Page 45 Review by Stephen
"Everyone else gets to be normal. Why can't I?"
Scream three hundred million teenagers worldwide.
G. Willow Wilson, you are a loving star! The kindness you have spread in this beautiful, brilliant comic will never be forgotten.
"It's almost like a reflex like a fake smile. As soon as Zoe shows up I feel
uncomfortable. Like I have to be someone else. Someone cool. But instead I feel small."
Page after page is riddled with this insight and empathy and it will mean so much to so many. If I have one piece of advice to those younger than me, to do better than me, to feel more comfortable, earlier than I did because I made this all-too common mistake, it comes in the form of this perfect observation:
"Being someone else isn't liberating. It's exhausting."
Quite so. Be yourself!
It won't get you a free pass to a party, mind you.
"Can I go a party tonight?"
"On the waterfront."
Hahahaha! Oh, how I love this family. And that above all is what this comic is about: family and friendship.
Unlike most superhero comics this is genuinely mainstream with mass appeal. "Abu" the father is dead-pan and dry but unlike Jane Austen's Mr. Bennet (Pride And Prejudice) he is so full of love. His priority is not how things look, but his daughter's safety and happiness.
Starring sixteen-year-old Kamala, an American-born Pakistani, it confounds stereotypes and is instead packed full of genuine individuals like Kamala's stylish friend Nakia who is thoroughly modern and savvy yet still proud of her Turkish heritage. For although Kamala can't go to the party because there will be alcohol, Nakia won't go to the party because there is alcohol. She knows her own mind, is what I'm saying.
Nor is Wilson afraid to pick holes in her own religion's more superficial sillinesses, like the segregation of women from men in a mosque. It is rather difficult to concentrate when you can't see the speaker!
Here there are those for whom race and religion don't even figure like young shop assistant and school high-achiever, Josh, with the crush on Kamala that nobody notices. Then there are cast members who fail to see beyond the stereotypes, like over-privileged social blonde butterfly and concern-troll, Zoe.
"Your headscarf is so pretty, Kiki. I love that colour."
"But I mean
nobody pressured you to start wearing it, right? Your father or somebody? Nobody's going to, like, honour kill you? I'm just concerned."
"Actually, my dad wants me to take it off. He thinks it's a phase."
"Really? Wow, cultures are so interesting."
Kamala thinks Zoe "nice", "happy" and even "adorable" but she'll be disabused of that naïve notion before too long. Unlike Nakia, Kamala doesn't yet know her own mind or other people. When she sneaks out at night to go to the waterfront the drink which she insists must be alcohol-free is spiked then she's laughed at. As she stomps off in a defeated huff a metamorphic mist descends and Kamala passes out. Did I mention that she's ever so slightly obsessed with Avengers? She writes online fan fic and everything! So Kamala has a vision
From On High through billowing clouds, winged sloths and bobble-hatted doves descend her Holy Trinity of Iron Man, Captain America and Captain Marvel, the white, blonde goddess whom Kamala adores. Is she having a religious experience?!
Adrian Alphona's art is adorable throughout. It's soft and sweet and full of comedic expressions with a clearly defined spirit of place.
But it is on this particular page that he shows his real wit, transposing Iron Man and the couple of Captains gesturing beatifically into a traditional religious tableau complete with scrolling ribbons and
is that a hedgehog giving the victory salute?
"You thought that if you disobeyed your parents - your culture, your religion - your classmates would accept you. What happened instead?"
"They - they laughed at me. Zoe thought that because I snuck out, it was okay for her to make fun of my family. Like, Kamala's finally seen the light and kicked the dumb inferior brown people and their rules to the curb. But that's not why I snuck out! It's not that I think Ammi and Abu are dumb, it's just - I grew up here! I'm from Jersey not Karachi! I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I don't know who I'm supposed to be."
It's then that the vision of Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) asks a key question:
"Who do you want to be?"
"Right now? I want to be beautiful and awesome and butt-kicking and less complicated. I want to be you. Except I would wear the classic, politically incorrect costume and kick butt in giant wedge heels."
Like the later shape-shifting episode in the school washrooms, the punchline to that is hilarious. If there weren't shrieks of outraged horror deafening the internet from those who could not wait, read, or comprehend a comic correctly then I would be very much surprised. Kamala has a lot of growing up to do, and I'm going to love watching her do so. While getting into trouble with her family.
Like YOUNG AVENGERS, HAWKEYE and LOKI, this is another fresh face for superhero comics, broadening their appeal through diversity. And I don't even mean racial, religious, sexual or gender diversity - though that is important too - I mean that Willow G. Wilson has brought with her a different voice which is far from worthily earnest, but genuine, sympathetic and understanding of young hearts instead.
Here is Kamala transformed by the power of her will and the whim of her instinct into blonde superhero Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers.
"I always thought that if I had amazing hair, if I could pull off great boots, if I could fly
that would make me feel strong. That would make me happy. But the hair gets in my face, the boots pinch
and this leotard is giving me an epic wedgie."