Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel, and Iman Vellani have stormed the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Two episodes in, Ms. Marvel is being adored by the masses but is the victim of a review bombing online. It is a show that everyone is talking about, yet it has received some of the worst viewership numbers in MCU Disney+ history.
Despite the overall positive vibes surrounding the show, one particular polarizing aspect has been the alteration of Kamala Khan's powers in the MCU.
The power change for Ms. Marvel in live-action has been one of the hottest debates in the comic book movie community. In the comics, her embiggening powers are traditionally stretchy and morphic in nature. In the MCU Disney+ series, they are going with a more cosmic, Green Lantern style to display these powers. The origin of her powers goes from Terrigen Mist, which unlocks her Inhuman ability, to a family heirloom that seemingly does the same thing.
The tweaks to the powerset of this fan-favorite comic book character have left many long-time readers outraged, while MCU-first fans don't seem to be as passionate about the adaptation. However, it looks like the debates online and amongst fans were also present in the writers' room when these decisions were made.
The Great Kamala Khan Debate
In a recent interview with Entertainment Weekly, the head writer for Ms. Marvel, Bisha K. Ali, was asked about the power change for the lead character and what went into the decisions behind the live-action adaptation. Many showrunners and actors have been asked similar questions throughout the press run for the show. Still, Ali admits that this decision was "hotly debated" amongst the MCU powers that be.
"That's a big old question, and look, I get the vibe. I'm also a fan of the comic books, and I know what it is to be a fangirl. It was a huge decision. It certainly wasn't me rocking up and being like, "Let's throw out the powers!" That is not my vibe at all.
It was a big conversation between me and Kevin [Feige, president of Marvel Studios] and Sana, right from the start, of how we translate this to the screen. The thing that was really vital to me was that in the comic books, her powers are inherently connected to her internal journey — how she feels about herself, how she's navigating the world, how she perceives herself. Whatever we changed them to had to have that same connectivity with her psychology and the journey she's going through and the way she sees herself. I think we really accomplished that. I think if fans can give it a chance, they might see our reasoning."
While maintaining the character's spirit was of primary importance, other factors played into this deviation from the source material. Ali talks about the "legacy visual storytelling" of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and adapting that into this version of Ms. Marvel.
"The other piece of it is looking at the Marvel of it all and how we have this legacy of visual storytelling in the MCU. It's a different story than what exists in the comics. What's important for Kamala in this show and in the future is that it all links up and is connected. So the power changes were hotly debated."
So, while Marvel fans have had these debates in Twitter threads and comment sections for months, the show's creators were talking through the same narrative. The balance between keeping to what is true about the character and implementing her in the most extensive and most successful movie universe of all time was a challenge - one that fans have taken passionate stances on.
What Ms. Marvel's Power Change Means for Her Future
These are the kinds of stories that come out about the behind-the-scenes process of the MCU that builds the lore of this universe. Some of the most beloved MCU projects are written, directed, acted, and produced by people who genuinely care about the characters, the fanbase, and the legacy of Marvel Comics. That is a creative quality that CCO Kevin Feige and his team have been able to capture time and time again, and it shows.
This power change for Ms. Marvel is one of the internet's best because there are legitimate reasons to love and hate the decision.
For fans who were introduced to this universe through the movies and tv shows, this is the type of creative decision that Marvel Studios makes that ends up being home runs more often than not. However, for comics fans, who have been reading Ms. Marvel since day one of her short existence in this lexicon, this can be perceived as an oversized hand-slap to the face the fans.
This quote by Ali should be printed on posters and hung up in comic book shops worldwide. It proves that she and the Marvel Studios team were keeping in mind the integral nature of these powers to the story of Kamala Khan.
Maintaining that theme is essential to a proper live-action adaptation of Ms. Marvel. When the brains behind the product understand and care about the passion fans have for these things, it is transparent when the show hits Disney+.
But Ali was not done easing the minds of disgruntled fans. Along with the idea that changing a powerset could impact the characterization of Kamala Khan, there was also the Jurrasic Park notion of "just because you can, doesn't mean you should."
Bisha K. Ali and her team understood the assignment of bringing a beloved comic book character to life more than 30 projects into a cinematic universe that is getting larger weekly. Making sure the spirit of the comics translates is job 1A. Making it feel like a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe is job 1B.
Marvel Studios has built a legendary history of visual storytelling and makes this universe feel cohesive down to the finest detail. While the stretchy teenager Ms. Marvel walks in step with the living photon blast Captain Marvel in the pages of a comic book. Live-action is a different beast. Having Iman Vellani's Ms. Marvel looks and feels like a part of not just the MCU, but Captain Marvel's branch of the MCU is vital to their prowess in multi-project storytelling.
Fans can't know how this cosmic makeover in Ms. Marvel will tie into Iman Vellani's subsequent role in The Marvels. But if Marvel Studios has proven anything, it will matter a tremendous amount to the story. Virtually nothing in the MCU is done for no reason, and with a character like Ms. Marvel, Feige and Co. know how important this is.
They are not changing her powers for no reason. Instead, they are changing her abilities to tell the best story for this universe.