As if the pains of being a teenager were not enough, 16-year-old Kamala Khan must deal with her newfound body-morphing powers in Ms. Marvel, a reboot of the original comic series that launches today. This time around, the story introduces something more extraordinary to the Marvel Universe than supernatural abilities: the publisher's first female Muslim lead.
While featuring a character from an Islamic background is certainly significant, writer G. Willow Wilson stresses that Kamala's religion does not define her. In an interview with Marvel.com, Wilson said, "She's not a poster girl for the religion or some kind of token minority. She does not cover her hair — most American Muslim women don't — and she's going through a rebellious phase."
Series editor Sana Amanat echoed this sentiment, noting that many will relate to Kamala, even if they do not identify with her faith: "It's about what happens when you struggle with the labels imposed on you and how that forms your sense of self. It's a struggle we've all faced in one form or another, and isn't just particular to Kamala because she's Muslim."
Like many young people from immigrant families, Kamala must juggle the traditions set by her Pakistani Muslim heritage and the stress of being a modern American teenager. She's grown up idolizing the blonde-haired, blue-eyed Carol Danvers, the star of the Captain Marvel series written by Kelly Sue Deconnick and, after discovering she has superpowers of her own, decides to pick up the Ms. Marvel moniker for herself.
The new comic series is part of Marvel's initiative to diversify its characters and broaden the scope of its audience. Earlier this year, the publisher welcomed new smart and strong heroines to its lineup: an all-female X-men series and two new prose novels highlighting Rogue and She-Hulk.
There have also been some strides in the Marvel Entertainment end of the spectrum. At San Diego Comic-Con 2013, Scarlett Johansson praised director Joss Whedon for his portrayal of Black Widow in the upcoming Captain America: The Winter Soldier film: "He was such a pioneer in fleshing out Black Widow and making her a character that could get punched in the face — and could throw a punch — and was an intelligent, complex, and strong female character."
You can get a digital copy of Ms. Marvel featuring Kamala Khan now for $3. Are you as excited as we are?