Who is Ms. Marvel? Explaining the Next MCU Star
Kamala Khan will become part of the MCU with a Ms. Marvel TV series on Disney+. She's a perfect fit for the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
A Ms. Marvel TV series is coming to streaming service Disney+, based on the Hugo-award winning and critically acclaimed comic book series of the same name. The first Muslim superhero to headline her own series for Marvel, Ms. Marvel has already made it to the small screen as part of the Marvel Rising animated series, but this will be her first foray into live action.
Created by writer G. Willow Wilson, editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, Ms. Marvel is Kamala Khan, a nerdy Muslim Pakistani-American teenager living in Jersey City who gained powers after coming into contact with Terrigen Mist. Descended from Inhumans, the mist unlocked her ability to shapeshift, like Daisy/Quake on Agents of SHIELD. The Inhumans have been a big part of Kamala’s comics story, with Lockjaw the teleporting dog helping her out, and Medusa the Inhuman Queen feeling more comfortable with Kamala than she does with others on Earth. Given that The Inhumans TV show was cancelled and derided by critics and fans, Ms. Marvel will likely only retain her inhumanity as far as her origin, or it could be left out altogether.
Ms. Marvel Powers and Abilities
Ms. Marvel is a polymorph. That means she can completely transform her body in any way she pleases. She can look like a specific person if she wants, although so far she’s only used that to look like Carol Danvers and her mother. Kamala is far too much of a goody-goody to go around impersonating people, especially since she’s experienced firsthand what it feels like when someone impersonates you and steals your voice. But it’s easy to see how this power could help the Avengers or be exploited, Loki-like, if Kamala were forced or some kind of body-snatching happened.
Most of the time, Ms. Marvel gets very big to take on literal big bads, or gets incredibly small (think sliding under a door or through a keyhole) to sneak into tight spaces and do recon. That puts her in good company with Ant-Man, although she doesn’t need any special tech for her transformations. She can also selectively change her shape and size radically, like “embiggening” just her fist.
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There is one major drawback to Ms. Marvel’s powers, which is her healing factor. When Kamala gets burnt out, she’s essentially stuck in whatever form and size she has at the moment until she recharges. If that happens mid-battle, she simply has to make the best of it. While she does have better healing abilities than the average person, she does take more hits than the rest of us do, and she needs to sleep it off after to heal. As a teenager sneaking out at night and needing to heal up after, she often finds herself sleeping through her alarm in the morning and falling asleep during class, much to the collective dismay of her parents and teachers.
The Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel Connection
A few different people have held the title of Ms. Marvel, but the most important ones are Carol Danvers and Kamala Khan. A huge fan of comic books, the Avengers, and especially Captain Marvel herself, Kamala took up the mantle of Ms. Marvel since her personal hero Carol Danvers had already started going by Captain Marvel and no longer needed the name.
Captain Marvel has played a big role in Kamala Khan’s development as a hero from the beginning. When Kamala was sprayed with the Terrigen Mist, she had a very confusing experience of going into a cocoon and hearing a voice ask her what she wanted to be. Kamala answered, “Captain Marvel,” and when she burst out of her cocoon, that’s exactly who she was, which obviously freaked her out a little. After a minute or two she figured out that she didn’t get Freaky Friday’ed, she was a shapeshifter.
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More importantly, Kamala learned that she didn’t need to be someone else to help others. Jersey City doesn’t need Carol Danvers, it needs Kamala Khan. She returned to her own form and came up with her own costume, inspired by both Carol Danvers’s Ms. Marvel-era costume and the salwar khameez, as a tribute to both her culture and the person who inspired her to heroism.
Since then, Kamala and Carol have actually met and worked together, with Captain Marvel giving Ms. Marvel superheroic pointers. Carol gave Kamala a special locator token made out of both of their symbols (the Hala Star and the lightning bolt) so Kamala could reach Carol whenever she needed her. They became colleagues and even friends, with Kamala joining the Avengers.
