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Australian philosopher, literary critic, legal scholar, and professional writer. Based in Newcastle, NSW. Author of FREEDOM OF RELIGION AND THE SECULAR STATE (2012), HUMANITY ENHANCED (2014), and THE MYSTERY OF MORAL AUTHORITY (2016).

Monday, June 01, 2015

Ms. Marvel vol. 1 - Hugo voting

As previously noted, I plan to read as much as possible of the material in the Hugo Voters Packet in an effort to inform myself fully before voting. On this blog, I'll discuss much of what I read, although I will not normally do so in substantial detail that involves significant spoilers. (If and when I publish significant spoilers, they will be accompanied by a warning.)

I've begun my efforts by reading Ms. Marvel Vol. 1, scripted by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona, which is nominated in the Best Graphic Story category. I haven't yet read anything else among the works nominated in the category, and as yet I have no view about the likely winner, but I found this volume quite charming.

The new Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a 16-y.o. Muslim girl of ethnic Pakistani background, living in Jersey City. Her support cast includes school friends; her well-meaning, but overly strict, parents; and a zealous brother. One evening, Kamala gains a suite of powers involving size-changing and shapeshifting, and she initially patterns herself on Captain Marvel (i.e. the original Ms. Marvel, Carol Danvers), whom she reveres. Part of the story's ongoing fun involves jokes about the sexy costumes of superheroines and the impossibly perfect image of Captain Marvel in particular ... which Kamala is all too aware she cannot live up to.

Much like Peter Parker - Spider-Man - Kamala has to deal with the complications of balancing the demands of superheroism against the problems of ordinary, day-to-day life with her family. In fact, this first volume of the series displays something of the same freshness that the original run of Spider-Man was so notable for in its day, back in the 1960s. Clearly enough, that was just the effect Marvel Comics was aiming for, but it doesn't feel at all stale or cynical. By and large, I think it was mission accomplished for Marvel and its creative team.

I hope this character, and the cast established around her, end up being successful over the long haul - and particularly that Ms. Marvel might retain its current charm rather than turning into just another overwrought superhero book with the usual kind of obvious glamour and the almost inevitable escalations in power levels that can make characters less relatable.

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