As I am now halfway through SJSU iSchool's 1-unit course on Graphic Novels, I have to say that this has turned out to be a most fun experience. And, as I continue to read a wide array of graphic novels, I gain new appreciation for the medium.
I started off by reading The Arrival, and while I wasn't sure that I loved it, I did find it to be a thoughtful read with beautiful artwork. After that I read Hawkeye, and while I know that it has been well received and lauded, the story was just okay to me. Next, I read This One Summer, which has also been widely recognized, and I liked it enough, but I still didn't love it.
At this point, my husband was joking that I must just be super critical. Worried that this may indeed be the case, I started to read Out on the Wire: The Storytelling Secrets of the New Masters of Radio. I figured this would be a slam dunk "like" for me since I love listening to NPR-style radio shows and podcasts. Instead, as I read it, I suddenly missed the interesting art of the other books that I had just read. As much as I was enjoying the content, I put Out on the Wire on hold and instead decided to pick up something that might be more visually artistic. This led me to Ms. Marvel. I had finally found a match for my reading mood, and I am in love!
Ms. Marvel: No Normal written by G. Willow Wilson
The first volume of Ms. Marvel introduces Kamala Khan, a teen whose family is Muslim and of Pakistani descent. While Kamala navigates typical adolescent issues such as boys, fitting in, and asserting her independence from her parents, she also discovers her superpowers, which include being able to change her physical appearance. When Kamala first uses her powers, she transforms into her idol, the blonde-haired Carol Danvers version of Ms. Marvel. Kamala gains attention for her heroic actions as Ms. Marvel, and so she continues to use this identity when helping others. At the same time, she comes to embrace her own strength, and thus, while keeping the moniker and basic costume, she ends up reclaiming her own physical appearance otherwise. I have never been able to relate well to superhero comics until reading Ms. Marvel. There are still classic superhero elements that I would expect, such as when the mysterious mist falls upon the city, when Kamala shape shifts or changes size, or when the villain The Inventor enters the story. These elements are so expertly weaved into the story, though, and Kamala’s reactions and thoughts make them relatable as the reader. For instance, when Kamala becomes aware of her abnormal powers, she has an utterly normal struggle deciding whether to confide in her best friend Bruno since she he tipped off her parents that she had snuck out of the house. Kamala, as Ms. Marvel, is an emerging superhero who is wonderfully human, and I look forward to following her adventures and growth.