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Gender Issues: Ms. Marvel

By Mara Wood

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After a long hiatus, I’m happy to be back here at Gender Issues. Between SDCC, moving, and starting an internship, I’ve had to take a short break to get everything done. But now I’m BACK and ready to talk about a new character, Kamala Khan.

For those in the dark, Kamala is your new Ms. Marvel. With Carol Danvers taking on the role of Captain Marvel, Marvel Comics was left with a viable character title and no character to fill it. The solution? Inject some youthful diversity. Marvel could’ve gone a number of ways with Ms. Marvel, but their decision to create a brand-new character is genius.

Kamala is a teenaged girl living in Jersey with her parents and older brother. She has a group of friends, a spiritual life, and a penchant for writing awesome fan fiction. She also happens to be Pakistani, an ethnicity that is underrepresented in American culture. G. Willow Wilson, writer, strives to show an accurate portrayal of a first-generation Pakistani woman growing up in a culture that may not understand nor respect her. She is shown doing familiar American things, like grabbing fast food, and traditional Muslim things, like family dynamics and expectations.

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Ignoring all cultural implications of the character, the book is good. Solid writing and a fun plot makes Ms. Marvel a great compliment to the Marvel line up. Need proof? First issue is in its sixth printing, a rarity for a female-led title (much less a brand new character who isn’t white). That doesn’t even take into account digital sales, whose users are 20% female. (side note – if you’ve got updated statistics on ComiXology’s demographics, please shoot it to me!) However, Ms. Marvel is so much more than that. Wilson draws on her own experiences as a Muslim woman in America, and editor Sana Amanat strives to make Ms. Marvel one of the most relevant comic book series on the stands. The result is a book that draws in new readers and gives them something important to chew on.

What’s most striking about Ms. Marvel is the fanbase that surrounded her the minute she was announced. Sure, it didn’t hurt that Kamala was connected to the much-loved Carol. The Carol Corps had no problem welcoming Kamala into their ranks. But the love for Kamala isn’t just because she’s Carol’s replacement in that role. Kamala has sparked love from fans just for being herself. She may have caught you attention with the title of Ms. Marvel, but she will keep you coming by being herself.

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