Okay, if I’m STARTING a feature article with a Just Some Guy commentary (contains swearing), you know I must have things to say.
Note that was from a gay black liberal who just happens to believe in storytelling over gimmicks. Essentially that’s what Kamala Khan is…a gimmick disguised as a character. Whatever you think about her skin color or her religion that’s basically how she’s been approached. The concept is actually solid. Kamala Khan (and isn’t it strange that modern heroes aren’t known to the audience by their superhero identities but their real names, making me wonder why they bother if they care so little) is a superhero fangirl who also struggles with her more orthodox Muslim family. One day a whiff of the Inhumans’ “Terrigen Mist” does a world tour and traps people in eggs. The ones that survive or something get turned into Inhumans. This was DisneyMarvel trying to distance themselves from mutants because they didn’t have the rights to the X-Men franchise as 20th Century Fox had those rights before Disney absorbed Marvel. Now that they’ve also absorbed Fox the mutants are back and the Inhumans are back to near-obscurity after their post-comic productions bombed like the town drunk carrying high explosives and upset at his failed stand-up comedy career. Yes, that was overkill. From what I hear it may not be overkill enough.
Anyway, Kamala Khan was really created to teach readers (I almost wrote kids but when’s the last time any of the mainstream writers cared about kids–IDW puts out more kids-related Marvel comics and they just lost the licence) about Muslim life after the alleged hate after the 9/11 bombing of the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and failed attack on the White House. Ignore the fact that the terrorists were extremists, there are people who don’t know the difference between culture and religion but now I’m getting off topic. The point is Kamala was never created to be just a superhero character. She’s a promotional tool for understanding Muslims first and that’s where the problem started.
And now apparently she’s about to be dead, thanks to events in Amazing Spider-Man, and there’s the usual response. Like her, or just like the idea of the
second if you count Dusk totally first ever Muslim girl hero but don’t actually buy the comics, or if you actually like her comic, the response has been loud and obvious. However, I come not to praise nor bury Kamala Khan because she does have some merit…and death is like the flu in superhero comics.
Like Batman said, both the DC and Marvel universe only keep the dead in the afterlife when they’re unimportant. Shock deaths are the norm, a way for the writer to sucker people in and show “it’s totally serious now, guys, so you need to read this”. When Superman died the story surrounding it made the concept work but now the last good use of death I saw in comics was Love & Capes, in which the death of one of the heroes while saving lives matters and they actually address a lot of the issues with comic deaths and resurrections/misunderstandings. The thing is anybody who read a comic in the last few decades know that Marvel isn’t going to kill her off. She’s important to them, if only to play to the usual suspects. She’s appeared in quite a few recent Marvel animation outings; a lead role in Heroes Rising and one of the revolving heroes on Spidey & His Amazing Friends. She has appeared in video games, had her own Disney+ series, and is about to star in The Marvels, a movie featuring all three MCU characters who in the comics have been Captain/Ms. Marvel. This isn’t some minor character.
So she isn’t staying dead. Besides, I’m part of that group that has all but ignored Spider-Man since the devil deal so I’m going third hand, but doesn’t Zeb Wells’ run involve the multiverse, or is that Dan Slott’s book? Do they even have a linking narrative in the numerous Spider-Books anymore? At any rate this may not be THE Kamala Khan. Even if it is though, outside of importantest character syndrome keeping her alive or bringing her back why should she be any different than any other superhero? The soap opera All My Children in the late 1990s or something had a long-running character come out as lesbian and you could tell who was and wasn’t a soap opera fan (or had a mother who was a big soap opera fan even as the genre slowly died, like me) by their response to a gay character having problems with relationships. It’s a soap opera. You could count the number of stable relationships on one hand even when there were more than four of them on daytime television. (Two on CBS and one each on NBC and ABC.) Death is just something that happens to characters now, to be undone the moment some writer comes along who wants to write that character or some movie/show/game features the character.
As to the theory Just Some Guy posted that her powers will now match the MCU that’s quite possible. Sam Rami apparently thought the most unbelievable part of Spider-Man was a teenage genius with love of chemistry and minor interest in gadgets could create wrist-mounted high-tension silly string due to an instinctual need for webbing yet somehow totally accepted even harder to believe breakers of science. So he gave Peter organic webbing from his wrists, though people have pointed out…that’s not where the webbing comes from on a spider. The comics found a way to do that to Peter that easily goes on the list of dumbest things ever in a comic (being mutated into a spider by some crazy alternate universe magic spider lady, dying, and giving birth to himself, but now with organic webbing and that’s the short version) and he had them until the devil deal brought the regular web shooters back for some reason. Maybe Mephisto’s a traditionalist?
As noted in a previous commentary, inspired by the above video on the topic, Kamala’s Inhuman powers were not just silly, they were silly with a narrative purpose. Kamala’s comic powers are on the stretchy scale, being able to enlarge and extend her body. The strangeness of her powers, especially as a teen trying to find her place in two cultures, works for her character and her journey. Instead the MCU gave her a bracelet that gives her the ability to make hard energy things (replace energy with light and you have a Green Lantern ripoff) that looks cool but that’s kind of why it’s not right for her journey. Would it look weird in live-action? Maybe, but that just helps my case that animation makes for a better superhero story. That change to Peter is from when Toy Biz owned Marvel, so I know Disney would force the comics to make the change because they only see the comics as promotion and fodder for the “more important” media formats.
The biggest issue with the character is that she isn’t written as a superhero unless she’s hanging out with the other superhero teens of the Marvel Universe in the more recent incarnation of the Champions, but I can’t tell you a single enemy in Kamala’s rogues gallery off the top of my head outside of The Inventor…which is a doozy of a story, posted as part of that article I just linked to. All you ever hear about Kamala Khan, and only occasionally is she referred to by her superhero identity, is about her navigating life as a teenage Muslim dealing with her religious culture and her local culture. That’s fine as a non-superhero story but in a proper superhero story that’s the running B plot of the series, not the issue’s A plot story. Iron Man doesn’t focus on Tony’s failed love life but it does come up during downtime and based on the women he’s dated it on occasion affects the A plot but it isn’t the A plot on its own. If they focused more on “superhero fangirl learning to be a superhero herself” there might be more fans, but it’s not what Marvel marketing or review writers focus on, even the praising ones, so just make a “slice-of-life” story or do a good superhero story. Like Just Some Guy said, writers are afraid to give her a challenge to overcome because the usual suspects, whether they actually read the comics or not, will thrown a fit despite this being how the straight white men they hate so much became popular. And the straight white women. And the women of color. And the men of color. And the green-skinned ones. And the bug-headed lady. And the…..
You get the point. Instead of a shock death that may or may not reset her powers (not even the first time she died in a comic I just found out, as she dies in a Champions story that gets undone by yet another Mephisto deal) to the MCU’s live-action friendly alterations, just make her a good character. It took Batwoman three years at least to be more than “the lesbian reimagining of the old Batman girlfriend to make Wertham happy”, so why not just find a good COMIC BOOK writer and let him or her write a superhero story. Or forget the powers and just do a story about a Muslim teen. I’m not impressed with killing her off but I would be impressed if you made her better.