Ever since Disney merged with Fox Studios, fans have been patiently waiting for the mutants to arrive in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Most would have never guessed that the big moment would have ended up being Ms. Marvel’s Iman Vellani.
Sure, Professor X was in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but this is the first real mutation to be discovered (at least for the audiences) on Earth-616. So, in the end, how did the Disney+ series fare in introducing fans to the first MCU mutant?
Let's take a look at the show's biggest criticisms and triumphs.
Triumph: Vellani the Superstar
Let’s get to the best part of the show: Iman Vellani is spectacular as Kamala Khan. She was born to play this role and is undoubtedly going to go on to become one of the most iconic elements of the MCU. What makes it all the better is how passionate the actress is about Marvel outside of the show—though that’s only the cherry on top.
Her youthful energy explodes off the screen, and her fangirling feels both real and relatable in a lot of ways. What’s even better is that none of it ever comes off as too much. Her intense personality and passion for people like Captain Marvel produce feelings of adoration instead of cringe.
Now, Kamala Khan did receive a ton of changes when it came to bringing her live-action counterpart to life compared to the source material. Were they all good changes?
At the end of the day, there doesn’t seem to have been any decent reason to have changed the character's power set so drastically. Her muddied origin shifts make sense, given the timing of the X-Men and not having any Inhumans already in play, but Kamala could have easily retained her stretchy skin.
Clearly, that isn’t what happened. However, despite the changes, her new powers work fine. But there’s still plenty of explanation to give audiences when it comes to the Noor, the Clandestines, those Kree connections, and how it all relates to being a mutant.
So, while it would have been neat to retain her Inhuman roots, having the X-Gene is an exciting direction for the character. It would have been nicer, though, if her general origin wasn’t so messy. While Kamala is overall a triumph for the MCU as a whole, the sloppiness of her origins is disappointing.
Hopefully, The Marvels helps clear things up.
Criticisms: the Villains Fall Flat
Sadly, with as many great things as there are to say about the series, the villains are not one of them. The introduction of Nimra Bucha’s Najma and the rest of the Clandestines was easily the weakest part of the show and is also the most common criticism from audiences across the board.
The group was suddenly rushed into the proceedings and were all dead not much later. They didn’t leave a mark and were entirely forgettable—not including the confusing lore they introduced, which still leaves lots of lingering questions.
What does being a Clandestine have to do with being a mutant? Is the Noor energy and its dimension directly related to all of that? Could it be a situation like (X-Men member) Magik’s connection to Limbo?
One change that could have helped a lot would have been to refrain from leaving New Jersey for Episodes 4 and 5. That deviation slowed down the show’s momentum and also yanked audiences away from the series’ cast.
This could have also given the Clandestines some more room to grow and actually become characters instead of angry goons wielding strange weapons. Additionally, the threat doesn’t always have to put the entire world in danger. Keeping the story smaller and focused on New Jersey for all six episodes would have been the smarter play.
By the finale, the Clandestine’s role in the show fell on Kamran’s shoulders. While the character and performance aren’t bad, the storyline of him getting powers and being abandoned by his mother did not get the time it needed.
So in that final episode, as Kamran is being hunted and eventually turns on the Department of Damage Control (DODC), a lot of the emotional impact of what was happening wasn’t there. Thankfully, the character is alive and kicking by the end, so he can always return in a potential second season.
As for the show’s other group of bad guys, the DODC, they were agonizingly dull. It’s a shame they had to take up so much time in the finale. They ended up being a group of government agents being bad for the sake of it.
When did the world get so hostile to powered people? Everything seemed to be going just fine in previous projects. That’s not to mention the fact that the Avengers saved half of existence.
Triumph: Kamala’s Support System
The supporting cast, aside from the aforementioned villains, is phenomenal. Not only are they all a blast to watch, but everyone’s dynamic with each other plays perfectly. This is shown off at its best when the Khans are ever in any room together. They bounce off of each other fluidly, and the whole family feels genuine.
Among the Khans, the person who should get the most props is Zenobia Shroff as Kamala’s mother. She plays the perfect stern but still caring parent—at no point was she so unreasonable that she became a comically bad person for audiences to hate. It was a great choice by the writers to give her the moment of making the iconic Ms. Marvel costume.
Matt Lintz’s Bruno deserves plenty of praise as well. Both Iman Vellani and Lintz had chemistry that was practically exploding off the screen every time they shared a scene. Hopefully, audiences get to see more of him sooner rather than later, especially since he has seemingly discovered the X-Gene.
Shoutout also goes to Yasmeen Fletcher, whose close friendship with Kamala is wonderful. The series certainly could have used far more of the two together.
Triumph: That Loveable Energy
The style of Ms. Marvel is one of its most unique aspects. From the kinetic energy flowing through most of the show, the creative and inventive use of graphic art across scenes, and the catchy music—it was all there.
Sadly, a lot of that energy was lost in Episodes 4 and 5, which hampered the overall personality of the project. Thankfully, it was able to regain some of that feel for its big finale.
Woven into the show’s DNA was its introduction to Muslim culture, something not often explored in big-name projects. It was exciting to witness and learn about Kamala’s culture and world experience organically and in a way that felt genuine, for the most part, at least.
Again, a finger does have to be pointed at the fourth and fifth installments. It was great to learn about Karachi and The Partition, but the manner in which the story deviated from doing so hurt the overall narrative. It didn’t help that the big twist in Episode 5 revolves around sketchy time travel rules that don’t seem to hold up against what was taught to audiences in Avengers: Endgame.
The MCU’s First Mutant Is a Triumph
Overall, Kamala Khan’s introduction to the MCU was a bonafide success story. Iman Vellani is incredible, and she is surrounded by a fantastic supporting cast that helps bring New Jersey City to life. When it came to the villains, both the Clandestines and DODC could have used a lot more work, as both are big factors in keeping the series from reaching greatness.
While many will still be miffed over the various dramatic changes to the character, at least the path to mutants in the MCU has finally begun. The biggest question is, what’s the next step in that journey?
Hopefully, Kamala Khan’s journey in The Marvels will help fill in some of the blanks when it comes to her genetic mysteries. Even more important, however, is finally getting to witness Ms. Marvel’s world gets shattered when she comes face to face with Carol Danvers herself.
Ms. Marvel is now streaming on Disney+.