Move over, Moon Knight. Marvel Studios' next Disney+ origin story is here; and if Oscar Isaac's series intentionally avoided MCU connections, Ms. Marvel has adopted the exact opposite approach. Debuting June 8 on Disney+, Ms. Marvel follows a sixteen-year-old Pakistani teen, Kamala Khan, as she navigates her way through high school, family and friends, and her future while also gaining superpowers.
Created by Sana Amanat, G. Willow Wilson, and Adrian Alphona, Ms. Marvel's comic book run launched in 2014, where she quickly became one of Marvel's most popular characters.
It was in 2019 that Marvel Studios announced Kamala Khan would make the jump from the page to the screen with Ms. Marvel on Disney+, followed by an ensemble role in Brie Larson's 2023 Captain Marvel sequel, The Marvels.
So what can fans expect from Marvel Studios' adaptation of Ms. Marvel and her MCU debut? From what the first two episodes had to offer, this Disney+ series has the potential to go cosmic.
Meet Kamala Khan
Kamala Khan isn't just unique for how new her character is within the Marvel franchise and to fans. Next to Peter Parker's Spider-Man, she's the only other leading MCU hero audiences have seen within the high school setting. But Kamala doesn't stop there. She also breaks ground in other ways.
In addition to being the MCU's first Pakistani-American and Muslim superhero, she's also a die-hard fan of the Avengers, especially Captain Marvel. However, Kamala's parents don't necessarily get her obsession with Earth's mightiest heroes or how difficult it is to be a modern teenager while staying true to her family's traditions and beliefs.
Even though Pakistani culture may be new to some members of the audience, her struggles are universal, and her teenage persona is both organic and relatable without falling into overused archetypes.
For example, even though Kamala doesn't fit in with her school's social media elites and can be awkward and even clumsy, at other times, she's quite the opposite. Kamala's witty and creative, she knows her own mind, and she can be extremely confident. The fact that she varies with the situation makes her more human as opposed to being relegated as an all-time underdog.
Meet Iman Vellani
The actress cast to portray Kamala Khan is newcomer Iman Vellani who, much like Kamala, is an MCU super-fan. Instead of her character's love for the Avengers, Vellani is starstruck by Marvel Studios President Kevin Feige and has a shrine to Robert Downey, Jr.'s Iron Man.
Even though it's surprising that an unknown, inexperienced actress was cast for such an important role, Ms. Marvel's first two episodes support the fact that Vellani was the right one for the role.
Her performance is natural, sincere, and pitch-perfect in terms of the series' tone. Whether Kamala is excited about AvengerCon, struggling to connect with her parents, vulnerable with her friends, or simply overwhelmed at school, the audience feels it.
Don't expect a performance - expect to see someone familiar or elements of a younger version of yourself and from someone whose passion for the material shines through.
Ms. Marvel's Controversy
Leading up to Ms. Marvel's debut, much of the conversation has centered on Marvel Studios' decision to change Kamala Khan's powers.
In the comics, Kamala's Inhuman powers are activated by the Terrigen Mists, giving her the ability to "embiggen" her fists, stretch her limits, and alter her mass. But in the MCU, Kamala's powers are activated by an heirloom bangle bracelet that allows her to physically manifest light.
The change is a significant one, but according to Kevin Feige and Ms. Marvel producer Sana Amanat, Kamala's new on-screen power set not only ties into her role in The Marvels, but also her family history and heritage.
Just how and to what extent, as well as whether the comic book fans will accept this, remains to be seen.
But from what Ms. Marvel's first two episodes have shown, the design of her new power set looks fantastic. And, despite their cosmic connections, it seems that they better suit the grounded, real-world tone of this live-action show than if her limbs themselves were stretchy and elongated.
Still, it's worth noting that Kamala can still "embiggen" her fist with her purple and blue-hued energy, just as the show's trailers and TV spots have confirmed. Also, the idea to have her physically manifest light to help and save others is the perfect metaphor for who Kamala Khan is and who she will become; and given the recent events of the MCU, a little light is something Earth-616, as well as this one, could use more of.
Ms. Marvel's Many MCU Connections
Since Kamala Khan is an Avengers super-fan, MCU fans will truly feel seen in Ms. Marvel. Seriously, the Easter eggs and references are too many to count and they offer a fascinating perspective on what it's like living in the MCU following the events of Avengers: Endgame.
TV spots and Disney+ videos have already confirmed that Kamala attends AvengerCon at Captain America's Camp Lehigh in New Jersey, but the connections don't stop there. Not only are the nods and references fun, but they're also super meta and they add to the rewatchability of this show.
Ms. Marvel's Supporting Cast
Unlike other MCU projects, Kamala Khan's parents play a significant role in the series and are masterfully portrayed by Zenobia Shroff as Kamala's mother, Muneeba Khan, and Mohan Kapur as her father, Yusuf Khan. Their dynamic between each other and Kamala is realistic and pivotal to her character's journey.
Kamala's best friend and "guy in the chair" is genius-level gadget wizard, Bruno Carrelli, played by Matt Lintz, while Yasmeen Fletcher portrays Nakia Bahadir, Ms. Marvel's other close friend and whose character and talent shouldn't go unnoticed. Meanwhile, Saagar Shaikh is Kamala's brother, Aamir, and Travina Springer plays Tyesha Hillman, Aamir's fiance.
Other members of the cast range from Kamala's brother Aamir Khan, played by Saagar Shaikh, and his fiance Tyesha Hillman, played by Travina Springer. Rish Shah plays Kamran, a new student who Kamala has a crush on.
A surprising member of the cast, however, happens to be Arian Moayed, who's reprising his role as Agent Cleary from Spider-Man: No Way Home.
Ms. Marvel's Visuals
As Kamala Khan transitions from the comics into live-action, comic book graphics and animation are making the transition as well.
As the series' trailers and TV spots have shown, Ms. Marvel features a distinct visual style where Kamala's inner thoughts and daydreams are manifested via animation or noted with doodles. Not only are they extensions of Kamala's own creativity and imagination, but also a way for two mediums to become one and in a way that evokes Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.
Directors Adil El Arbi and Billal Fallah proposed the idea of infusing the series with animation and creative visuals, and it's definitely one of the show's highlights. However, it's not in every scene.
In fact, El Arbi and Fallah used it sparingly and rarely the same way twice. Just how many other ways the director will use the technique will be interesting to see as the series continues.
Why Ms. Marvel is Needed in the MCU
Following the darker and mystical Moon Knight and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Ms. Marvel's coming-of-age tale is a much-needed palate cleanser. But at the same time, it's more than just wholesome fun and high school hijinks.
Ms. Marvel has its own unique voice and something to say while also grounding the MCU in a way few projects ever have.
While the critical reactions have mostly been positive, it remains to be seen if Ms. Marvel will stick the superhero landing and do enough to satisfy fans of the comics. But so far, it looks like Kamala Khan's MCU debut could be one of the studio's best Disney+ projects to date and one that audiences won't just cheer for, but also relate to.
The first episode of Ms. Marvel premieres on Wednesday, June 8 on Disney+.