Ms. Marvel, Vol. 8: Mecca by G. Willow Wilson

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 8: Mecca

An enemy from Ms. Marvel's past resurfaces and begins targeting those closest to Kamala. As the world around her is spinning out of control, it becomes clear that this time there's something more sinister at work...Kamala's no stranger to fighting for what's right, but in facing down this challenge, everything she is will be called into question. Not just as a super hero,...

Title:Ms. Marvel, Vol. 8: Mecca
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Edition Language:English

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 8: Mecca Reviews

  • Em
  • Nudrat

    In all superhero origin stories, there is a moment, early on, when the main character decides to embrace her superpowers and use them to save people’s lives – it is the moment when she goes from being merely a person with superpowers to an actual superhero. The decision is motivated by various factors – an overpowering sense of justice, a need for self-improvement or absolution for past wrongs – and the superhero draws on different sources of inspiration, depending on who the superhero is and wh

    In all superhero origin stories, there is a moment, early on, when the main character decides to embrace her superpowers and use them to save people’s lives – it is the moment when she goes from being merely a person with superpowers to an actual superhero. The decision is motivated by various factors – an overpowering sense of justice, a need for self-improvement or absolution for past wrongs – and the superhero draws on different sources of inspiration, depending on who the superhero is and what their life is like. In the case of Kamala Khan, the teenage Pakistani-American headliner of the ongoing and massively popular Ms. Marvel comic book series, this life-altering decision draws from a source of inspiration unexpected in the world of superheroes and comic books: the Quran. When she comes across one of her classmates drowning, and is about to use her freshly acquired powers to save her, Kamala thinks, “There’s this ayah from the Quran that my Dad always quotes when he sees something bad on TV – a fire or a flood or a bombing. ‘Whoever kills one person, it is as if he has killed all of mankind, and whoever saves one person it is as if he has saved all of mankind.’” In the western media landscape, where most Muslim characters inevitably tend to have bombs strapped to their chests, Kamala’s reliance on her faith as a source of strength and courage feels particularly revolutionary, and it’s only one of the many reasons why Ms. Marvel has been, and continues to be, a breath of fresh air in the world of superheroes.

    Created in 2014, this version of Ms. Marvel (the original Ms. Marvel was conceived in 1968 as a white woman, Carol Danvers, who now bears the mantle of Captain Marvel in the intricately populated Marvel Universe) is the brainchild of writer G. Willow Wilson (a white Muslim convert) and Marvel editor, Sana Amanat (a Pakistani-American herself). Launched amidst considerable hype due to its status as the first comic book series with a Muslim superhero headliner, Ms. Marvel has nevertheless managed to not only live up to the initial hype but to remain consistent in its high quality storytelling, thanks in no small part to Wilson’s confident and assured development of Kamala’s character, and the way she uses different aspects of Kamala’s identity – Muslim, daughter of South Asian immigrants, teenager – to give her superhero arc a unique specificity. In the four intervening years since the launch of the first issue, Ms. Marvel delves into Kamala’s journey of coming into her own as a superhero, becoming part of the larger Marvel superhero team and defeating supervillains, and learning how to balance her personal life with her secret life, all the while touching upon issues of racial profiling, Islamophobia, and what it means to be a young American growing up in an increasingly divided US. That the series manages to juggle all these different balls while maintaining carefully plotted narrative arcs, nuanced character development, and fresh writing that is full of humor and lots of heart, is a remarkable feat.

    When the series begins, Kamala is a 16-year-old high schooler grappling with normal teenage issues: dealing with overbearing parents, hanging out with best friends, Nakia and Bruno, and trying to fit in with the popular crowd. But unlike Peter Parker, another teenage misfit who becomes a superhero (Spiderman, for the uninitiated), her inability to fit in is more racially and politically charged – in one of the first few pages, a popular girl at their school makes fun of Nakia’s hijab, commenting, “Your headscarf is so pretty, Kiki. But, I mean, nobody pressured you to start wearing it, right? I’m just concerned,” and jokes that Kamala “smells of curry.” But while Kamala feels ambivalent about the way her religious and racial identity marks her as an outsider, her faith is often drawn into her character development, something she quite organically reaches out for in times of doubt and difficulty. One of the most interesting scenes in the first arc is when Kamala’s parents, concerned with their daughter’s sneaking out at night and being secretive, send her to the imam of their mosque. Kamala isn’t very keen on discussing her secret superhero adventures with the imam, Sheikh Abdullah, who gives weekly religious lectures to the young Muslim population of Kamala’s neighbourhood in New Jersey. However, he surprises her (and the audience) when, upon learning that Kamala plans on carrying on with her secret plans, instead of berating her for hiding things from her parents, he gives her empowering advice. “If you insist on pursuing this thing you will not tell me about,” Sheikh Abdullah says, “do it with the qualities befitting an upright young woman: Courage, strength, honesty, compassion, and self-respect.” This scene is one of many in which religion is a positive influence in Kamala’s life, providing her with guidance and strength.

