It took until 2014 for Marvel to give a Muslim character their own comic book series, but once they did, it wasn’t long before Ms. Marvel‘s teenage protagonist Kamala Khan became one of the publisher’s most popular young heroes. Fast-forward eight years, and Kamala is set to make her live-action debut in the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, which officially welcomes the Pakistani-American teen and her supporting cast into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Although it’s been a speedy road to the spotlight for Kamala Khan, if the first few episodes of Ms. Marvel are any indication of what’s to come for her live-action adventures, she’s got a bright future ahead of her.
Created by Bisha K. Ali (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Loki) for Disney’s streaming service, Ms. Marvel casts newcomer Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old girl in Jersey City, New Jersey, who suddenly finds herself thrust into the world of superheroes she idolizes when she acquires superpowers of her own. Now, instead of writing fan fiction, Kamala must figure out her own superhero story while navigating high school and teenage life.
Each of the MCU shows on Disney+ has brought something new to Marvel’s interconnected, live-action multiverse, and Ms. Marvel is no exception.
The series takes some of the MCU’s boldest leaps so far with its visual storytelling techniques and the myriad ways it blends of live-action, animation, and other on-screen elements to present Kamala’s unique perspective on the world around her. Ms. Marvel also takes plenty of cues from teenage TV of the past with its self-aware willingness to break the fourth wall and directly engage with its audience. It also puts Kamala’s artistic ability to good use with clever, animated sequences based on her drawings peppered throughout each episode.
As Kamala, newcomer Vellani channels a genuine joy in playing a character that jumps off the screen. The young actress feels like a natural fit for the role, and makes it easy to see why Marvel was willing to bet so big on an actress with no prior credits. The glee she shows in discovering her powers is infectious, and offers a much-needed alternative to the dour origin stories we’ve grown so accustomed to in superhero sagas.
Vellani isn’t the only bright — and unique — element worth celebrating in Ms. Marvel. The series also does a wonderful job of integrating Kamala’s family into the story in some fun, refreshing ways that make it stand out even further from the crowd of MCU projects.
Playing Kamala’s mother, father, and older brother, respectively, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, and Saagar Shaikh all walk the line expertly between being restrictive and supportive in their relationships to Kamala. There’s a delicate balance they need to strike, and each one hits it in the series’ opening episodes, establishing themselves as a loving family despite their differences in interests and outlooks.
It’s worth noting that, while the series stays true to a lot of Kamala Khan’s comic-book source material in spirit, it does take some big swings in fresh directions, too.
The origin of Kamala’s powers receives a significant rewrite in Ms. Marvel, for example, and the opening chapters of her story don’t follow the comics quite as closely as Hawkeye or other MCU projects. None of these changes are anything to worry about, though, as the series’ writers find some creative ways to bring Kamala into the existing Marvel universe that also allow for some welcome surprises for longtime fans of the character.
While two episodes isn’t exactly a lot to go on when evaluating a series, the preview of Ms. Marvel they do offer is a promising one, and suggests that Kamala Khan’s live-action debut could very well deserve as warm a welcome as her comic-book adventures.
Marvel’s Ms. Marvel series premieres June 8 on the Disney+ streaming service.
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