Welcome to Read This Next, an ongoing feature designed to help you find more comics to love. We take a comic that's a big hit with readers, a comic that's been in the news lately, or both, talk a bit about why it's great and why it's noteworthy, and then steer you toward other comics connected to it in some way. Whether you're a new reader looking for a guide to more than just that one series your friend recommended, an old reader hoping to find new stuff, or just someone looking for something to read, we're here to help.
This week, we're talking comics for fans of one of the most important books of the past two years: Ms. Marvel.
IF YOU'VE READ: Ms. Marvel by G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona, and Ian Herring
Few comic books in the last few years have had an impact as big as Ms. Marvel. From the start, even before anyone had read a page, it felt important. This was Marvel editor Sana Amanat and writer G. Willow Wilson taking pages from their own lives and pouring them into the same kind of cultural shift that Brian Michael Bendis and Sara Pichelli gave us with Miles Morales. Ever since Spider-Man debuted in 1962, the perfect teen hero has been the Holy Grail for many comics creators. Throw a rock and you'll hit some comic book attempt at recapturing Spidey's lightning, but few have actually managed to transcened into something all their own. Miles Morales has done that, as have characters like Static and Kitty Pryde (to a lesser extent than Spider-Man, to be sure). Ms. Marvel can now be added to that pantheon. She's a teen superhero who beat the odds and became an overwhelming pop culture force, reaching readers of all ages with her story.
So, how did this happen? Well, some if it can be chalked up to a readership that was simply hungry for diversity, and Kamala Khan arrived at the right time in the right place, but most of it is undoubtedly the design of the character, and the story that Amanat, Wilson, Alphona and others set out to tell. Peter Parker famously juggled high school, family, a freelancer gig at the Daily Bugle, and superheroics, and Kamala Khan has developed her own juggling act that's just as compelling. There are the powers she's still learning to use, the school work, the family life, the somewhat rigid ideology her parents expect her to abide by, boys, bullies, Inhuman super-dogs, and more. We are not all Muslim-raised teenagers growing up in Jersey City, but we can still all relate to Kamala's struggles. Then, there's the added dimension of her entry into the superhero world, a world she'd previously only seen as a fan, much like us. When she meets Wolverine, it's like we're meeting Wolverine, and that makes a real impression. It's a comic about family, fandom, teenage uncertainty, and courage in the face of dozens of challenges, and that's why it's hit a nerve.
But what if you've read everything Ms. Marvel has delivered so far? Where do you go from there? Well, there are plenty of options, but I'd go with this one:
READ THIS NEXT: Princeless, Book One: "Save Yourself" by Jeremy Whitley, M. Goodwin, Jung-Ha Kim and Dave Dwonch
Princeless is not a superhero story like Ms. Marvel. It's a fantasy adventure tale that's a direct rebuttal to both sexist depictions of women in superhero comics and traditional fairy tales narratives about women. The book begins with a young Princess Adrienne hearing the classic story of a princess locked in a tower and scoffing at it as "hogwash," only to find herself in a tower of her own years later. See, Adrienne's parents believe the only way for her to find a worthy knight as a husband is to make said knight battle a dragon (which they bought from a farm) while Adrienne herself is trapped in a tower, waiting to be rescued. Here's the thing, though: Adrienne has made friends with her dragon guardian, and she's also found a secret sword under her bed, so she's not about to play by the rules anymore.
Like Kamala Khan, Adrienne is trapped in a world ruled by her parents, only for her it's a much more literal thing. She's not grounded; she's imprisoned. She literally can't leave a single room thanks to her father's rigid fairy tale rules, and while that may sound a little silly at first, the creative team builds it into both a compelling story and a powerful metaphor. Adrienne not only realizes that she's just an object to be rescued, but that her dragon friend Sparky is just an object to be slayed, and together they defy those constraints. It is, at first, a very simple rebuttal to a longstanding fairy tale tradition, but as the series progresses it becomes much more. Adrienne scoffs at traditional heroine costumes, she refuses to back down in the face of the rules and she, like Kamala Khan, makes her own way into the world of heroics, with no safety net and no sense that she shouldn't belong.
So, if you like awesome stories of young girls (particularly young girls of color) beating the odds and becoming heroes their way, check out Princeless.
HONORABLE MENTIONS: Want more? Check out these titles:
Bandette by Paul Tobin and Colleen Coover: Yeah, I've recommended this before, but it's still one of the best books focusing on a young female hero out there.
Batman & Robin: Batman Reborn by Grant Morrison: Frank Quitely and Philip Tan: Like Ms. Marvel, it's the story of a hero inheriting a title, and it's a surprisingly easy entry into Batman comics, considering the events surrounding it.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew: If you're looking for more heroes of color, consider this acclaimed graphic novel that spins a compelling new take on the first Asian-American superhero: The Green Turtle.