Ms. Marvel Review: Marvel’s Newest Teen Hero Shines in Debut
High school may be a drag but Marvel’s latest series Ms. Marvel isn’t. Marking the debut of Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel is a fun coming-of-age story with humor and heart that will get you invested in a superhero story taking place in Jersey City.
Kamala is just your average superhero-obsessed teenage girl trying to deal with her parents. Then she gets the power to generate cosmic-y constructs and things get way more complicated.
It’s easy to want to compare Kamala to the MCU’s other excitable teen hero, Peter Parker, but Kamala’s love of the Avengers makes Peter look chill in comparison.
She has her own YouTube account where she makes superhero fan videos. She builds her own cosplay. She goes to Avengers Con!
She is in all regards the epitome of a modern-day fangirl, and that’s something to be cheered not derided. She is passionate about something even if it’s not the things her parents want her to be passionate about, like preparing for college admissions.
Ms. Marvel’s star Iman Vellani brings boatloads of charisma as Kamala, and there’s never a question of why Marvel cast her. Vellani, a comic book fan herself, knows exactly the right amount of energy and sincerity to bring to the role that keeps Kamala relatable instead of veering into parody.
Her performance is supported by great chemistry with Kamala’s friends Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher).
Although fans didn’t get a teen hero origin story with the MCU’s Peter Parker, they’re getting one now with Ms. Marvel.
With Great Power Comes…
In a big change from the comics, Kamala’s powers are not activated by a Terrigen bomb (despite a certain recent film cameo it seems like Marvel still wants to put Inhumans behind it).
Instead, her powers come from a family heirloom that intertwines her origins as a superhero with the mystery of her great-grandmother to generate some intrigue. This dramatic departure is a big swing for the show since it rests on creating whole new mythology for the character.
It’s notable that Kamala Khan was Marvel’s first Muslim superhero in Marvel Comics and the character debuted less than a decade ago. She is also the first MCU hero to identify as Muslim on screen.
Phase Four in the MCU has seen a marked increase in diversity after the franchise was long dominated by white actors. Ms. Marvel takes that commitment beyond just labeling Kamala and commits to building a very real feeling world for her to exist in.
We see Kamala go to mosque and be part of a larger Muslim community in Jersey City. She grapples with her parents’ values, trying to figure out her own place in the world.
Kamala and her friend Nakia may question some aspects of their religion and culture, but that doesn’t mean they’re completely rejecting it.
The show doesn’t shy away from cultural specificity and is served well by that decision.
There are certainly grounded themes about identity and family in Ms. Marvel, but the show lacks any of the dark drama of past teen offerings of Marvel TV (Runaways, Cloak & Dagger).
The fact we don’t meet a villain at the top of the series, unless you’re counting mean girl Zoe (Laurel Marsden), sets the show apart from its Disney Plus predecessors. While it seems likely we might meet an antagonist later on in the series, the trials and tribulations of being a teenager with superpowers are conflict enough in the first two episodes.
Fans used to high stakes conflict in their Marvel stories may want to prepare themselves to just sit back and enjoy the ride. There are plenty of MCU connections to tide over the most rabid Marvel fan, something that was missing from Moon Knight.
Visually the show is one of Marvel’s best, combining an Amblin-esque quality with a modern pop aesthetic. With the fast pace of the show, you might almost miss some of the creative framing and details on screen so watch out.
The show’s soundtrack blending the score with rap and pop adds to the propulsiveness.
Kamala’s thoughts and daydreams, often illustrated as actual cartoons on the screen, give an energetic feeling to the show. If you think superhero stories are too dark, literally, then Kamala’s colorful, fluorescent world is sure to stand out.
With Ms. Marvel having a guaranteed future in the MCU with her appearance in The Marvels, there’s no question that die-hard fans will want to watch this. Even if you’re not a Marvel completionist though the show is worth checking out.
Ms. Marvel may be about a teenager, but fans of all ages will enjoy watching her journey to becoming a superhero.
Ms. Marvel premieres Wednesday, June 8 on Disney Plus.