Ms. Marvel Proves The Youth Are Alright
“Could spend an hour just counting the commas of numbers offered for offing the offspring of Sara Connor” - Homeboy Sandman
Not every comic book creation is going to be a hit. For every comic character that goes mainstream, there’s hundreds more that didn’t or are left in comic book limbo. Thankfully, when the team of G. Willow Wilson, Sana Amanat, Adrian Alphona, and Jamie McKelvie created Ms. Marvel, the weight of her importance made her a conversation that couldn’t be ignored. Ms. Marvel hit the ground running in 2013-2014. Before she got the former alias of her favorite hero Carol Danvers, she was only Kamala Khan. A Pakistani Muslim girl living in Jersey City, New Jersey, who became the first Muslim Marvel hero to headline her own series. The biggest thing about Kamal Khan upon her debut and adventures is: she captured the voice of the youth not only in the Marvel Universe but in the real world as well.
Though young, Kamala Khan has been en route to becoming a hero unlike any other. So much so that when she gets together with Spider-Man (Miles Morales), Nova (Sam Alexander) a time displace Cyclops (Scott Summers), Viv (Vision’s Daughter), and other Brawn (Amadeau Cho) to form the group The Champions (which was her idea), Kamala is adamant about the role of leader. She doesn’t shrink down in her stance for it. Cyclops is the more experienced leader amongst all of them (who was not flying for the position), Kamala would defer to him in the field. However, when they were in a bind, and Kamala asks his opinion, Cyclops states, “I think we should listen to our leader.” It’s then understood that this team is Kamala’s show. Kamala is such a natural leader and activist that after a small pep talk like speech, her teammates inform her that her speech is one that Captain America would have given and that has what it takes to be a future Captain America.
Kamala is a hero that, for the most part, modeled herself after her idol, Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers. Kamala looked up to Carol before and after she got her powers. So much so that she took on Carol’s old alias of Ms. Marvel. When Carol meets Kamala she sees and believes the hype. Other heroes have been singing Ms. Marvel’s praises and Carol now understands why.
Kamala Khan, more so than any other youth hero in Marvel, is a straight-up activist whenever she throws on that mask. Kamala is front and center for different types of injustices. You name it and your girl is in the mud or boots on ground fighting. Kamala embodies the actual youth of the current generations. Your girl is protesting or out using social media to stay informed or be where she is needed. We’ve seen her fighting for teen girls being trafficked and harassed. Say what you want about the youth but they can get busy organizing protests and bringing attention to injustices. Youth activists see something wrong and are quite quick to call it out. Ms. Marvel represents that exact spirit in the pages of her book. We see her utilizing social media more so than any other older hero, much like today's youth. Kamala is someone younger readers can really get behind just like how we saw Peter Parker (Spider-Man) grow up into adulthood through the years. Kamala Khan in a short span of time is doing years of work for the legacy mantle of the name Ms. Marvel.
However, there’s a reason for the phrase "never meet your heroes.” A lot of times with youth leaders, activists, or mentees, there comes a point where you have to go against the practices of an elder leader. Be it a conflict of ideology or a matter of right and wrong. There may come a point when that idol that’s supposed to be setting an example lets you down. Kamala comes to experience this with Carol Danvers during the Civil War II comic book event (where Carol was grossly written out of character.)
In short, Carol Danvers gets put into contact with an inhuman named Ulysses, who has the ability to predict horrific events in the future. With this knowledge, Carol Danvers starts taking people into custody for doing crimes before they happen. She even goes so far as to ambush villains before they commit crimes as well. It’s ironic that Carol is in the Air Force, so, when she asks for Kamala’s help in this, of course, Kamala is eager to help her hero but in doing so is ill advised in what her role in Carol’s plans actually means. Carol essentially drafted Kamala for this fight, which is a war on crime.
If that phrase sounds familiar then you may recall how President Lyndon B. Johnson called crime an epidemic and his way of solving it was basically giving the police jurisdiction to profile young Black civilians in Black neighborhoods as suspects. I mean that occurred back in 1965 but it essentially gets a rebrand as the war on drugs in ‘71 by (yet another) President Nixon. During this era, (which hit hard in the 80s with the crack epidemic) that we are still in to this day, we see strict laws placed on drug offenses that give an insane amount of jail time for even the smallest amount of narcotics. Again, this is another campaign that's targeting young Black members of Black communities and the reason for the trope of police planting drugs on suspects. I say trope but we have seen it happen on camera as well as evidence being found for police planting evidence on suspects.
Kamala is reminded of this by her dark-skinned Black sister-in-law Tyeesha. Then sees the error of her ways when blindly following the establishment because it was backed by her idol Carol. As Ms. Marvel, she sees people being detained before committing any crime and is even shocked when someone she knows from school is detained and tasered. To which Carol Danvers says, “It’s your job to keep Carol’s Cadets doing these arrests in line. The system doesn’t stop just because it applies to our friends as well.” Right there, you can see Carol’s military way of thinking seeping into how she is running things. Heroes may have military training or discipline but to implement a military state of mind when dealing with civilians. This is where things become the slipperiest of slopes. Carol is unphased and expecting Kamala to comply but we now see Kamala losing faith in her idol and thereby the establishment as well. This is very apparent when Kamala steps to Carol’s arresting deputies. Kamala was a part of the problem then course corrected.
This all comes to a head even more when mid-fight, Carol and other heroes, see a vision of Spider-Man: Miles Morales killing Captain America. Then without question or second guess, Carol orders Miles’ arrest. Through Ms. Marvel's eyes we see her disillusionment with the establishment and the authority. So much so that the Champions team she forms with other young heroes later is in spite of these actions as well as where she sees the Avengers falling short in their role as heroes. The youth being disillusioned with their authority figures is a common trope. However, seeing Kamala Khan physically ripping up a picture of her idol Carol Danvers remains a monumental moment in comic book history.
This moment serves as a visual severing of the ties of not only ideologies but a stance being taken. Ms. Marvel, the symbol of the youth, was showing herself breaking away from this regime that Captain Marvel abides by. Rebellion with a very clear cause. Ms. Marvel’s rejection of Carol and refusal to abide by her or the Avengers’ way of doing things lead Kamala to form the new incarnation of The Champions team with her friends and other young heroes. The Champions weren’t just about fighting and leaving, they were about actually helping communities with issues that can’t be fixed with a punch. Kamala Khan represents the youth of not only Marvel Universe but the youth of today as well. When their trust is broken, they are not so easy to forgive, forget, and most of all trust again.
Especially when that trust is broken by authority figures. Figures that are supposed to have their best interest in mind. We’ve seen it enough in the real world with politicians and police and younger generations being incredibly vocal about it. The saving grace of Civil War II is Kamala Khan learning that your idols and those meant to do right by you will let you down if you just follow them blindly. You have to question, you have to push back, you have to be sure authority figures are held accountable. Then, when those heroes and idols fall short of the idols that they were supposed to uphold, then it’s on you to do it yourself.