This Wednesday saw the debut of Marvel Comic’s newest female-led title, Ms. Marvel #1.
Prior to its release, the title garnered a lot of press coverage, from comics blogs to national news sites like USA Today to international news sites like Qantara, because the titular character is a Muslim teen living in New Jersey.
Since its release, the comic has received a number of accolades, with enthusiastic and positive reviews, supportive statements, and many comic stores reporting an unusually large number of preorders for the first issue. Others continue to critique the title as a ploy by Marvel to seem more inclusive and politically correct.
Some extremists have dubbed Ms. Marvel a “terrorist comic book,” and one commenter on The Outhouse stated “the ‘new’ Ms Marvel is a poorly defined character; badly written and with absolutely AWFUL underwhelming artwork – why all the plaudits!!??…This is just a further example of the decline [of comics]IMO!”
Ms. Marvel is the first of a number of female-led titles being published by Marvel Comics this spring, in an attempt to focus on female “characters and creators” and show that they “are not the big-breasted, scantily clad women that perhaps have become the comic-book cliché. They are women with rich interior lives, interesting careers and complicated families who are defined by many things—least of all their looks,” according to Marvel editor-in-chief Axel Alonso.
Alonso also stated that, while they don’t have market research to back it up, “if you go to conventions and comic book stores, more and more female readers are emerging. They are starved for content and looking for content they can relate to.” Even if Marvel doesn’t have market research, there are a number of online surveys, the latest of which, conducted through Facebook advertising statistics by comics blogger and political consultant Brett Schenker, asserts that up to 40% of fans active on Facebook are female (as opposed to DC Comic’s 2012 Nielson Survey, which stated female readership had dropped from 9% to 7% since the overture of the New 52).
The issue, in my opinion, is a great first issue. G. Willow Wilson masterfully establishes a world we don’t see a lot in superhero comics–the lives of mundane citizens–and makes Kamala a very relatable and likeable character, regardless of race or religion. Adrian Alphona’s lose, quirky art compliments the story, and emphasizes characters’ expressions and posturing, making the comic incredibly enjoyable on a visual level.
Regardless of personal opinions on the issue, and even if it is merely a “ploy,” Ms. Marvel #1 represents a shift in general attitude towards female characters. Kamala is, hopefully, the beginning of a new trend in comics, where not all female characters are visually carbon copies of one another.