Kamala Khan continues on her adventures as Marvel’s new teenaged Pakistani-American, Ms. Marvel in Vol. 2, “Generation Why.” While Vol. 1 focused on Kamala’s adjustment to her new heroic role and explored her unique background as the first Muslim superhero in Marvel’s comic universe, Vol. 2 moves on to look at the younger generation of Americans Kamala is part of.
This review contains spoilers. You have been warned!
Continuing from where Vol. 1 left off, Kamala resumes her search for the cockatiel-headed villain, The Inventor. At the same time, she is juggling typical teenage problems of her own: schoolwork, friendships, relationships with her family, as well as keeping her alternate-identity as Ms. Marvel a secret from others – okay, maybe the last one is not as typical. At the same time, she also contemplates her role as Ms. Marvel, and how she can be best at her job “helping people” while avoiding breaking too many rules along the way – from breaking curfew to actively hurting others.
Writer and co-creator G. Willow Wilson made a deliberate decision in choosing to narrate Kamala’s dilemma in a specific scenario that incorporates her Muslim background. It features Kamala donning a headscarf and speaking to Sheikh Abdullah, a religious teacher who specializes in giving “youth lectures.” Contrary to popular belief and perhaps truly telling of the nature of the Muslim faith, Abdullah doesn’t directly ask Kamala to quit her mysterious activities and obey her parents. Instead, they share a dialogue that identifies “qualities befitting an upright young woman” as “courage, strength, honesty, compassion and self-respect.” These teachings not only challenge conventional perceptions and portrayals of Islam, but as they become central qualities of Kamala’s Ms. Marvel, they also suggest how Kamala’s religious values make her a better woman and superheroine.
At the end of the conversation, Sheikh Abdullah also hints that Kamala will receive a teacher to help her with her journey of growth. Cue said teacher: no other than one of Kamala’s most beloved heroes Wolverine himself.
Instead of risking being overshadowed by one of the most well known and important Marvel characters of all time, as a new comer to the Marvel universe, Kamala shines with her bright personality and shameless fan-girling (“My Wolverine-and-Storm-in-Space fanfic was the third-most upvoted story on Freaking Awesome last month!” bragged an ecstatic Kamala to a less than bemused Wolverine). Even Wolverine himself appears more likable in this crossover role (as compared to his own grim storyline in “The Death of Wolverine” last year). Fans have always loved the older, rough-edged character in roles of hesitant mentorship (Rogue, Kitty Pryde, Jubilee).
The exchange between Kamala and Wolverine is remarkably enjoyable and light-hearted. The pair voyage into action packed sequences that are delicate balances of teenage absurdity and wild fun. Readers follow them through Jersey City’s sewage system, battling giant crocodiles in underground jungles and cities, urban legends brought to life courtesy of The Inventor and Wilson’s imagination. Wolverine shares words of wisdom cushioned between verbal jabs and Kamala’s honest questions of how she can protect her city and its people without “hurting stuff.” “It all circles around. The hurt I mean,” says Wolverine in one segment; “It’s gonna hurt. It always hurts…You just gotta trust yourself to come through it,” he says in another.
After the pair bid farewell, Kamala goes after the missing Runaways whom The Inventor is using as human power sources for his havoc-wrecking experiments, with new-found partner-in-crime Lockjaw, a giant, alien teleporting dog. Eventually, it turns out that the runaways are merely young idealists seeking to contribute to the world in a drastic, game-changing way: giving up their lives as power sources to allow planet Earth to have a sustainable future. Instead of fulfilling the role of innocent civilians in danger, the Runaways are actually active and willing participants of The Inventor’s plan.
Although the Runaways quickly realize they were being taken advantage of and join Kamala in fighting against The Inventor, they remain active agents in the story, and the message could not be any more clearer. Kamala and the runaways are us, basically – a younger generation from all backgrounds but more connected with each other than ever, disillusioned by the world at a much younger age than their parents, yet maintaining the idealistic impulsivity to change things for the better. What we lack in experience, we make up for with quirky passion and never ending energy.
As fun as it is refreshing, the new Ms. Marvel never hesitates to appeal to entirely new demographics of comic readers – young, multicultural teenagers who care about their place and legacy in the world, even in the world of superheroes and powers. Wilson does not hesitate at all to include religious and cultured vocabulary into the script (with translations on the side) to bring authenticity to the character, and yet, as so many as commented before, Kamala is as relatable as ever. The new “Ms. Marvel” series is revolutionary in its inclusivity and relevance, making it one of the best series out there – having officially become Marvel’s best-selling digital release doesn’t hurt either.