Marvel fans are ushering in the newest MCU superhero, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), and she’s just like many of them: a fangirl.
Based on the comic book created by Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, and G. Willow Wilson with artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, Kamala Khan was the first Muslim character to get her own solo Marvel comic book series, Ms. Marvel, in 2014.
However, that’s not the only thing she’s noteworthy for. Kamala is basically the biggest fan of Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). Following the comics, the Disney+ series, created by Bisha K. Ali, spotlights Kamala’s life as a Pakistani American teenager from Jersey City while tackling issues of assimilation, religion, and family and capturing her absolute adoration for the human-Kree powerhouse, Carol Danvers. Eventually, Kamala gets her own super powers too.
In the comics, Kamala became a polymorph after her latent Inhuman genes were activated, giving her the ability to stretch her body in various ways. Her elongation powers allowed her to contort her body, including shrinking in size, becoming giant and even becoming paper thin. In the Disney+ series, her powers are a bit different, which means the possibilities are practically limitless. The MCU took a crack at crafting a new origin story for this character while maintaining her charm. However, while the rest of the series is full of potential and redemption, the first two episodes of Ms. Marvel have failed to shine as brightly as they could have. Here’s why.
The Good: Kamala Khan’s Family Is Amazing and the Comic Book Art Style Is Fun
Similar to Spiderman: Into the Spiderverse, Ms. Marvel takes a vibrant, colorful and playful approach in the overall style of the show. It feels like audiences are going through the comic book doodles in Kamala’s imagination and seeing through her eyes. Communication in both episodes go beyond what’s spoken on screen and uses art to help move the story forward, whether it’s during an action sequence or merely testing. This is a bold move that other MCU shows have yet to explore.
This stylistic choice also reflects a sense of Kamala’s innocence and eagerness to absorb each new experience like a sponge. The show makes itself distinct and plays on a nostalgia that classic comic book readers will appreciate. This includes the way her family and friends are introduced.
Kamala’s family is charming and messy all at once, as the show beautifully weaves in her Muslim identity, family ups and downs, high school life, and friendships with Bruno Carrelli (Matt Lintz) and Nakia Bahadir (Yasmeen Fletcher). It’s refreshing to have the series already addressing how Brown girls aren’t usually heroes in a Eurocentric world, including the current mainstream MCU lineup. The first two episodes address feminism, faith, and Kamala’s attempt to come of age while also honoring her family. Finally, the end of Episode 2 leaves enough of a cliffhanger to motivate viewers to keep watching.
The Bad: These Two Episodes Move Slow and Become Boring Fast
Sadly, this highly anticipated series starts off slow and drags on with a lot of fluff and little substance to show for it. It’s very cliche: teen doesn’t fit in with the high school crowd but dreams of being special. Then they discover they are special — hooray! If it weren’t for her family’s standout personalities, the show would be flat so far. Kamala’s friends aren’t particularly interesting — yet. Hopefully, they can develop a bond with viewers going forward. While Vellani portrays Kamala with a somewhat endearing naivety, the character is ultimately a bit bland and generic.
The change of Kamala’s origin story may have something to do with this dullness. Instead of delving into her Inhuman origins (because the Inhumans are barely canon in the MCU, with Black Bolt recently introduced in Doctor Strange 2’s alternate universe), the show goes for a less complicated explanation for Kamal’s powers. In the show, she harnesses cosmic energy from a magical bangle. Rather than stretchy powers, she produces crystalline purple energy using the bangle that sometimes enlarges her fists for a similar effect to her comic book powers. It can also form purple surfaces. More powers will likely be revealed in following episodes.
Without the Inhumans background, it looks like the MCU may be drawing from another comic book origin: the Kree artifacts, known as Nega-Bands (which may have a link to 2023 film, The Marvels). They were worn by the original Captain Marvel as a source for cosmic powers in the comics. While this may or may not be what the show is hinting at, the fact is that the introduction of this bangle provides little intrigue (when it kind of seems pretty important for the entirety of the show). This mechanism of energy feels forced into the storyline, and there’s an almost comical lack of reaction to its potential for destruction.
The Verdict: First Two Episodes Disappoint, But There’s Hope for the Series
While the first two episodes weren’t all that they could have been, all is not lost. For both loyal comic book fans and Ms. Marvel newcomers, there’s a lot of potential for this series. It’s a celebratory opportunity for a marginalized character to break the mold and show people that Black and Brown heroes are worthy of shows that depict them as dynamic, multifaceted and compelling. There’s work to do, but there are six episodes in total and these are only two. It’ll be thrilling to see if the show can morph and change into something truly cosmic.
Ms. Marvel premieres on June 8, 2022, on Disney+ with new episodes releasing weekly.
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Danielle Broadway is an English Literature MA student at California State University, Long Beach. She has been published in Black Girl Nerds, LA Weekly and Medium, is a writer for CSULB’s the Daily49er, is a managing editor for Watermark, her school’s academic literary journal and is an assistant editor at Angels Flight • literary west. She’s an activist and educator that is inspired by her family to make social change both in the classroom and beyond.