Opinion by Hussein Rashid, special to CNN
(CNN) - In the world of comics, the news of Ms.Marvel's return to the world of Iron Man and the X-men is a big deal -and not just because the character's alter ego is a Pakistani-AmericanMuslim girl from New Jersey.
The previous Ms. Marvel, for those of you not familiar with the Ka-Pow world of comics, was a blonde, blue-eyed Air Force pilot.
The new Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old student who favorshipster-geek glasses and Holden Caulfield-style hats. She's also Muslim,though she's no poster girl for the faith, according to G. WillowWilson, her creator.
"Islam is both an essential part of her identity and something she struggles mightily with," Wilson said in an interview posted on Marvel's website.
"She does not cover her hair - most American Muslim women don't-and she's going through a rebellious phase," Wilson continued.
"She wants to go to parties and stay out past 9p.m. and feel'normal.' Yet at the same time, she feels the need to defend her familyand their beliefs."
Wilson is an accomplished author who wrote several issues of Supermancomics and recently won the World Fantasy Award for her novel "Alif theUnseen."
More importantly, Wilson is Muslim. A memoir of her conversion, "TheButterfly Mosque," intimately expresses the beauty she finds in herfaith.
That level of complexity bodes well for the Khan character, whom Wilson says will wrestle with her faith.
Sana Amanat, an editor at Marvel Comics has said she also wants the comic-book characterto struggle with difference, a common teenage concern made especiallypoignant by the currents of Islamophobia running through many parts ofthe United States.
"As much as Islam is a part of Kamala's identity, this book isn't preaching about religion or the Islamic faith in particular," Amanat has said.
"It's about what happens when you struggle with the labels imposed onyou, and how that forms your sense of self. It's a struggle we've allfaced in one formor another, and isn't just particular to Kamala because she's Muslim."
The emergence of the new Muslim Ms. Marvel highlights an increasingsophistication in the ways Muslims are shown in popular culture, a shiftled by comic books.
But I'm happy that we may finally see a Muslim character whose faith is not the only part of her life that matters.
I want to read about a young woman/Superhero who deals with theordinary ordeals of being a teenager, battling her bratty brother andforging her own identity for the first time.
The cover art Marvel Comics has released hints that Khan will be asophisticated character. She is holding books about art, religion andhistory and is wearing a scarf around her neck - notably, not her head. Abracelet wrapped around her wrist appears to feature Arabic script.
My hopes for Khan are buoyed by the fact that Marvel Comics, thepublishing company that will release Ms. Marvel in February, has a solidtrack record of confronting controversial issues, including religion.
Issues such as homophobia and the AIDS epidemic have been addressedthrough characters such as Northstar, who came out of the closet in1992.
Anti-Semitism is another recurrent theme in the Marvel universe, withcharacters like Magneto being shaped by his experience of theHolocaust, and Kitty Pryde struggling as a descendant of Holocaustsurvivors.
After years of cardboard representations of Muslims, the character Dust, aka SoorayaQadir, joined the X-Men in 2002.
In 2011, we found out that another of the X-Men, M, was raised as aMuslim. Although it took nearly 17 years for her religiosity to berevealed, M eventually challenges xenophobia by questioning protestersat the site of the so-called "ground zero mosque," asking them what itmeans to be American, and who gets to decide.
DC Comics introduced the first main comic-book character who is aMuslim born in America, Simon Baz, aka the Green Lantern.Unfortunately,because he is part of the Justice League, a larger team, hisappearances have been infrequent since his introduction in 2012.
The character of Kamala Khan has the opportunity to offer somethingnew to pop-culture portrayals of Muslims. She is born in the UnitedStates, appears to be part of the post-9/11 generation and is ateenager.
In the end, I hope the most interesting thing about the new series isthe writing, not the fact that the character is Muslim - and not thefact that a small number of Americans seem tohave a problem with that.
So far, the folks in my Twitter feed seem more upset that Kamala Khan is from New Jersey.
Hussein Rashid teaches at Hofstra University in the department ofreligion. He is an associate editor at Religion Dispatches, a termmember on the Council on Foreign Relations and fellow at the Institutefor Social Policy and Understanding. The views expressed in this columnbelong to Rashid.