Wednesday, July 02, 2014


CBR's Carla Hoffman wrote a gushing take on the Muslim Ms. Marvel series, trying to convince us this is worth the trees that were cut down to make the paper for printing it on. She begins with:
Ms. Marvel #5 is the most important comic of the current era. Wait, I got ahead of myself.
No, she's way behind. Fawning over a religious propaganda product at the flick of a switch, all without proving she's done any research of the Koran and Hadith. What makes this the most important book of this era, but not a graphic novel like The Forgotten Man, based on the writings of Amity Shlaes? Or maybe she's just too cowardly to admit it's got some worth to it?
Comics have distinct eras that you can recognize simply by flipping through an issue. Whether it’s the artwork, subject matter, costume design or the overall presentation, fans can get an idea of when the book came out, and who its intended audience is. It’s one of the reasons I have a hard time recommending older first issues to new readers; X-Men #1 is going to seem weird to someone who has never read any X-Men, whether it’s due to the silted language and design of the original or the ’90s posing and over-lettered pages of the Claremont/Lee version. It can seem really dated for new readers, and can completely color a generation of fans’ expectations of what comics should “really be like.” This is my only explanation for the extreme Jim Lee-ness of the New 52 costume designs.
In that case, what's her explanation for the pathetic artwork in Ms. Marvel? Or the forced denial that honor murders and stonings of adulterers do happen under Islam? Or the fact that in a very short time, this too will be old as a rusty Edsel? I think her argument she can't recommend older books to newer readers is laughable; history can give something to learn from, yet she acts like age is a problem. In that case, I guess early Garfield comic strips pose one too?

Funny why she brings up the early 90s X-Men books, because that's when the series began rolling downhill story-wise, though Scott Lobdell and Fabian Nicieza were the ones who really took it there with few redeeming features. Why should she cite those but not some of the better stuff from older times like Bronze Age Avengers, or New Teen Titans, or even Mike Baron's Nexus and Badger?
With this is mind, trying to peg the overall theme of the current era of comics is still a little tricky. Do we use the movies as an example of how future generations will view the medium? Will Civil War and Identity Crisis, with their adult themes, be how the early 2000s are remembered? Do we have Brian Michael Bendis to thank for the voice of this modern era?
As a matter of fact, we do, though Joe Quesada and Dan DiDio are guilty too for hiring such terrible writers. In fact, they precipitated the path to comics stuffed with leftism like this current item. As for Civil War and Identity Crisis, I'm afraid they will be how the early to mid-2000s are remembered, and in a very bad way, mainly because those miniseries aren't "adult" so much as they're obnoxious fanfiction with political metaphors stuffed inside.
This brings me back to my cause this week: I would like Ms. Marvel #5 to be the bar by which the current era is measured. This comic does so much right, and is so absolutely inspiring, that I want to see followers, imitators and an entire generation of fans who will expect this level of quality in their comics in the days to come. Did I get ahead of myself again? Let me catch you up.
Again, no, she did not get ahead, only way behind. There's so much untold, and so much taqqiya in the book, that anyone who wants this to represent gold standards would only beclown themselves as she does herself.
WARNING: I’ll be discussing Ms. Marvel #5, so grab your copy (buy three more!) and read along!

For those of you who might have passed this by or have been living under a rock for the past few months, Ms. Marvel is about Kamala Khan, a New Jersey teenager. Due to the “Infinity,” event, she’s been super-powered by the Terrigen Mists and given shapeshifting abilities. Inspired to do good by her favorite hero, Captain Marvel, she helps friends and fights bad guys but is still looking for direction in her life. There are family hijinks and even some culture shock.

