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SYFY WIRE Ms. Marvel

'Ms. Marvel' series premiere takes us into the MCU's meta-fandom as a new hero is born

“Sometimes, someone can come out of nowhere and do something amazing.”

By Brian Silliman
Ms. Marvel Season 1 Episode 1

Kamala Khan has finally come to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her origin story is, as expected, different from how it is depicted in Marvel Comics. Does that make her streaming debut on Disney+ any less joyful? Absolutely not. Ms. Marvel, created for television by Bisha K. Ali, is a cosmic delight. 

The show retains the spirit of Kamala Khan, which is more important than the exact depiction of her powers. How does it adapt Kamala's origin and connect to the larger MCU? What does it specifically do to prove that we need Kamala Khan now more than ever? We are so glad you asked. 

**SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, there will be spoilers for Episode 1 of Ms. Marvel. If you have not watched yet, shoot off back into space.**

The character of Kamala Khan was originally created by Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie. She was briefly seen in Captain Marvel #14 before taking over the Ms. Marvel title with Ms. Marvel #1 in 2014. She was the first Muslim character to headline a Marvel title. 

The origin of her powers in the comics is directly tied to her having latent Inhuman abilities that kick in when Kamala is exposed to Terrigen mist. Because of how the MCU has dealt with Inhumans (almost all on Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and a failed television series about the Inhuman royal family), this origin was never going to happen for this series. Inhuman lore, Terrigen mist included, is almost all relegated to a show (S.H.I.E.L.D.) that the larger MCU barely ever acknowledges. Between that and the way the MCU has introduced Kamala’s personal hero, Captain Marvel, this live-action adaptation had to find its own way. 

The most important parts of Kamala’s life are all still here. She’s still a Pakastani dreamer who lives with her family in New Jersey, and they rarely understand her head-in-the-clouds mentality. Her best friend Bruno (Matt Lintz) is front and center, and he works at the Circle Q. The trouble of navigating high school life as a potential superhero is definitely going to be a thing. Everyone has specific thoughts about who and what Kamala should be. 

The thing that this show absolutely had to get right was Kamala herself. Wow, did they manage to do it. Iman Vellani plays the part to utter perfection. This probably reads like a review and not a recap, our fault. She’s brilliant, though. 

What has been changed? Kamala’s powers come from a bracelet that is found in a box of family heirlooms. It’s of Pakistani origin, and we don’t know the full truth of it yet. We’re fairly sure that Kamala's mother (Zenobia Shroff) knows more about it than she is letting on. 

The bracelet becomes the final flourish for Kamala’s Captain Marvel costume, which she makes for a cosplay event being held during the first ever AvengerCon. Most of the first episode deals with her trying to get around her parents to attend this celebration of heroes. When she puts the bracelet on, a cosmic (possibly mystical) energy overtakes her. Her powers come out during the competition, most notably when she saves her former friend Zoe after she falls off of a huge swinging replica of Mjolnir. 

Her powers do not look like they do in the comics. She doesn’t have stretchy-powers, ala Mr. Fantastic. Instead, a cosmic effect causes her hand to “embiggen” and save Zoe. Will she still be able to morph into different sizes? Will she be able to roll around in a little ball, or shrink when she needs to? Will she ever say the word “embiggen?” We don’t know yet. 

It’s a change we’ll get used to, especially because of the charm and craft that pours out of every inch of this episode. It’s as if Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse and Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World baked a cake together and then fed pieces of it to a whole crew of incredibly talented people who proceeded to bring their own visions to bear. There are gorgeously creative touches in every frame. 

All of that said, if the heart isn’t there, no one will care. Vellani shines throughout, whether she’s sharing a scene with Lintz’s Bruno or with her family. Her mother Muneeba (Schroff) and father Yusef (Mohan Kapur) could have been depicted as obstacles to Kamala’s destiny. Instead, they are real people, and they want the best for their daughter. We see their point of view, and when Kamala unintentionally hurts their feelings, it's heartbreaking. 

“Let’s be honest, it’s not really the brown girls from Jersey City who save the world,” Kamala says early on. It soon will be. Everyone may think that she lives in a fantasy world, but her fantasies come from a desire to do good. To be of service. To overcome cynicism and believe that wonder is still possible. What right does anyone have to take that from her? If it inspires her to do the next right thing and take the next right action, let Kamala be Kamala. It won’t be long until the brown girl from Jersey City saves the world. 

Why do we need Kamala Khan right now? There are a million reasons, but there’s one that is standing out to us right now. It's one word, and that word is this: serotonin.

Ms. Marvel Season 1 Episode 3

Marvel-ous Connections 

-Despite having limited exposure to the public in the MCU thus far, Kamala looks up to Captain Marvel because Carol’s actions during Avengers: Endgame are widely known. Kamala has also done her research, which she lays out in a YouTube series that she creates herself. She’s a fan who is about to join the world that she’s a fan of, that hasn’t changed. 

-Some of her research came from an episode of a podcast called “This Powered Life” which features Scott Lang (Ant-Man). The episode was titled “Big Me Little Me: A Scott Lang Interview.” 

-She mentions that her next episode will ponder whether or not Thor is a secret gamer. Thanks to Endgame, we know that he is. 

-At one point Bruno asks Kamala if they can stop acting like her mother is Darth Vader. All of the MCU Spider-Man’s Star Wars references may re-direct here from now on, and they’d be right at home. 

-There’s nothing to say that the family bracelet that gives Kamala her powers isn’t somehow fused with terrigen mist. They could still play the inhuman card. Theoretically. 

-AvengerCon proudly plays “Star-Spangled Man” from Captain America: The First Avenger. We’re glad that it’s been reclaimed after U.S. Agent tarnished it.

-What other references to the MCU are there? Between Kamala and Bruno talking, Kamala’s YouTube series, and AvengerCon itself, almost everything and everyone gets mentioned or cosplayed. 

-There is a mid-credit scene which features two members of Damage Control seeing footage of Kamala's AvengerCon power display. One of them is Sadie Deever (Alysia Reiner) and the other is P. Cleary (Arian Moayed). The latter character recently appeared in Spider-Man: No Way Home. He caused issues for Peter Parker, so you can bet that he’ll cause issues for Kamala Khan. 

-Give this series a chance. There’s something special going on here. The body is different but the heart is the same. Give this show a chance to grow, because we want more of it. Sometimes a show can come out of nowhere and do something amazing. Once again that reads like a review and not a recap, but...whatever. We stand by it.  

Ms. Marvel streams on Disney+ every Wednesday.

Looking for more TV to capture the high school vibes of Ms. Marvel? The OG Saved by the Bell, as well as the revival series, are both streaming now on Peacock.