If there was a way to bring G. Willow Wilson’s storytelling to life, this is it!
Episodes 1 and 2 function admirably well together
This is something entirely new to the MCU
Her powerset is very different, and the changes still seem a little unnecessary… but let’s wait and see
This really is something entirely new to the MCU -- and it's not for everyone
But that doesn’t have to be a bad thing
Marvel’s latest series on Disney+ is running the gauntlet of uncharted territory in mainstream television. The six-episode series, Ms Marvel, features the colourful origin story of Pakistani teen superhero, Kamala Khan.
And Marvel certainly isn’t giving it the kid-glove treatment.
Ms Marvel is possibly among the first mainstream shows to depict the growing pains of a teenager in a brown, Muslim household. That too, a teen that’s grappling with her newfound powers with seemingly ancestral roots, amplified by an heirloom item – a bangle. Straying from the comic source material which sees Kamala gaining her powers as an Inhuman after being exposed to a mutating substance called Terrigen Mist, this leaves added responsibility on Disney to tell Kamala’s culturally ingrained story with sensitivity.
Much like in the comics, the show also addresses Kamala’s struggle with religion, giving the experience both texture and accuracy (from the perspective of a writer who grew up in a strict Muslim household). This is, undoubtedly, a touchy subject, and it’s commendable that Disney has put its trust in Ms Marvel’s dream team, which includes a distinctive voice from head writer, British-Pakistani comedian Bisha K. Ali. G. The show is built off of the creation Muslim writer G. Willow Wilson, who relaunched the Ms Marvel comic title in 2013 with Kamala Khan – Marvel Comics’ first Muslim superhero title.
As an addition to the MCU’s roster, Ms Marvel breaks the mould for the Marvel “formula” that we’ve come to know and love (or, in some cases, not love). Ms Marvel explores Kamala’s struggles with individuality in a religious household set against the backdrop of a high school, and accompanies it with visual spectacle that can only be likened to the illustrative style of the immersive Into The Spider-Verse film.
From the very minute that the show begins, we’re thrust into Kamala’s mind, abuzz with vivid drawings of her thoughts – fully representative of what it’s like to be an imaginative teen whose world has been enchanted by the presence of super-powered idols like Captain Marvel. The playful production is Marvel’s first foray into such a bold and individualistic style – although we’d already seen smidges of it nestled within series such as Hawkeye, which conscientiously replicated the mood and visual tone of its source material.
The character, much like its actress Iman Vellani, is from a generation that has been raised on hope inspired by the Avengers. Vellani and Kamala are almost one, portraying a seemingly naive, lovable klutz, who’s also highly introspective and nerdy in all the best ways. This is perhaps aided by Kamala Khan being Vellani’s debut role.
Kamala’s BFF #1: Nakia, played by Yasmeen Fletcher, is given a mild revision in the series (much like Kamala’s powers), and is similarly made more dynamic in doing so. There is more to the character here than the early Ms Marvel issues had space for, and it just might pay off. BFF #2 Bruno Carrelli’s presence in the show is that of a graceful ally to Kamala, and is portrayed with poise by Matt Lintz. But I shall not say more, for we don’t talk about Bruno-no-no.
Speaking of BFFs, Ms Marvel wholeheartedly embraces its high school backdrop and locker room dynamics.
Expect to see classic school hallway exchanges, and expect them to be used wistfully. Embracing such a trope also means the inclusion other stereotypical characters, like the vapid blonde bully, and the hot jock-like love interest, both of whom seem to be on a path to becoming more than meet the eye.
Two episodes in, we’ve only gotten a glimpse of what might become the big-bad arc for the show, and it feels perfectly reasonable. Keep in mind that the show bears many responsibilities, including contextualising a coming-of-age hero and her origin story.
It’s a refreshing change of pace, and is a reminder that it’s been 14 years since Robert Downey Jr. uttered the now-iconic “I am Iron Man” line, making Ms Marvel a necessary jumping on point for new and young audiences. The future of entertainment lies in inclusivity and a genuine entertainment factor. And Ms Marvel is perfectly balanced, as all things should be.