    Just as Wilson organically incorporates Kamala’s Muslim identity within her larger superhero narrative, she also weaves in her South Asian heritage and her identity as the daughter of Pakistani immigrants with thoughtful specificity – the dialogue between Kamala and her family members are interspersed with Urdu sentences and phrases, and South Asian pop culture references (there is Amitabh Bachhan’s Sholay and Tagore’s poetry, to name just two) are casually dropped in a manner that feels authentic rather than forced. In one of the more recent issues, the South Asian Partition is explicitly brought into Kamala’s superhero origin backstory: Kamala’s grandparents’ harrowing journey from Bombay to Karachi in 1947 is paralleled with Kamala’s parents’ decision to move from Karachi to New Jersey right before Kamala is born, and both journeys, born of equal parts of hope, fear and courage, inform Kamala’s character and perspective when faced with her own challenges, as family histories undoubtedly do. The significance of Kamala’s family history is both metaphorical and tangible: the gold bangles Kamala’s grandmother brought with her to Karachi during Partition are handed down the generations until they become refashioned into an essential part of Kamala’s superhero costume. A fun recent story arc also shows Kamala visiting her maternal family in Karachi and taking down a villain with a local superhero named Lal Khanjar (even her costume gets a desi twist).

    One of the best things about the Ms. Marvel series is how unabashedly optimistic and heartwarming it is, even when dealing with insurmountable threats, both fantastical and real. In that sense, it reflects Kamala’s own youthful idealism and passion, a kind of defiant hopefulness that embraces and celebrates the different aspects of Kamala’s identity, and in doing so, embraces and celebrates different kinds of diversity. Such a celebration of diverse values is sorely needed, not only in Trump’s America (unsurprisingly, Kamala Khan shows up in lots of anti-Trump protest signs and banners), but also in a larger world becoming increasingly fearful of difference.

    Review published in Newsline in November 2017:

  • Adam

    Is this the end for Kamala Khan? Or just the beginning of something new? Another great volume.

  • Alexandra

    As always.

  • Renata

    (read as single issues)

    Kamala and the Hulk are friends from work.

  • Koen

    Good issue!

    Enjoyed the domestic struggles, Hydra claiming mayorship, all the hassles,...

    Always love to see Ms. Marvel in action, fysically ànd verbally :)

  • Anniek

    It's gonna be a long wait until the next volume!!

  • Ran

    This series remains one of my favorites, in which G. Willow Wilson continues to just write a goofy, down-to-earth highschooler dealing with super powers, and being Muslim in Jersey City. I know you thought I was describing Peter Parker at first. I seriously enjoy learning about Islamic traditions through Kamala's family and friends.

    But wait, first let me go back and address how the ugly nationalism on the rise in Jersey City, which usurps the elected mayor's seat illegally and ousts her for the

    This series remains one of my favorites, in which G. Willow Wilson continues to just write a goofy, down-to-earth highschooler dealing with super powers, and being Muslim in Jersey City. I know you thought I was describing Peter Parker at first. I seriously enjoy learning about Islamic traditions through Kamala's family and friends.

    But wait, first let me go back and address how the ugly nationalism on the rise in Jersey City, which usurps the elected mayor's seat illegally and ousts her for the Hydra-sponsored Chuck Worthy. To which, Kamala responds with bendy Mr. Fantastic moves to against Lockdown and Discord. But more importantly, to which the mayor responds by retaking her position with the backing of the Third Circuit court. Yay, law!

    Then an exchange student from Karachi appears in the form of Red Dagger (Laal Khanjeer) to help Ms. Marvel stop a runaway train. And a Thor: Ragnarok reference is made which made me snicker. But sadly Bruno is still MIA from Jersey City as he just was awarded citizenship to Wakanda. I mean, impressive! But I miss him in JC.

