Starring: Iman Vellani, Matt Lintz, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur;
Series created by: Bisha K. Ali; Character created by: G. Willow Wilson, Sana Amanat, Adrian Alphona, Jamie McKelvie.
The MCU's Kamala Khan is a Pakistani-American teenage girl who wants nothing more than to save the day, or even a small neighborhood in her native Jersey City, like her idol, Captain Marvel. This fantasy becomes reality as Kamala gains her own set of powers and must navigate her life with these new complications.
"We don't root for a character because of the fact that they can shoot webs or make giant fists; we root for their humanity and their moral code and their motivations for why they fight. That's what matters."
— Iman Vellani.
Ms. Marvel is a delightful change of pace for the MCU; devoid of cosmic threats and threats of multiversal destruction, this series takes time to breathe and address the most important aspect of Ms. Marvel: the character herself. Episode 1, "Generation Why", left us with Kamala discovering she has powers after a rather eventful AvengerCon. Episode 2, "Crushed", picks up after this, giving us our first look at the early stages of Kamala becoming Ms. Marvel.
"Crushed" divides its time between superpower training montages (which are always welcome) and a closer look at the Pakistani-American aspects of Kamala's life. Many fans were disappointed about the change to Kamala's powers in this tv series; in the comics she "embiggens" (stretches), but in the show she utilizes "hard light" constructs, after wearing a bangle sent by her grandmother. After seeing the final result in action, I can honestly say that the showrunners made the right call to give us the best version of Ms. Marvel.
Both abilities lean into the theme of identity that sits at the heart of the character. The series ties Kamala's powers to her cultural history, the bangle from which they originate having its own complicated story.
Ms. Marvel depicts the first Pakistani-American superhero, a critical element of the character that finds an advocating and safe place with these showrunners. The series sticks closely to Kamala as she lives her day to day life (duh, the show is about her), which includes casually speaking Urdu and attending services at her mosque; however, these aspects of her life are not made into Kamala's whole identity. Nor is this one-dimensional approach applied to other characters. Nakia, who thankfully gets more airtime this episode, is a prime example of this.
Nakia covers her hair (Kamala does not), but she also rocks Versace shoes and a progressive mindset. This representation comes off as natural, a representation of real experiences (minus superpowers). Jersey City feels lived-in because of this attention to detail with every character. Episode 2 ups the ante on expanding Kamala's social circle and introducing us to new characters, yet it never feels overwhelming or unnecessary. I feel I'm learning more and more about why Kamala wants to be a hero, and I'm coming to see why she already is one.
Even with no explicit villainy afoot in Jersey City, Ms. Marvel continues to save my day every Wednesday. I often forget I'm watching an MCU entry as I'm enraptured by the sheer creative storytelling and intricately curated character work. Even still, once the powers get going, this show only gets cosmically better.
Though episode 1 was great, episode 2 left me with no doubt that the Next Generation of the MCU is looking bright. I give episode 2 of Ms. Marvel 5 out of 5 POPS and recommend you keep up with the show as it airs new episodes on Disney+ every Wednesday!
Iman Vellani is Ms. Marvel. Her insights and take on the character are super fascinating as well as eye-opening to the power of representation. In the spirit of this representation, this week's Recommended Reading list center on interviews with Iman Vellani as well as a more in-depth look at how Ms. Marvel showcases Pakistani and Muslim culture.
Austin Kemp read Batman #315 (Batman vs Kite Man) when he was 5 years old, and hasn't stopped reading comics since. Austin is a college writing teacher and has a masters degree in Comics Studies. Austin and his partner, Savanah, live in Massachusetts with their master, a cat named Chaplin.