Firstly though, if you are looking for diversity in mainstream superhero comics, then this is right up your ally. Written by G. Willow Wilson, herself an American-born Muslim who has spent time living in the Middle East, it is obvious that Wilson is familiar with what it means to be both and American, as well as Muslim. Her story telling creates a very real picture of what it must be like for a young teenage girl living as a minority in New Jersey. The social angst and troubles that come with being a teenager, particularly a teenager of a different faith than most around her, come through clearly and effectively.
I haven't read much of the press surrounding this book, because frankly, I had little interest in reading this title, but I would imagine that the central focus of that press has likely been the diversity represented here. Not only is this title led by a female, but also by a teenager (that's "in" again in comics now, right?) and a character of Muslim faith. Marvel has gone out on a limb here dangling the diversity carrot in as many different directions as it possibly can, hoping to score a critical and commercial hit.
With Carol Danvers as popular as she has probably ever been as the current Captain Marvel, this is a natural evolution to try and extend that brand and get some extra mileage out of the Marvel name, so kudos to Marvel for knowing when to strike.
This book is beautifully illustrated by the team of Adrian Alphona and Ian Herring, who deliver a quirky feel and earthy color pallet that lend well to Wilson's tone. The characters are distinct and memorable in the way that they look and interact, and I definitely think this art style fits the temperament of the setting and characters.
So, those issues I mentioned at the beginning of this review.
Well, one is that diversity and cultural awareness seems to be so heavily on display here that not much else is covered. Granted, that could be necessary background for the uninitiated, but at the same time it comes off as pushy and a little overbearing. Another is that not much happens in this issue. It's a good introduction to the characters, but aside from that, this issue is light on development and set up, though the last page is along the lines of what you might expect for an introduction issue of a brand new character.
Another is that the content is weighted heavily to a younger readership, not children, but teens and maybe early 20's. Again, not necessarily a bad thing, but perhaps limiting in the demographic reach of this title, particularly in the long-term. If I were reading this 20 years ago, I feel like I would enjoy it much more than I do now. There is nothing wrong with targeting a younger demo, Crom knows we actually need more of this in modern superhero comics from the Big Two, but consider this a warning I guess. If you're much older than your late 20's, this might not suit your worldview as far as relatable fiction goes.
To play Devil's Advocate with myself though, this book has a feeling similar to what I imagine Spider-Man may have had in his early Silver Age days under Lee and Ditko. A very relatable protagonist who is bullied, kind of an outcast and faces challenges that are similar to what most teens go through.
The bottom line for me here with Ms. Marvel is that it seems like a great book if diversity is what you are looking for, if you're in a teen/20's demographic or both. If you don't fit one, both or all of those, then you might want to pass on this one, as the focus is rather narrow in terms of audience.
Not a bad comic, just not right for me.
I would really love to hear some other opinions on this one, because maybe I'm way off the mark with my assessment. Hell, maybe I'm just getting old...?