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Why Ms Marvel Is One Of Comics' Most Interesting Discourses On Violence

Illustration for article titled Why iMs Marvel/i Is One Of Comics Most Interesting Discourses On Violence

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?

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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.

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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]

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DISCUSSION

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Pop culture seems to be irritatingly inured to violence and death. It's one of the reasons I dislike Zach Snyder. Berlatsky brings up Alan Moore, a writer who tends to treat death and violence in a way that a real human with working emotions might. It's a terrible thing. Which is* why Zach Snyder's adaptation of Watchmen doesn't work. He glorifies and fetishizes the violence, and we end up feeling nothing because he doesn't care any more than we do. In Man of Steel, he upped the ante and murdered tens of thousands casually, through acts of neglect, and all of them are just randomly generated pixels running through a CG program. It means nothing. In the same way, for several months I couldn't bring myself to tell my girlfriend I loved her, because the words "I love you" sound so fake after having come out of the mouths of countless actors who are just pretending.

William Hughes at the A.V. Club has a really good article about how experiencing actual death and suffering makes the cheap melodrama you see in comics and movies almost completely unwatchable. http://www.avclub.com/article/fake-d…

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