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Characters with superpower always attract young readers since the latter value otherworldly stories. Interestingly, the creation of graphic novels allows making the best of textual and graphic means to present unique people or human-like creatures. This essay is aimed at comparing and contrasting Kamala and Maika, the characters of popular comic books. Both of them are soul-searching teenagers trapped between two worlds, but their personal features and fears present things that set them apart.
The Two White Crows
The main characters of Monstress and Ms. Marvel are put in totally different circumstances, but, in spite of that, they have a lot in common when it comes to their identity issues. Both Maika and Kamala present teenage girls who are different from their peers, and the fact that they stand out from the crowd heavily impacts their relationships with the entire world. Kamala seems to be unique and different thanks to her unspoiled and innocent character. It is clear from the book that she is still incapable of telling true politeness from hypocrisy, which makes her “such a baby” (Wilson 7). Due to that prelapsarian naivety emphasized by the author, she is sometimes misunderstood by others, and it makes her an interesting character.
Maika, a teenage girl from the world in the state of war, is different from other characters of the book due to some of her physical features and an unconquerable will. Unlike other prisoners of the war, she does not want to bear with oppression and manages to respond in kind when a female jailer tries to check whether she is “strong enough to bear one more electric shock” (Liu 32). At this point, the girl’s reaction indicates that she has an enormous power inside of her body, which makes her different and dangerous to others.
Apart from being unique from the very beginning, the fact that unites these characters is that they belong to two different worlds simultaneously. To some extent, being trapped between two worlds encourages both girls to search for new meanings of life. Kamala is an American of Pakistani origin, and the necessity to choose between traditional Muslim and non-religious views of life often causes her problems. The author shows the continuous conflict between Muslim and American norms in both melancholic and funny ways. Thus, understanding that she is not allowed to eat pork, Kamala keeps talking about “delicious, delicious infidel meat” (Wilson 5). Not lacking in humor, this phrase indicates the difference between behaviors expected of Kamala and things that she would like to try.
Similarly to Kamala, Maika is presented as a character who finds herself between two worlds that are in conflict. Maika is the representative of the Arcanian race who looks similar to a human, but a powerful demon inside her body also makes her a part of the world of monsters. After crushing out, Maika starts having a kind of seizure and asks her friend to escape, while yelling that she is “not a monster” (Liu 70). In this chapter, the author clearly demonstrates the conflict between Maika’s uncontrolled instincts awakened by the demon inside and the intentions of a civilized creature who knows trust and friendship.
Finally, both characters have issues with understanding their own needs, and they get involved into different situations to fill the gaps. As for Kamala, the key things that relate to her self-identity problems have to deal with religious views and the willingness to unite conflicting values to be understood. In search of new experience, the girl tries to be “normal” and escapes from her home to visit a party and communicate with her cool peers even though it gives her nothing but a searing disappointment (Wilson 14). Just like Kamala, Maika is motivated to challenge herself because there is information that prevents her from understanding the world – the truth about her mother’s death. The girl remembers almost nothing about her past, and, considering that having no past means having no future, she uses all her strength to restore memories.
Personal Features and Fears
In spite of similarities, there are many aspects and details that set the characters under analysis apart, and the ability of Maika and Kamala to forgive others is definitely one of them. The former seems to have no compassion when she sees her enemies in difficult situations, and she decides to take vengeance on Yvette, a researcher, for “betraying her mother” (Liu 56). Importantly, Maika’s vengefulness is an essential reaction to the facts of life in their world.
Possessing kind-heartedness, Kamala takes a different strategy when she has an opportunity to settle scores with ill-wishers. When she suddenly acquires a superpower, Kamala finds herself in a difficult situation when one of her bullies starts drowning. An ayah saying that “whoever saves one person, it is as if he has saved all of mankind” springs to her mind, and she feels obliged to save the girl despite conflicts in the past (Wilson 23). This example indicates that Kamala can forget about hatred when dangerous situations occur, which indicates her benevolence.
The situation with key fears that motivate the characters under analysis to take actions is quite different, and these differences are expressed in many things, including language. According to Gardner and Diaz, analyzing “the language of the story” is helpful in guiding literary analysis, and this note directly applies to the case because Kamala’s and Maika’s words tell a lot about their fears (3). Maika’s tragedies teach her to see dangers everywhere, and she expresses her concerns both directly and metaphorically by saying that “a closed door raises suspicions, an open one doesn’t” (Liu 89). By using allegories, the author manages to present “objects that stand not only for themselves but also for abstract concepts” (Gardner and Diaz 180). It also contributes to the differences between characters, making Maika’s story more tragic. In fact, a large part of her life experience relates to violence and betrayal, and being suspicious and staying alert help the main character to transform her fears into power and, therefore, stay alive.
Unlike Maika, Kamala Khan is afraid of sticking out like a sore thumb, and her numerous attempts to mix with the crowd of American high school students support this point. In the first chapter of the book, one of Kamala’s classmates invites her to the party and highlights that she can come if she is “allowed to do that kind of stuff” (Wilson 6). This sarcastic note indicates that the girl’s classmates tend to stereotype Muslim families and make unjustified generalizations. Apart from that, such jokes feed Kamala’s fears and make her spread herself to behave like an ordinary American.
To sum it up, Maika and Kamala are different in terms of key fears and life circumstances, and it makes their short-term goals quite dissimilar. However, among the things that unite them are the willingness to use power effectively and find their own place at the confluence of conflicting worlds. Despite numerous differences, both characters can encourage readers to surmount difficulties.
Gardner, Janet E., and Joanne Diaz. Reading and Writing about Literature: A Portable Guide. 4th ed., Bedford/St. Martins, 2016.
Liu, Marjorie, writer. Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening. Art by Sana Takeda. Image Comics, Inc., 2016.
Wilson, Willow G., writer. Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal. Art by Adrian Alphona. Marvel Characters, Inc., 2017.