In February of 2014, Kamala Khan debuted in her first series as the new Miss Marvel. She was the first Muslim character to have their own series in the history of Marvel. While there may have been tensions when she first premiered, Kamala has gone on to become one of the most beloved comic book characters in Marvel’s pantheon. As Miss Marvel, Kamala continues the legacy of those who came before her, but she offers a fresh take, a contemporary look at what superheroes should be. She is the face of the current generation, those raised in a global, postmodern world.
One of the things that makes Kamala Khan great is that while she brings diversity to Marvel, being a Pakistani-American, she never comes across as a token character. Kamala is a well-developed heroine with multiple facets to her personality. Kamala struggles as all teenagers do with trying to find a place in the world to belong. Oftentimes her background makes her the “weird” kid in the crowd, but that does not mean she disrespects or rejects her roots. Fatemeh Fakhraie, founder of Muslimah Media Watch, a diversity advocacy group, told Al Jazeera America that, “She is going to be a window into the American Muslim experience” and that she “normalizes this idea of the American experience as Muslim.” Kamala’s journey as Miss Marvel is not primarily about being Muslim, but this does affect her journey, just as Matt Murdock’s life as Daredevil is colored by his Catholic upbringing.
The fact that Kamala is American born and bred is just as vital to her identity. She has a deep love for America, especially her neighborhood of Jersey City, and defends it tenaciously. This is another way in which Kamala’s life is different from most big-name heroes. As Wilson, the writer of Kamala’s original series, said, “A huge aspect of Ms. Marvel is being a ‘second string hero’ in the ‘second string city’ and having to struggle out of the pathos and emotion that can give a person.” Being from Jersey City gives Kamala a special grit and determination that’s not often seen with the heavyweight heroes.
Probably the best thing of all about Kamala is how relatable she is. Kamala is a GINORMOUS geek. In a world where superheroes are real, she does exactly what we readers do: writes fanfics about them, ships different superheroes together and geeks out whenever she meets an actual hero in person. It’s awesome to see Kamala get her superpowers and grow into a superhero because it feels like we the readers are going through the journey ourselves. Dan Slott described Kamala as “the closest character to classic Peter Parker (Spiderman),” saying, “She’s a teenage superhero, juggling her life, making mistakes, trying to do everything right.” At her core, Kamala is just a normal teenage girl and that’s part of what makes her so awesome.
It’s great to see Kamala mature as each new chapter of her story unfolds. While she takes on the mantle of Miss Marvel, Kamala soon realizes that she is not the same as Carol Danvers, the previous Miss Marvel. She is a different person from Carol, with different strengths and goals. After joining the Avengers, a dream come true for Kamala, she eventually finds her priorities diverging from those of her older comrades. She leaves the Avengers and forms the Champions, a team focused on social reform and empowerment rather than using violence as their primary weapon against injustice. I believe this is the perfect place for Kamala at this point in her journey: a young, diverse team working together to determine what sort of change they want to see in their world.
Many things change in the world of Marvel and heroes come and go, but it looks like Kamala Khan is here to stay. Kamala is beloved by so many because she speaks for so many people in our world today: women, Muslims, immigrants, social justice warriors… the list goes on. Kamala’s spunk and heart bring joy wherever she goes, and that is why she is celebrated this Women’s History Month as a shining light in our world today.
You can also read about more of Kamala’s adventures with her current team, the Champions!