Weighing Superheroes and Self in Ms. Marvel #2

detailMs. Marvel #2
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona
Colors by Ian Herring
Letters by VC’s Joe Caramagna
Cover by Jamie Mckelvie
Published by Marvel Comics

Belief in oneself is one of the truest powers a hero can possess. Sure, it might sound a bit backwards to assign confidence as a heroic trait, but without confidence, without self-assurance, without self-preservation, a hero will falter. Superhero comics can teach all sorts of wonderful ideals to their readers. Focus leads to success. Respect breeds respect.  Mystery supersedes identity. Selflessness guides heroism, but how can one maintain selflessness as well as self-confidence? That is the question at the heart of G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel and also the reason for it being one of the most exciting new comics series’ out there.

Issue two of Ms. Marvel picks up right where the first left off. Kamala awakens in Jersey City after a Terrigen bomb goes off, releasing a thick mist of the mutagen across the city. The effect the mutagen has on Kamala, or at least what appears to be the result, is her transformation into her idol, Captain Marvel. Throughout this second issue, Kamala weaves in and out of being herself and transforming into Captain Marvel, powers and all.

What’s profound about this transformation however, is the way in which Wilson constructs it around a greater narrative on gender, youth, religion and self-confidence. Kamala is a minority not only for her Pakistani descent, but also because she is a superhero loving comics geek who is existing in the most judgmental melting pot in the United States; High School. Kamala is a scrawny, still-developing adolescent minority who writes Avengers fan fiction. She sounds pretty cool to me, but in the often hostile, predatory world of teenagers, she is an outcast. Her wish to become the tall, beautiful, buxom, blonde Captain Marvel embodies an all too prevalent culture that idealizes these traits as the standard of beauty and self-worth. Once Kamala transforms into that standard however, she asks herself; “so why don’t I feel strong and confident and beautiful?”

This is where Ms. Marvel takes a giant leap in the right direction. Self-confidence drives Kamala’s new powers. When she feels vulnerable or uncomfortable with herself, she appears to change. She is unsure of herself until she recalls a quote from the Quran. The quote is about how the heroic quality of saving one person is in return taking steps to save humanity. The opposite is also said, that killing one is as if killing all of mankind. This glimmer of confidence will likely lead Kamala’s journey to becoming a true hero in coming issues of the series. She understands she must be selfless, and in doing so, must also put away her self-doubts in order to be the hero she has it in her to become. Without self-confidence and belief in her true self, Kamala will fail.

As geek culture becomes increasingly prevalent, the historically male-dominated audience for comics, sci-fi, etc., is becoming more and more gender neutral. With realistically molded heroes like Kamala, fighting through self-doubt and unattainable ideals, maybe superheroes can begin to look a little more like the people they are trying to save. Maybe the human race isn’t all that needs saving in comics nowadays, but also the idea of humanity itself.

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