Welcome to the Marvel Universe, Kamala Khan

MsMarvel_Metamorphosis_HiWildflower The 16-year-old superhero has hit #1 on the digital comics charts, proving that readers around the globe want to see comic book heroes reflect the world we live in. We begin with Kamala’s origin story, Metamorphosis, the first of five tales of her superhero beginnings.

(BTW — hard copies are dope, but digital joints are $2.99! And the artwork by Adrian Alphona and coloring by Ian Herring are top notch, and it’s nice to see Marvel has gone all out to honor writer G. Willow Wilson’s vision for the series.)

The opening scene is one that’s close to my heart. We’re at a deli in Jersey City, where Kamala and her friend, the proud, beautiful Nakia, stop by their friend Bruno’s shift to smell the forbidden BLTs just within Kamala’s reach. I remember staring at pepperoni pizzas as a kid and being jealous as hell of my pork eater friends. And, any vegetarian will tell you — often the thing that breaks ’em down is bacon.

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 2.08.18 AMThe scene is interrupted by the most popular girl and boy in school, the blond and infinitely annoying Zoe Zimmer, who makes passive-aggressive jabs at Kamala and Nakia about strict Muslim parents and Nakia’s awesome hijab. While Nakia and Bruno see past Zoe’s fakery, Kamala finds her “so nice and adorable.” Honestly, I’m put off by this idolatry-identification with whiteness, much like when I’m watching The Mindy Project, but I remind myself — some desi folks grow up wanting to be white.

It’s all they know.

The part that makes it hard for me to believe young Ms. Marvel would be so enamored with an annoying and micro-aggressively racist white girl is the fact that this all takes place in Jersey City, one of the most diverse places in the WORLD. We’re talking about Filipino, Brazilian, Guyanese, Nigerian, and Polish communities these days. The city’s “non-white Hispanic” population has gone down from 69.5% in 1970 to 21.5% by 2010. A mass exodus of white folks, is what that means. So any young person that grows up in Jersey City today has a very different picture of the place than one that grew up there in the 1980s.

Knowing that I have to suspend my disbelief, as this is a comic, I let it slide as part of this particular character’s origin story. When we get into her family life, it all starts to resonate with me a bit more. Her religious brother, grumpy father, and fretting mother are all archetypes of the immigrant family in the U.S. — easy to relate to and understand. I think the interplay between young people that are increasingly religious (displayed by their commitment to prayer and modest head covering) and parents who see it as a passing phase is definitely true of our generation of immigrants.

Kamala’s life with friends and bozos from high school:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 12.42.13 PMKamala’s life at home with her parentals and super-religious big bro:

Screen Shot 2014-02-13 at 12.42.26 PMKamala’s strict parents don’t want her to go out on a Friday night — drinking and boys are temptations to steer clear of. So what does Kamala do?

She sneaks out.

Go Kamala! Now, I’m in…

Things never pan out exactly as we’d like, especially when we act from a place of desperation, right? I won’t give much more away except to say that Kamala has always wished that she could fit in with the popular people, as blonde and annoying as they may be.

We see a glimmer of Kamala’s superpowers in this installment of Ms. Marvel. And she is reminded in a vision that features Iron Man, Captain America, and Carol Danvers:

It is not going to turn out the way you think. 

Get your copy of Ms. Marvel: Metamorphosis today!

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