Representations of other cultures and nationalities in mainstream American superhero comics typically have been a little awkward and shallow (see Chris Claremont’s fondness for peppering dialogue with expressions like “Unglaublich” or “Begorrah”). Different ethnicities have been so easily, and so regularly, fumbled that we’ve become accustomed to it. But in Ms. Marvel, the portrayal feels less like culture shock and more like a cultural comparison as Kamala’s problems and lifestyle don’t exactly revolve around her heritage, but rather who she is and becomes spins off from it. Her family is a lot like mine — they just have a different motivation. Not fitting in is the root of Kamala’s teen woes, but being Muslim is merely a new flower on this common problem. She’s inspired not by representation but by success. Nothing is pigeonholed, so everything is relatable to one extent or another. Kamala’s problems could be yours.
But they're not. They're just examples of victimology and taqqiya. As a result, how can this book be any better than some of the older efforts she speaks of, yet the only one she actually uses is Claremont's X-Men, which is actually much too easy? The irony is that there are some things in the book that could irk Muslims too, and already, some did voice disapproval, but Hoffman doesn't seem very concerned.
Ms. Marvel #5 completes Kamala’s origin and first story arc. Previously, a friend’s brother got caught up in some crimes, and Kamala sets off her to rescue him but, surprisingly, fails. It’s a big deal. When people talk about “grit” in their comics, I think they’re trying to talk about honesty; it’s not the darker coloring and style that makes gritty comics, it’s washing off the cartoon gloss with some reality sandpaper to make the story seem more realistic to the reader. The idea that a teenager who just got superpowers can’t run in an save a friend from other teenagers in a basement is pretty realistic. Kamala goes home and gets yelled at by her mother, but also receives a pep talk from her father that is some of the most beautiful writing between father and daughter I’ve read in a long time. This is also a big deal, as pep talks from father figures are a more male hero trope than female; most girls have to go it alone or defy their parents and break from the norm and become someone society doesn’t expect them to be. Kamala’s father tells her that she’s perfect just the way she is and doesn’t have to pretend to be someone else to be loved by her family.
Umm, how is a book that won't be honest and transparent about Islam "honest"? Please, do tell us about it. And how curious she thinks it's realistic to be such a failure in a sci-fi world. It sounds more to me like Wilson is insulting the lead character, even if she later manages to save the friend (though I'm not sure what from). I'm also wondering if the mother's depiction as a yeller while the father is depicted sympathetically is also deliberate? Besides, there have been some examples in past history of female leads conversing with their parents for ideas how to work things out.

I believe Hoffman is praising this book deliberately - that is, she's not being altruistic - and besides, this is the same person who claimed Warner Huston knew nothing about superhero comics.
That spurs Kamala into a training montage with her best friend to learn about her powers so she can try again. Hard work pays off as she ponders some philosophy to psych herself up for her second try. The idea that good isn’t something you are, it’s something you do and that the place where you are right now was circled on a map for you (which I think should be attributed to Hāfez rather than Rumi, but I could be wrong) are poetically inspiring to both Kamala and the reader. It’s less a selfish motivation (I’m going to be the best) and more a reflection of destiny.
Look who's talking about selfishness. Maybe she should look at much of the modern Marvel contributor's list for a change, and even herself. Anyone could write a story like she describes and do it without stuffing Islamism into the tale.
It’s a destiny that still takes hard work, but one that pays off, because with a little more grounding and dedication, Kamala not only saves her friend’s brother, but gains a confidence we can believe in. We saw her fail, and we were with her as she picked herself up; now, with her success, we know she’s capable of whatever she sets her mind to. Is Kamala perfect? Heck no. As she says herself, “This is Jersey City. We talk loud, we walk fast and we don’t take any disrespect.” She has her faults, but you know. Don’t mess. The first five issue complete her first journey, and we readers can see the long road ahead.
I wonder if Hoffman recognizes she's got faults, like favoratism and failure to prove her ability to do some research? Ditto the writer of the book she's fawning over, and the editors. A better query would be: is Hoffman perfect? Not with the way she's going about this.
This book is important. I want it to be the blueprint for future heroic orgins to work from. I want fans who clamor for realized female characters in comics to hold up this issue and support the work being done here. The artwork is magical; some of the manga-like stylings can take getting used to, but for such an imaginative setting and style I can’t see any other artist in Adrian Alphona’s place. G. Willow Wilson’s writing is so heartfelt, it’s difficult not to fall in love with such a unique and personable character as Kamala Khan.
Keep going and stay classy. From some of her past interviews, Wilson sounds like a very ill-informed, disrespectful person, unwilling to be transparent about her ideology, and as for Hoffman, she sounds little different from most of the other charlatans working for CBR. What's so "realized" about this book that isn't so realized about most other books with female leads? And the artwork is dismal and childish. Pseudo-manga art is one of the things that brought down mainstream superhero comics, as artists went out of their way to mimic manga where it doesn't belong.
In another decade or so, it would do my heart good to think this is the kind of story that came out of the 2010s and is the standard the era is judged by.
If the era is to be judged by books like this, it won't be for good reasons. No, it'll be judged for bad ones, like pushing propaganda under the guise of "storytelling", something Hoffman fails to recognize. How come this book is to be considered a "good" standard, but not something like The Forgotten Man? Hoffman fails to explain clearly why Ms. Marvel Muslim makes for the greatest tales of this generation, but not stories that avoid injecting ideologies and obvious leftist politics for the sake of it. I think there's a case to be made that so-called reviewing on sites like CBR is not the standard we'd want comics criticism and opinion-making to be judged by, in this or any other era.

Update: wow, Dan Slott must hate me so much, he linked to this post. He must be so scared, he's shaking in his boots! But, all he's done is prove his educational upbringing is very poor, while doing me an honor by using the "bigotry accusation" cliche.

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