more romantic for two love-struck and rebellious teenagers (super-powered or otherwise) living in Jersey City than breaking curfew to sneak out and and gaze upon the glorious New York skyline?
But this issue's emotional heart is a short conversation between Kamala's pious older brother Aamir and her best friend/wannabe beau Bruno. As the former explains to the latter why Kamala could never date, let alone marry a non-Pakistani/Muslim, Bruno's face shifts from registering shock, defiance, and finally to crushing disappointment. His gradually slumping body contrasts next to Aamir's upright posture and his helpful but overall placid expression. It's all drawn with the right amount of understatement. The scene unveils a new layer about the two characters, particularly Aamir, who was in danger of becoming a caricature of the narrow-minded ethnic figure. More significantly it humanizes two divergent paths faced by immigrants: Bruno's integrationist philosophy which is often taken for granted by mainstream pundits in the U.S. as the correct course of action, and Aamir's often villainized but perfectly understandable desire to preserve what's left of his cultural legacy in the face of an aggressively bland conformity.
Given such ground-level concerns, Kamala dealing with the ugly side of her Inhuman heritage actually feels like an escape, or at least a diversion, as the superhero conflict provides a far more clear cut version of those problems while also handing her something convenient to punch. Now, Marvel's Mutants have generally played the role of less than convincing race metaphor, the not as well-known but no less potent Inhumans behave more like members of the upper-crust. They're essentially a magical race of elves and wizards who would rather conceal themselves within their enchanted communities far from the reach of mere mortals. But occasionally, one of these snobs resorts to more drastic measures. As an acolyte of this issue's would-be Voldemort proclaims what every fascist has basically ever preached: "Why should we hide what we are and play by the rules of a society that wasn't built for us. We're better than all these people..."
It's a cliched idea for anyone who's been following the X-Men or any Marvel superhero comic for the last 60 years. But it makes for a sudden if somewhat obnoxious presence coming right after the preceding low-key conversation touching on the nature of multiculturalism.