Unfortunately, one of Kamala’s biggest moments of growth as a hero was when she had to defy Captain Marvel during Civil War II, when Carol was relying on a teenage Inhuman named Ulysses to predict the future, arresting people before they could commit crimes, which eventually it turned out they might not even commit. Turning her back on Captain Marvel was hard for Kamala, but she couldn’t turn her back on her community either and violate due process and other rights of her friends and neighbors.
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It’s unlikely the MCU will revisit Civil War II in this way, but you can bet Kamala and Carol will have a close mentor/mentee relationship, similar to Tony Stark and Peter Parker. It would be powerful if they can find a way to incorporate the story beats, issues of justice, and emotional heft of the Civil War II story line in another way, to demonstrate Kamala’s maturity and Carol’s blindspot when it comes to racial profiling and the shortcomings of law enforcement and communities of color.
How Will Ms. Marvel Fit in the MCU?
A few things to note for this television show, which has us pretty excited. First, it’s live action. That means we’re going to be getting some cool effects for Kamala’s powers. Second, it’s going to be written and run by Bisha K. Ali, a British comedian and screenwriter whose work you might have seen on Netflix’s Sex Education or Mindy Kaling’s television version of Four Weddings and a Funeral on Hulu. Both shows are coming of age dramas with a lot of comedy and fun to them, which is pitch-perfect for Kamala.
Finally, and this is a big one: as Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige promised back in May, Ms. Marvel is part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is a Marvel Studios production. That means Kamala can be promoted to an Avengers movie as needed, and any number of her heroes can stop by Jersey City for a cameo to help out with a particularly tough villain, just like they do in the comics. Kamala is a fan first, so when Captain Marvel, Spider-Man, or anyone else stops by, she just about loses her noodles. And since there are new Marvel TV shows incoming with The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, WandaVision, Hawkeye, and Loki, there are bound to be some visitors. Hawkeye is meant to be training Kate Barton as his replacement and if she’s anything like her comic inspiration, a teen who is friends with Ms. Marvel, fans should expect Kate and Kamala to meet sooner rather than later. Ms. Marvel’s cameos seem to go best when her fangirling comes up against stern men who do their best to be unmoved by her boundless enthusiasm, so hopefully she’ll get to bug Falcon and Winter Soldier into begrudgingly loving her, too.
There’s no word yet on casting, but hopefully Disney will find a Pakistani-American who can bring Kamala’s goofy charm to life.
The rest of Kamala’s world is populated by her immediate family, including her somewhat conservative parents and devout brother Aamir, and her friends Bruno, Nakia, Mike, Zoe, and Josh. In Marvel Rising, she’s been seen as friends with Squirrel Girl, Quake, Spider-Gwen/Ghost-Spider, and other young heroes her age. Kamala tends to always be in diverse groups of young people on the rise. A big part of her identity is being part of the B-squad, a young and growing hero from a second-tier city. Even when she’s called up to the big leagues by major heroes, she tends to question it, much like Miles Morales in Into the Spider-Verse or Peter Parker in Spider-Man: Far From Home.
In the comics, Ms. Marvel has taken on gentrification and identity theft, Hydra and gerrymandering, multiple terrorist groups, and even a walking, talking evil cockatiel clone of Thomas Edison that preyed on teens with low self-esteem. She has worked with her hero Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and became a member of the Avengers. She eventually ditched the Avengers alongside her pals Miles Morales, Amadeus Cho, and Vision’s daughter and formed The Champions so they could do the real neighborhood-level work that the supposed big damn heroes were forgetting about.
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As one of Marvel’s most popular young heroes, it’s great to see Kamala Khan get the attention she deserves in the form of a show, especially with the flexibility to be part of the MCU. It’s also easy to imagine her fitting in with MCU characters like Tom Holland’s Spider-Man, Letitia Wright’s Shuri, and of course, Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel. As Marvel builds its future lineup, Kamala offers plenty of opportunities for visually stunning fights, crossovers with other characters, and a guileless enthusiasm that we could use a bit more of on our screens, whether big or small.