State of the (Superhero) Nation: Faiza Hussein in British Comics

Faiza Hussain is a British Muslim super heroine of Pakistani descent, introduced in the 2008-2009 comic series, Captain Britain and MI:13. For people who are unfamiliar with the shared universe of Marvel Comics: in 2008, there was a large scale alien invasion in the Marvel universe, and in order to reflect the international nature of this crisis, the new title, Captain Britain and MI:13, was brought out, bringing back some older Marvel UK characters in a new team. This being a definition of international that included both the U.S. and Britain. After the crossover event, MI:13 ran for two more story arcs: Hell Comes to Birmingham, and Vampire State, comprising 15 issues and an annual.

From the moment of her introduction (giving medical aid to those affected by the crisis), Faiza is immediately likeable. A superhero fangirl, a normal person encountering an extraordinary world – we are supposed to identify with her. A Muslim woman who isn’t criminalized, or intended as an object of the audience’s pity, but is normalized and made identifiable! “Normal” for a comic book character means that she’s a medical doctor who is given supernatural abilities by an encounter with an alien, and soon becomes the wielder of Excalibur (yes, that Excalibur), and later takes on the codename Excalibur, possibly because she holds the spirit of the nation (I admit, my eyes glaze over any kind of overt nationalism1).

Faiza Hussein pictured in middle.

While the idea of a non-white, Muslim woman embodying the spirit of Britain is on some levels, the title does seem to view British nationalism, and nationalism in general, as an un-problematically good concept, which is hardly the case, especially for someone whose parents come from one of Britain’s former colonies.

[Read more...]