The long-awaited debut of G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s “Ms. Marvel” has finally arrived amid a media storm and a world of expectation, and I’m glad to say it defies both with its quirky, charming protagonist and enchanting artwork. Kamala Khan is the voice of a new generation of comic fans in a bold and relatable way, flanked by a cast of characters that leap fully-formed off every page. With inspired storytelling and a whole lot of laughs, “Ms. Marvel” #1 will captivate new and old comic book readers alike, paving a fantastic, fresh direction for the Marvel Universe.
From the very first page, Kamala’s voice is clear, distinct and very much her own; the conflict between her family life and her social aspirations becomes evident right away, playing out quickly with engaging and steady pacing. Kamala’s supporting characters easily get just as much development as she does as Wilson carefully drops hints about each one through the dialogue, from Bruno’s complex family situation to Nakia’s Turkish background to Zoe’s patronizing niceties. Her family members have genuine chemistry with one another, displayed through a well thought out dinner scene that truly captures their family dynamic. In only a short space of time, Wilson makes it easy to fall completely in love with the book’s cast.
However, with as much attention as these supporting characters receive, Kamala is truly the star of the show. With her nerdy tendencies and feelings of isolation, she reads like this generation’s Peter Parker. That isn’t to say, of course, that Kamala’s unique character is based on him in any way, but — in terms of sheer relatability and fun — she could certainly have the same impact. From her love of fan fiction to her social naÃ¯vete, she neatly asserts her place in the Internet generation. What’s more, she speaks with a contemporary teenage voice that doesn’t become grating or overdone, only genuine. Her struggle for acceptance feels universal; her exasperation with the rules she feels bound to, natural and honest.
Adrian Alphona’s clever style compliments Wilson’s writing beautifully. Not only is his work gorgeous with its soft pencils and complex backgrounds, it’s hilarious, hiding subtle little jokes in the scenery for anyone who takes a closer look. For instance (and without giving anything way), I’d definitely suggest taking a closer look at the party scene — you’ll definitely find a few unusual characters thrown in among the teens. In paying such close attention to detail in Kamala’s room, he actively reinforces the quirkier aspects of her personality, epitomized in the form of a stuffed sloth with wings.
His style also works exceedingly well with the more surreal scenes, like the fan fiction sequence and Kamala’s hallucination, just as it does with those far truer to life. His figure work is impressively expressive, deftly capturing all of the overblown emotions that so often accompany adolescence in Kamala’s reactions. Likewise, his characters are diversely and wonderfully depicted; no two faces look alike. Ian Herring contributes neatly to Alphona’s style with muted but varied color pallet.
There is nothing not to love about “Ms. Marvel” #1: every character is well formed and distinct; the story, lovingly crafted; the art, meticulously planned and — at times — downright funny. Wilson and Alphona infuse pure joy into Kamala’s creation, instilling a kind of charm that will resonate with all of her readers. Kamala Kahn is loud, she’s Inhuman, and she’s here to stay — and I couldn’t be happier for it.