It’s here! The new series about a Muslim, Pakistani superheroine! And it’s good!
It’ll be a shame if all we ever say about this comic is “It’s about a Muslim.” I think we all want diversity to mean good characters and good stories, not just any old story with an ethnic character. I want the stories to be enriched, not trite. I want characters to be compelling in their own right, not just walking stereotypes or the same old characters painted in different shades. That said, the fact that Kamala Khan is Muslim is the big news here, and the comic knows that. Substantial chunks are devoted to showing Kamala’s Pakistani heritage and family. They don’t go much into religion, but I liked the way they subtly included different levels of piety without making it a huge deal. Kamala isn’t wearing a headscarf, but her friend Nakia is. Her brother is overtly religious and is teased for praying all the time, but their parents just complain because he doesn’t have a job.
Really, though, there are more references to cultural differences rather than religion. Kamala feels like an outsider in high school because of her culture. She’s the one with the “weird family.” I want to tell her that no, everyone feels like that. If it wasn’t because of her family, it would be because she’s geeky, or smart, or some other reason. I’d also like to tell her that those things are exactly why WE’RE gonna be her biggest fans! We’re reading her story because she’s different. We’re relating to her because she feels like an outsider, because she’s smart, because she’s nice to other people, because she’s a geek and writes Avengers fanfiction! (Nobody else’s parents understand fanfic either, Kamala).
Through all that, she’s not annoying, and she’s not trite. It looks like it’ll be a coming-of-age story, a learning-to-love-yourself story, whatever-whatever, but it doesn’t feel like the same old thing for the obvious reason and because I just genuinely like Kamala. I also enjoyed the art, it’s visually appealing and attractive as art, but doesn’t distract from the narrative.
I fully intended to read this first issue, make a few comments, and then wait for the graphic novel (if it got that far), but I really want to see more of her, and I really want it to have enough issues for several collected editions, so I’ll try to keep up with the issues as they come out.