Tag: Marvel comics

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson

Posted August 14, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Graphic Novel / 14 Comments

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow WilsonTitle: Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal (Goodreads)
Author: G. Willow Wilson
Artist: Adrian Alphona, Sara Pichelli
Published: Marvel Comics, 2014
Pages: 120
Genres: Graphic Novel
My Copy: eBook

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

The new series of Ms. Marvel brings about an exciting new direction for Marvel Comics. Kamala Khan is the fourth character to take on the name Ms. Marvel and for the first time ever, we see a Muslim headlining the pages. Co-created Sana Amanat (editor), G. Willow Wilson (writer), and Adrian Alphona (artist) the new Ms. Marvel was created out of the need for a strong Muslim superhero. However, this is not only a hero that deals with struggling with their superpowers but a minority struggling to fit in with the American culture.

The comic depicts a 16 year-old Pakastani-American Muslim in New Jersey struggling with fitting in, family, religion, school and all the normal teenage struggles. Then one day she has an encounter with Ms. Marvel and she confesses that she wishes she was like her. This wish was granted and now Kamala has to work out not only what it means to be a Muslim woman in America but how to use her new shape shifting powers.

“This is not evangelism. It was really important for me to portray Kamala as someone who is struggling with her faith. Her brother is extremely conservative, her mom is paranoid that she’s going to touch a boy and get pregnant, and her father wants her to concentrate on her studies and become a doctor.” – G. Willow Wilson

What I found exciting about the new Ms. Marvel is the way this series tries to break the stereotypes. As a teenage Muslim living in America, Kamala has all these ideals and stereotypes projected onto her and she has to navigate through it all and work out who she is. Ms. Marvel represents everything she wants to be; a strong, beautiful woman standing for good. However when she becomes Ms Marvel she quickly realises that being a superhero doesn’t solve the struggle of a misfit. This new Ms. Marvel series isn’t just a struggle with new found powers; it is the everyday struggles she faces. Kamala slowly works out that her new powers, religion or heritage is not what defines her but they do play important roles in the person she wants to be.

“As much as Islam is a part of Kamala’s identity, this book isn’t preaching about religion or the Islamic faith in particular. It’s about what happens when you struggle with the labels imposed on you, and how that forms your sense of self. It’s a struggle we’ve all faced in one form or another, and isn’t just particular to Kamala because she’s Muslim. Her religion is just one aspect of the many ways she defines herself” – Sana Amanat

Interestingly there are a few mentions where Ms. Marvel is referred to as Captain Marvel, unfortunately I don’t know the back story of this but I think it is a positive step. Ms. Marvel was originally created as the female counterpart to Captain Marvel. The move to turn Ms. Marvel into Captain Marvel means that the female superhero is no longer considered the counterpart but a strong and dominate hero in her own right.

You may noticed that I haven’t mentioned anything about the art work and this is because I’m new to reviewing graphic novels and have not learned how to talk about art yet. I hope to learn to critically analyse the art but for now I’m leaving it out of this review, not because it is bad but because I don’t know what to say apart from it being good. No Normal is the conclusion of the first arc (first 5 issues) and I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes. I think it is fresh and exciting change for the better in the world of comics.


The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris

Posted March 22, 2014 by Michael @ Knowledge Lost in Fantasy / 2 Comments

The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. HarrisTitle: The Gospel of Loki (Goodreads)
Author: Joanne Harris
Narrator: Allan Corduner
Published: Hachette, 2014
Pages: 302
Genres: Fantasy
My Copy: Audiobook

Buy: AmazonBook Depository (or visit your local Indie bookstore)

If you’ve been on the internet (especially Tumblr) in the last few years, chances are that you would know who Loki is. Popularised by Marvel Comics and the recent Thor movies Loki is originally found in Norse mythology. Joanne Harris, best known for novels like Chocolat and Five Quarters of the Orange, tries her hand at fantasy under the name Joanne M. Harris. The Gospel of Loki follows the story of the trickster god, Loki, from his recruitment by Odin from the realm of Chaos to become a Norse god.

“Loki, that’s me.

Loki, the Light-Bringer, the misunderstood, the elusive, the handsome and modest hero of this particular tissue of lies. Take it with a pinch of salt, but it’s at least as true as the official version, and, dare I say it, more entertaining.

So far, history, such as it is, has cast me in a rather unflattering role.

Now it’s my turn to take the stage.”

Told from the perspective of Loki, The Gospel of Loki starts off in a playful tone as you can see by the above text. This tone continues throughout the novel, keeping a light and entertaining look at the ultimate trickster. Joanne Harris picked a challenging topic to tackle for her first attempt in Fantasy. Trying to get the balance between the Norse mythology and the popular conceptions as told by Marvel would be problematic. I don’t pretend to know much about the mythology and possibly less about the Marvel comics but I think Harris captured the character really well. We can debate whether Marvel follows the mythology or not but what I got in this novel was the mischievous, unreliable, jokester that I expect from Loki.

To play devil’s advocate, I must point to the title of this novel, The Gospel of Loki. The word gospel suggests that this is the unquestionable truth of Loki’s life, a first-hand account of what happened. Loki is an unreliable character and since he is often known as a lying, manipulative, demon-born anti-hero, the only source of truth (or as close as allowed) can only come in first person. My problem would be the modern tone of the whole novel; the mythology was formed hundreds of years ago, so I expected the language to be different. I expected the writing to feel dated, something Fantasy does really well but this novel felt like it was set in current times.

Overall this is an entertaining novel that explores the mythology of Loki in an interesting way. While each chapter seems to be a little story that interconnects with the overall plot, it also gives glimpses into Loki’s character. You get an in-depth look into Loki, learning about his story and life lessons. With such detail into the primary character, it’s a little sad to see that all the other characters were so flat, especially his adoptive brother Thor. Then again, Loki is so narcissistic that going into details about everyone else would feel a fake.

I’m of two minds with this novel, on one hand I think Harris did a great job in giving me a brief (but unofficial) look into the life of Loki. Everything I’ve read of hers I’ve liked and for a fantasy novel, The Gospel of Loki worked really well. Then again, this was a fantasy novel and I often struggle with them, but I think this was far too modern which stopped the story from ringing true. I have to wonder what someone with a detailed knowledge of Loki, the Norse god or Marvel super villain thinks of this book.