  • Robin Stevens

    Honestly, Ms Marvel is just head and shoulders above most other ongoing comic series. Kamala is a wonderfully honest, flawed but good-hearted hero, and the storylines aren't afraid to tackle big issues in very sensitive ways. Plus, it's just amazing to see a Muslim family at the heart of an American story, allowed to be well-rounded, kind, ordinary human beings. Every comic fan should read this. 10+

    *Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. Please do not use it in any marketing

    Honestly, Ms Marvel is just head and shoulders above most other ongoing comic series. Kamala is a wonderfully honest, flawed but good-hearted hero, and the storylines aren't afraid to tackle big issues in very sensitive ways. Plus, it's just amazing to see a Muslim family at the heart of an American story, allowed to be well-rounded, kind, ordinary human beings. Every comic fan should read this. 10+

    *Please note: this review is meant as a recommendation only. Please do not use it in any marketing material, online or in print, without asking permission from me first. Thank you!*

  • Rory Wilding

    This has been said before that if there is any superhero comic currently published that is the modern equivalent of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's

    , it would be G. Willow Wilson's

    as much like Peter Parker's life, Kamala Khan's is all about balancing her personal life with friends and family, high school and her duties as the local superhero, in which despite her good intentions, it's not helping gaining the public's trust.

    What was great about the previous volume was

    This has been said before that if there is any superhero comic currently published that is the modern equivalent of Stan Lee and Steve Ditko's

    , it would be G. Willow Wilson's

    as much like Peter Parker's life, Kamala Khan's is all about balancing her personal life with friends and family, high school and her duties as the local superhero, in which despite her good intentions, it's not helping gaining the public's trust.

    What was great about the previous volume was that after the slight misstep of the

    tie-in issues, it told a standalone story that balanced the super-heroism with the social commentary, reminding what made this run successful in the first place. However, the consequences of

    haunt Kamala as HYDRA agent Chuck Worthy has taken control as the mayor of Jersey City as he begins to target those close to her.

    As Marvel has always tried to remain relevant as the All-New, All-Different initiative showcases a racially diverse cast of superheroes, the publisher has never tried to force any political statements. However, what opened volume seven was #13, which was clearly an allegory for the 2016 US presidential election and yet by the time the issue was published, we already got the disastrous results. Throughout the majority of this volume, we see a villain in mayoral charge creates an organisation that is assigned to lock up all the unregistered super powers in the city.

    As a loose continuation of some of the ideas presented in Marvel's

    , it is a combination of comic book fantasy and politics that are not too dissimilar with today's American politics, such as terrorism and immigration. Amongst the super-powered victims (or one who did have powers briefly) are Kamala's older brother Aamir who, after getting arrested, opens #20 with a brilliant monologue explaining the common problem of people's assumption of the image of a terrorist, whether it is simply judging someone by the colour of their skin or whatever religion they're in.

    Given how serious the messages Wilson is trying to display, she never talks down to her readers as the adventures of Kamala Khan are uplifting, such as our eponymous hero fighting her enemies with abilities that are closer to Mr. Fantastic, with moments of heartfelt realisation. Due to the absence of Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa, Marco Failla takes charge of artistic duties as along with series colourist Ian Herring, his cartoony illustrations are appropriate to Kamala's elastic moves, whilst balancing the quiet character drama.

    Concluding this volume is a two-issue arc, in which Kamala is reunited with Kareem, who is participating in an exchange student program in her high school, much to her dissatisfaction. However, when an ongoing train's brakes have malfunctioned, it looks like a job for Ms. Marvel, but she’s also joined by Kareem's superhero alter-ego Laal Khanjeer (or the Red Dagger). Although it very much evokes Tony Scott's

    , so much so that even Kamala references the Denzel Washington movie, this is a fun buddy-up with great Kamala-centric humour, whilst Diego Olortegui's art is very detailed and textured as the train takes the heroes through stunning locations in New Jersey.

    No matter how politically G. Willow Wilson wants to be, it is the witty adventures of Kamala Khan that aren’t as big as her fellow Avengers that makes this title continuously readable, whilst setting up something in the near future that she might no longer need the persona of Ms. Marvel.


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