This post contains spoilers for MS. MARVEL episode 3, SHANG-CHI AND THE LEGEND OF THE TEN RINGS, and CAPTAIN MARVEL.
Thus far, Ms. Marvel showrunner Bisha K. Ali has given simple explanations for the change in the title character’s powerset. Where the Kamala Khan of the comics gained the ability to alter the shape and size of her body after exposure to Terrigen Mists released by the Inhumans, the television version uses a bangle to form energy constructs.
But in episode three of Ms. Marvel, we get a glimpse of the bangle’s origin, and with it, connections to the larger MCU that go much deeper than previously assumed. The episode opens with a flashback to British-occupied India in 1942, where Najma and Kamala’s great-grandmother Aisha sort through a temple razed by colonizers. They finally uncover a severed blue arm wearing the bangle, and although Aisha notes that they need two to return home, they take the bangle anyway. In this brief scene, we get many references to the wider Marvel universe, revealing Kamala’s story to go far beyond her New Jersey stomping grounds.
Linking to Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Shortly after discovering the bangle, Aisha and Najma look up in horror as the oncoming British forces cause the temple to crumble. When they look up, the camera cuts to an overhead shot, revealing a pattern on the floor consisting of ten rings with crossed swords in the center. This image goes back all the way to the start of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as the flag flown by the Ten Rings, the terrorists who kidnapped Tony Stark in Iron Man.
In Iron Man 3 and the spin-off short “Hail to the King,” we learn that the terrorists co-opted the name of a legendary warlord, using the title “The Mandarin” as a figurehead to scare up support for increased military funding. Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings goes even further, showing the inspiration for the Mandarin to be Xu Wenwu, an ancient warlord whose power derives from the ten rings he wears as bracelets on each arm (a break from the ten rings worn on each finger of the comic-book Mandarin).
Shang-Chi explores the powers granted by the rings, which eventually pass to the titular hero, Wenwu’s son, who uses them to thwart the demonic Dweller in the Darkness. In the movie’s post-credit sequence, Shang-Chi and his partner Katy are summoned by Sorcerer Supreme Wong to investigate the rings alongside Captain Marvel and Bruce Banner. While none of the trio can identify the source of the rings, they do note that they are far more than 1000 years old and that they are sending out a signal to an unknown receiver.
Captain Marvel and Agents of SHIELD
While Carol Danvers doesn’t recognize the source of Shang-Chi’s rings, Kamala’s bangle may be more familiar. When Aisha and Najma find the bangle in 1942, it’s still connected to a severed arm. The fact that the arm is severed disturbs them, but not the fact that the arm is blue. MCU fans will probably not be shocked either, as we’ve regularly seen blue-skinned aliens as members of the Kree empire. A militaristic society bent on order and domination, Kree provided the primary Guardians of the Galaxy antagonist Ronan the Accuser and the source of Carol Danvers’s powers in Captain Marvel.
The Kree also appeared in several episodes of Agents of SHIELD. Throughout the series, Phil Coulson and his agents discover a history of Kree experimentation on humans, activities that resulted in superpowered people, including the Inhumans. The Kree also entered into treaties with Hydra for their own ends, giving the Nazi splinter group weapons of extraordinary power. The Agents learn that Kree have been working on Earth for centuries, even as they go to war with other races, such as the Skrulls.
In the comics, the Kree are at the center of the origins of Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel. Because they created the Inhumans, their technology results in Ms. Marvel gaining abilities. Furthermore, many of the heroes who used the moniker Captain Marvel were themselves Kree – especially the original Captain Marvel Mar-Vell and his son Genis-Vell – both of whom derived their abilities from Nega-Bands, the bracelets they wore on their wrists. Given the history of Kree interference already established in the MCU, it wouldn’t be surprising if the race brought the bangle to Earth.
Revealing the ClanDestine
Perhaps the deepest connection is also the one most clearly stated. Midway through the episode, Najma reveals that she, Aisha, and their compatriots are ancient aliens from another dimension, who have been mistaken for various mystical creatures, including the djinn who haunted young Kamala. But they call themselves the Clandestine, refugees trying to return to their home dimension of Noor.
That reference may be lost on even the most dedicated Marvel Zombie. Created by Alan Davis, the ClanDestine came to be when English warrior Adam Destine fell in love with Elalyth the djinn in the 12th century. Over hundreds of years, Adam and Elalyeth have several children, each of whom has amazing abilities and interact in human history, not always for the best. The stories are vintage Davis, combining myth and sci-fi for humorous and absurd hijinks, much like he did on his best-known comic book, the X-Men spin-off Excalibur.
By giving the team interdimensional origins, the MCU ClanDestine departs greatly from its comic book roots. But the connections already shown suggest that the series may use the ClanDestine to tie Ms. Marvel to other parts of the Marvel Universe. In the comics, the ClanDestine regularly met up with the Fantastic Four and the X-Men, two big properties that we all want to see in the MCU.
What Does It Mean?
Ranging from Shang-Chi and Iron Man to Captain Marvel and Inhumans, Kamala’s bangle brings together the cosmic and the earthbound in surprising ways. Given the ominous tone of the Shang-Chi mid-credits sequence, the continued instances of multiverses, and the looming threat of Kang the Conqueror, Ms. Marvel may have a bigger role in the next chapter of the MCU narrative than previously assumed.