Ms. Marvel #1 cover art.
  • Ms. Marvel #1 cover art.
The first issue of Seattle author G. Willow Wilson's new comic book Ms. Marvel hit the stands yesterday. This is the book that made news with its announcement back in November, when Marvel Comics revealed that the new Ms. Marvel would be a teenage Muslim girl. (Wilson did a great interview earlier this year about the blowback that she's dealt with even before the publication of the book.) So now the pre-hype is finally over and the book is available for sale. And so how is it?

I really liked it. This feels like a callback to classic American superhero comics to me. Wilson's script for the first issue of Ms. Marvel is a fairly dense introduction to Kamala Khan, a nerdy young woman who shares a lot in common with Peter Parker as he first appeared in 1962: She's smart but fairly unpopular in her high school peer group, she's from a fairly conservative working-class family, and she's got an active fantasy life*. The first issue mostly establishes her daily routine; like any kid from any religious background, Khan struggles with her family's faith and her ability to explore life without suffering from crippling guilt all the time. The first time we see her, she's drooling over bacon—"Delicious, delicious infidel meat"—and she struggles against her strict father's rules later in the issue, too.

Wilson's fast-paced plotting and informative, naturalistic dialogue is nicely paired with Adrian Alphona's sketchy and somewhat cartoony art. This certainly doesn't look like your classic superhero book; Alphona's expressive characters look like they could have wandered in from an alternative comic, and I mean that as the best kind of compliment. (Steve Ditko's fussy art looked bizarre when compared to the standard superhero art of his day.) The people in this book are all unique, with different body types, their own vocabulary of body language, and their own fashion sense. Wilson and Alphona work well together, making the dialogue pages a pleasure to read—you won't find the cut-and-paste talking head conversation scenes you'll find in a lot of modern superhero comics here. Wilson also knows when to cut back on the words and let Alphona draw, say, a creepy mist crawling through downtown Jersey City without the clutter of too many word balloons or captions getting in the way.

First issues are tough to review. We only just meet Ms. Marvel officially on the last page of the book, and so the superhero part of the story really has yet to begin. But the world that Wilson and Alphona define in the first issue of Ms. Marvel features a cast and a setting that feels real and likable. If the quality holds up, this is going to be one of the very few superhero comics that I buy every month.

* There's one major difference, though: Whereas Parker was obsessed with science, Khan is always fantasizing, and even writing fan-fic, about superheroes. I understand that this choice makes it easy to explain Khan's motivation to become a superhero, but it does make her feel a little less singular and a little more derivative. That's probably got something to do with the fact that Ms. Marvel is a legacy hero, taking the name from a hero she loves. It's hard to tell from just the first issue, but presumably Wilson is going to expand on this idea of hero worship as the series unfolds. I have faith that Khan will eventually show aptitude for, and interest in, some non-superhero pursuits in future issues.