Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Reader's Diary #1137- G. Willow Wilson (writer) and Adrian Alphona (artist): Ms. Marvel, No Normal

I keep stumbling upon Canadian comic book artists that I had no idea were Canadian. The latest? Adrian Alphona, who's also worked with Brian K. Vaughan on Runaways (Vaughan must have have a thing for working with Canadian artists).

And since I bring up Alphona first, I may as well start with the art of Ms. Marvel. Loved it. There was something psychedelic about it, especially when Ms. Marvel first started realizing she had powers and began to use them. The artwork fit the story like a glove. There was also something retro and familiar about it that I couldn't put my finger on. I went looking for influences to see if I could track it down. Alphona says in this interview that he was influenced by MAD Magazine, Archie, and Looney Tunes, but none of those seemed obvious. Then he mentioned Bob Peak. That wasn't a name I was familiar with, but I can definitely see his style in Ms. Marvel and it must be where that retro look comes from. If I may have one tiny complaint with Alphona's art it's when characters are shown from any sort of distance they become way too cartoony and simplistic and I found it distracting. I get some loss of detail with distance, but the characters needn't become smiley faces.

The story, too, is wonderful. Ms. Marvel has gotten much attention because she's a Muslim teenager  and a reasonably dressed female; two positive leaps forward for Marvel who (along with DC) have long been criticized for their lack of diversity and poor representation of women. Politically correct doesn't always translate to good story telling however, but I am happy to repeat that Ms. Marvel is wonderful. I loved it. Yes, her Muslim identity is a point in the book and the exploration of that is handled really well. She doesn't represent all Muslims and the diverse opinions expressed by her family and friends help destroy the ridiculous myth that all Muslims are the same. Still, the Muslim part doesn't feel like it's the focus either, just a natural inclusion. Instead, it's about a girl who sometimes wishes she could be someone different. It's certainly a theme teens (and adults who were teens) most likely relate to, regardless of (or in additional to) questions about religious identity. There are also superpowers, of course, and some crime-busting.

I would like to talk about her name, though. Not Kamala Khan, that's fine. My issue is with the Ms. Marvel thing. Kamala's idol is Captain Marvel, who also, according to Wikipedia, went by Ms. Marvel at one point. Shortly after acquiring superpowers, and not realizing what she could do or how to control it, Kamala accidentally adopts the appearance of Captain Marvel, and winds up acquiring the name Ms. Marvel in the process. The problem, as I see it, is that the name sticks even though Kamala changes her appearance to something more unique and having a Captain Marvel and a Ms. Marvel in two ongoing series is a bit confusing. My thought is that if the Kamala comics continue to be successful, Marvel plans to eventually kill off or retire the current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers, and Kamala will take the helm. Maybe this transition could take happen in the 2018 Captain Marvel movie? Thoughts?

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