Ms. Marvel: No Normal (Ms. Marvel #1) by G. Willow Wilson Book Review

Write on: Mon, 22 Feb 2021 by  in Charles' Reviews Read 1419


The Ms. Marvel run by G. Willow Wilson is probably one of my all-time favorite ones in comics. I ended up purchasing all ten volumes on Kindle and I don't think there was any that didn't land for me, even the controversial "Civil War II" arc. However, it is the original that sold me on the character. "No Normal" is a great story from beginning to end and introduces the character in a way I've experienced multiple times.

Kamala Khan is a sixteen year old Pakistani American Muslim girl living in Jersey City and serving as an erstwhile female Peter Parker. She's adorkable, nerdy, writes fanfic, and deals with her bullying peers who don't so much use racism as an ideology but another kind of ammo in the never-ending war to keep the uncool kids down. Kamala is extremely Americanized but still does her best to hold to a number of taboos like not drinking alcohol (which she shouldn't at her age anyway) and being a respectful obedient child (which she fails at miserably once she becomes a superhero).

Kamala Khan gains her superpowers when a green mist from one of Marvel's innumerable unnecessary crossovers blankets Jersey City and transforms her into a shapeshifter. Kamala Khan has low-key versions of Mister Fantastic, Antman, Giant Man, and the Chameleon's powers. Which, now that I think about it, makes her the MU equivalent of Plastic Man. It's a remarkably unsexy power set while incredibly useful for generating lots of comedic potential.

There's the usual business of letting some friends in on the secret, mastering her powers, and deciding who not to let in on it. This is an overall, fairly typical origin story but it's done exceptionally well. It's probably the best origin story I can remember since The Runaways way back in 2003. The fact the comic is relentlessly goofy, including Avengers vs. My Little Pony fanfic, is a breath of fresh air to the darkness in many stories.

I've mentioned a few times how I am a big curmudgeon regarding the old school comics of the Seventies and early Eighties despite the fact I didn't start reading comics as a child until the late Eighties. That means I have an inordinate fondness for Iron Fist, Luke Cage, Ms. Marvel, and a few other characters which were pretty much forgotten by Marvel comics until they started dusting them off for Netflix and the MCU. I was kind of annoyed when they announced they were making a "legacy" Ms. Marvel for Carol Danvers while "promoting" her to Captain Marvel. My reasoning being Carol Danvers was already a bigger hero than Captain Marvel ever was. Also, Carol Danvers was a Air Force Colonel, which meant it was technically a demotion.

I later had this explained to me by a friend of mine (cough-my wife) using the analogy of Princess Leia. A lot of people love Princess Leia but quite a few people really enjoyed her transition to General Organa in the Force Awakens. Princess Leia was her inherited title and General Organa was the one she'd earned. I'm still going to say I always enjoyed Carol Danvers previous identity but decided to give her successor a shot.

I'm glad I did.

The art of Adrian Alphona (and cover art by Sara Pichelli) is especially eye-catching as it is adorable in an almost manga-esque style that is believable in a way most comic book art isn't. Kamala and her friends are appealing in a way that is nice to look at but believable as actual teenagers. There's a dearth of the Olympian beauties and demigods that populate other comics. Kamala, herself, is just plain adorable and evokes a kid sister feel that makes you immediately on her side. I also give props to the comic for giving her non-sexy powers with Kamala having something between Reed Richards and Ant-Man's abilities that she uses to comic effect.

The Islamic American experience in the book is treated as just part of the larger dynamic of a normal American family and that's the way it probably should be. However, I know some jackasses are going to go out of their way to be offended by this and that's a shame. Ironically, my biggest concern is the tying of Ms. Marvel to the Inhumans and the fact I'm of the opinion they inherently suck vs. Mutants.

In conclusion, Ms. Marvel: No Normal is an excellent graphic novel and there are very few comics that I recommend enough to pick up alongside written books. That isn't just me as a literature snob but just how well the story is made. I also state that I enjoyed the Graphic Audio theatrical audiodrama as it was tremendous fun. This book series made me a fan of the character and I believe this volume will make you one too.

Available here

C.T. Phipps

C.T Phipps is a lifelong student of horror, science fiction, and fantasy. An avid tabletop gamer, he discovered this passion led him to write and turned him into a lifelong geek. He is a regular blogger on "The United Federation of Charles".

He's written Agent G, Cthulhu Armageddon, Lucifer's Star, and The Supervillainy Saga.