Superheroes fight. They punch. They zap supervillains and toss them around. Sometimes they kill people and sometimes they die. But, as a recent essay points out, the current Ms. Marvel does an excellent job of asking the question: does a superhero really have to hurt other people?
Over at Comic Book Resources, Noah Berlatsky (who blogs at The Hooded Utilitarian) has written an essay "What 'Ms. Marvel' Gets Right About Comic Book Violence," comparing the experience of watching Gotham (and seeing Bruce Wayne's parents die yet again) with reading G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona's Ms. Marvel. As we watch Kamala Khan take up the mantle of Ms. Marvel, we see a young woman who doesn't link being a superhero with violence.
Some spoilers for Ms. Marvel below:
Kamala Khan doesn't become a superhero because she's traumatized; there are no dead Thomas Waynes or Uncle Bens in her origin story. Instead, she stumbled into superpowers, and then, inspired in part by her family and in part by her Muslim faith, she decides that she wants to use them to help people. And most of that helping is not especially violent — her first super-act is to save a drunk girl from drowning, and it takes her several issues to actually fight anybody. The first battle is with a confused fellow student who is sort of, kind of robbing a store; he ends up shooting her, which is presented both as low-key and as a big deal. Ms. Marvel isn't permanently hurt (she has stretchy super-powers and is invulnerable) but the one accidental shot is still presented as terrifying and wrong. Violence here isn't truth, but aberration; a fissure in real life rather than real life itself.
Head over to CBR for the rest of Berlatsky's essay, where he discusses Kamala's interactions with a veteran hero, and how it functions as a debate about violence in superhero comics. It highlights yet another reason why Ms. Marvel is such a spectacular book.
What 'Ms. Marvel' Gets Right About Comic Book Violence [CBR]