Ms. Marvel: No Normal

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“Ms. Marvel: No Normal” by G. Willow Wilson.

Sophie Smith Unlike many kids, I didn’t read a lot of comic books when I was growing up. I read long historical fiction novels, usually about the Holocaust or pioneers.

Only in graduate school did I delve into graphic novels and comics, and it’s taken a while for me to learn how to read them, and ultimately, love them.

Reading a graphic novel or comic takes time and attention to the artwork. The story is not only communicated in words, but also, and sometimes exclusively, with images.

Since I’ve always been a text heavy reader, I’ve had to redefine my understanding of narrative. And, I’ll admit, one of the reasons I picked up Ms. Marvel was that the author, G. Willow Wilson, wrote a book I really enjoyed. I trust her storytelling and will follow her through different formats.

Kamala Khan, the protagonist of the recent Ms. Marvel comic books, has also had to redefine her understanding.

In her case, she’s an avid comic book fan. She’s also a Pakistani-American Muslim teenager growing up in New Jersey. She’s used to superheroes looming larger than life and not looking particularly like her. However, after a gaseous mist takes over her town one evening, she discovers superpowers of her own.

At first she sees herself turn into the tall, blond, scantily dressed Ms. Marvel from her preconceived comic book knowledge. Over the course of her story, she learns that she can define her own being as a superhero however she sees fit.  As she harnesses her powers, her projection begins to represent her, rather than someone else.

Fictional Kamala Khan and her superhero status have been in the real news recently. Her character has been used to combat some advertisements with hateful anti-Muslim messages in San Francisco. Many see the character as a powerful voice for the peace and acceptance of a diverse world.

This comic is well worth a read. The first volume, No Normal, collects issues 1-6, and a second volume is coming out in March 2015. If you’re new to superheroes or comics, I hope you take a chance and try this out.

If you’re interested in graphic novels but superheroes aren’t your thing, here are a few other suggestions:

About Sophie Smith

Sophie Smith is the supervisor of teen services at the Nashua Public Library and can also frequently be found at the reference desk. As a history and Spanish major at Kenyon College she spent a year in Salamanca, Spain. She earned her master's in library and information science from Simmons College.

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