This phenomenal superhero, Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) has been making quite some noise in the Marvel Comic world ever since she was introduced. Intriguingly, she is the first Muslim, Pakistani-American superhero to get her own comic series.
But how did Khan become a superhero? (spoiler alert)
It goes like this:
One night as she was walking home, she gets trapped in a sudden Terrigen Mist, which left her unconscious. Soon after she woke up, Kamala was transformed into her idol, (Carol Danvers) Ms. Marvel. Due to this incident she was given abilities of shape shifting, healing, bioluminescence, and appearance alteration superpowers. Pretty awesome, right?!
Sana Amanat created this comic series to show that the idea behind Kamala Khan is to explore the Muslim-American movement from an authentic perspective. This also relates to other diversities of Muslim-Americans as well. Rather than explicitly showing readers the struggle of Muslims, Ms. Marvel portrays this idea with culture and society. This illustrates Khan as a progressive character, making her more relatable to similar individuals wrestling to find self-empowerment.
Similarly as the story of Superman and Spiderman, Ms. Marvel also struggles a lot with accepting herself. Just like many of us, Kamala wants to be cool and fit in. But in the back of her head, she understands the responsibilities and expectations held upon her by her family (the infamous blend culture and religion). The writer of Ms. Marvel, Willow Wilson describes Kamala’s struggles as: “Her brother is extremely conservative, her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant, and her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” Jeesh! How relatable is that pressure?
She assumes by being Ms. Marvel, everything will be easier. She believes that her appearance and change in wardrobe will help her fit in. However, though being a superhero is great, it just adds more stress to her existing confusion and just as Superman or Spiderman we’ve seen the inner battle they go through because they feel different. In Comic #2 Ms. Marvel says, “But being someone else isn’t liberating. Its exhausting.” This realization is a strong focal point in the comics.
Ms. Marvel also shows ways to battle this identity problem and it is slowly unraveled in each comic. An example would be when Khan talks to Sheikh Abdullah in comic #6. One would expect Kamala to get a scolding from the Sheikh for carrying on the duties of a vigilante and disobeying her parents. But the true essence of Kamala’s religion (Islam) implicitly shines through and challenges the oppressive views put on by her culture and society. The Sheikh tells her, “If you insist on pursuing this thing you will not tell me about, do it with the qualities befitting an upright young woman: courage, strength, honesty, compassion, and self-respect.”
Along the way, Kamala will keep learning and liberating herself the right way. This is a reminder to readers that being different is not a bad thing. You have to focus on the positives, and educate yourself in matters that associate others with culture, religion, and society. Like Kamala, being an American-Muslim-Pakistani is very difficult when considering her cultural, religious, and societal differences from others. Many of us can relate to how hard this can get. We as well as Ms. Marvel are always pulled in different directions. Struggling with our souls. Struggling between good and bad. Struggling between do or don’t.
Contrast to recent negative assumptions of Islam as a whole, it might be hard to keep your identity strong as a Muslim. However, Ms. Marvel’s comic sheds light on these struggles. Her portrayal, and challenges against certain negativities shows that there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Eventually, all of us will find our way out and discover true self-empowerment.
This article is written by Mahwesh Fatima