Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 Advance Review: An Earnest Exploration of Kamala Khan

Marvel's Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 has the makings of something special.

As much as reading superhero comics can regularly be an exhilarating and inspiring experience, it can also be absolutely exhausting. A character's mission as a superhero can often be at the mercy of a certain era, line-wide event, or creative team, forcing them through a proverbial wringer that changes them forever. Kamala Khan a.k.a. Ms. Marvel is the latest mainstream hero to undergo a major crucible, dying an incredibly-polarizing death in Amazing Spider-Man #26 earlier this summer, before quickly being resurrected and established as a mutant (something that had originally been planned for the character when she was created a decade prior). The circumstances of Kamala's death have been one of the most exhausting things about reading superhero comics this year, yet surprisingly, the narrative ultimately spinning out of it is anything but. Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 is a smartly-crafted, lively new turning point in Kamala Khan's story – one that almost makes you forget the mess it took to get there.

Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 opens up on Kamala Khan's new status quo – having died ten weeks ago in the pages of The Amazing Spider-Man, been resurrected in the pages of X-Men, and just barely survived the violent events in the pages of this year's Hellfire Gala. Now, Kamala not only has to grapple with the knowledge that she's a mutant, but also with a new chapter in her personal life, as she begins a prestigious summer program at a New York City university and works in secret to help the X-Men survive.

One of the biggest complaints from fans, as Kamala has been killed and resurrected over the past few months, has been that her story has been in service of the larger Marvel universe, instead of herself. More pages have been dedicated to Peter Parker mourning Kamala (despite their past friendship being cordial-at-best) and the X-Men determining her new role in their organization than to her own feelings about her drastically-changed circumstances. This fact is at the forefront of Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant from the very first sequence and the way the issue decides to tackle it is a pleasant surprise. Ever since her debut, Kamala has been something special in the Marvel landscape, and the issue begins to grapple with all of the labels that have been put upon her (both as a young woman, and as a superhero) over the years. Despite still being as tenacious and kind-hearted as ever, this issue gives Kamala the space to sit with who she wants to be, even if that's just a young person trying to exist in the world.

Despite the emotional baggage that Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant carries, Iman Vellani and Sabir Pirzada's script is refreshingly accessible. Sure, there are a smattering of text boxes acknowledging the events of previous issues, but the story itself works, even if you haven't read a story involving Kamala in a while. The story also, by and large, recaptures the tone G. Willow Wilson established in Kamala's original Ms. Marvel run – becoming enough of a spiritual successor while still leaving room to establish something new. It helps having Iman Vellani, who currently portrays Kamala in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, among the comic's co-writers. A relaunch of this magnitude could easily flounder without the profound connection that Vellani has to her comic counterpart, as well as her encyclopedic love and knowledge of Marvel lore. I will always be an advocate of comic book actors adding to their character's comics tapestry, and having Vellani involved with Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant is definitely proof-of-concept for it to be successful at Marvel.

Vellani and Pirzada's narrative is made even stronger by Carlos Gomez and Adam Gorham's artwork, which subtly captures the nebulousness of Kamala's place in the Marvel world. Their renderings work well for an ever-growing crop of cameo characters, but also for Kamala's own established character design, as well as her flashy new X-Men costume. Erick Arciniega's colors are decidedly ambitious, but effective, with some emotional sequences utilizing warm tones just as Ian Herring did on Kamala's first comic book run. Joe Caramagna's lettering, which has played a part of conveying Kamala's since her creation, ties it all together effortlessly.

For better or for worse, the past few months of Marvel Comics have changed Kamala Khan forever, but Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant makes a convincing argument that it might just be for the better. This first issue is a thoughtful, well-executed flashpoint for Kamala's tenure, inching her slightly-closer to her MCU counterpart without losing what has already made her special on the page. When combined with exuberant art and an impossibly-earnest exploration of Kamala's personal sense of identity, Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant #1 has the makings of something special.

Published by Marvel Comics

On August 30, 2023

Written by Iman Vellani and Sabir Pirzada

Art by Carlos Gomez and Adam Gorham

Colors by Erick Arciniega

Letters by Joe Caramagna

Design by Tom Mueller and Jay Bowen

Cover by Sara Pichelli and Matthew Wilson