Kamala Khan or Ms. Marvel? Identity in “Ms. Marvel: No Normal”
Ever since I first read G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona’s Ms. Marvel, I knew that I wanted to teach it in one of my courses. This semester, I finally had the chance to teach volume 1, “No Normal,” in my Multicultural American Literature class. Today, I want to write some about Ms. Marvel, specifically looking at the ways that Kamala Khan grapples with her identity over the first five issues of the series.
The first five issues of Ms. Marvel collected in “No Normal” chronicle Pakistani-American Kamala Khan’s coming to terms with her new identity as a superhero. However, this is not the only conflict with identity that Kamala encounters. From the very beginning of the series, questions and discussions of identity take center stage.
Issue #1 begins with Kamala and her Turkish-American friend Nakia looking at the food in the Circle Q. The opening panel shows two Easy Greasy B.L.T. sandwiches and the word bubble, “I just want to smell it.” The next panel pans out to show Kamala, Nakia, and Bruno as Kamala drools over the sandwiches. We learn, in this panel, about her Muslim heritage and faith when she says, “Delicious, delicious infidel meat.”
After Nakia suggests that Kamala try Facon, Kamala calls her friend “Kiki,” a name that she does not like. Kamala then states, “Sorry. Nakia. Proud Turkish Nakia doesn’t need ‘Amreeki’ nickname. I get it.” These first four panels foreground Kamala’s struggles with identity. She wants to indulge in the “infidel meat” in the B.L.T., but if she did, she would go against her faith and her family. Nakia, on the other hand, holds strong to her identity, knowing who she is, and we see this when Zoe comes into the store and comments on Nakia’s hijab.
Zoe tells Nakia, “Your headscarf is so pretty, Kiki. I love that color.” In this panel, Nakia looks towards Zoe in disgust, with her hand underneath her chin. Zoe faces Nakia, smiling wildly as she makes the comment. Nakia responds to Zoe simply with her name, “Nakia.” To this, Zoe continues, “But I mean . . . nobody, pressured you to start wearing it, right? Your father or somebody? Nobody’s going…