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Ms. Marvel: The powers, the origin, and the future of MCU's Kamala Khan (and her comic book roots)

Introducing Kamala Khan to the MCU

Since the days of Spider-Man’s debut, we have been intrigued by relatable superheroes, the type of heroes where readers can see a little bit of themselves. This is one of the many reasons Kamala Khan’s Ms. Marvel became an overnight success when her ongoing series by G. Willow Wilson and Adrian Alphona launched in 2013. This critically-acclaimed darling led to further solo runs and Ms. Marvel even creating her own team of superheroes with the Champions.

Now those adventures have been adapted into a live action Ms. Marvel television show starring Iman Vellani, for Disney+. And just like the Disney+ Marvel shows that have come before (WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Hawkeye, Loki, Moon Knight, and What If?), Ms. Marvel will be connected to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe.

Popverse has already watched the first two episodes of Ms. Marvel, so make sure you read our review.

Who is Ms. Marvel AKA Kamala Khan?

As a super fan of Carol Danvers, it was only fitting that Kamala’s first appearance would be in Captain Marvel #14 (2013). She made a small appearance at the end of the issue to tease her own ongoing title that would release a few months later, where Kamala became the first Muslim Marvel hero to headline her own series.

At the time Marvel had an Inhumans movie in the works, which would later become a one season ABC television show. With a future MCU project on its way, Marvel created an initiative to bring the Inhumans back into the spotlight. This meant introducing new Inhumans to their comic book line up, including Ms. Marvel herself.

In Ms. Marvel #1, Kamala is introduced as a normal teenage girl. She deals with school bullies, likes getting slurpies with her best friend Bruno, and, of course, she LOVES writing fan fiction about her favorite Avengers. But then she becomes 'not so normal' when a mystery gas unlocks her Inhuman gene, which unleashes her power to stretch and manipulate her body.

The key to Ms. Marvel’s success is that her superhero adventures are tied to the very things that made her a normal teen – her friendships with Zoe, Nakia, and Bruno, her school life, and her love for superheroes (a fandom that still sticks with her even when she becomes a hero herself). She was a relatable character for teens just getting into comic books and a fresh story for long time fans who wanted a modern tale with an authentic, well-rounded supporting cast.

Kamala became the friendly neighborhood superhero for a new era of Marvel Comics, but instead of focusing on New York City, like many of the publisher’s other heroes, the book put a spotlight on Jersey City. The city became as much of a character as Kamala herself, showcasing its melting pot!

Image from Ms. Marvel comic of Kamala Khan and friends hugging. Caption reads: you won't have to beat it alone! Artist: Adrian Alphona

Ms. Marvel’s powers

As mentioned above, in comics Ms. Marvel is an Inhuman with the ability to extend and manipulate her body—a power she has used on a few occasions to shape shift, including in her first appearance where she shapeshifted into her favorite superhero, Captain Marvel.

Following G. Willow Wilson’s monumental 60-issue run, Saladin Ahmed wrote Magnificent Ms. Marvel in which he gave Kamala a Kree Stormranger Nanosuit, which acted similarly to Spider-Man’s symbiotes. And just like in the cases of Carnage and Venom, the suit was a bit malicious, making her powers stronger, but simultaneously fighting for control. In the long run, the suit was eventually ditched.

In the MCU, Kamala Khan's powers come from another source - her nani's bangle (they're powerful, you know!). While the full story on this power sources remains to be seen, they appear to give her super strength/durability/agility, energy blasts, and to create crystal-like formations - and also, embiggening like in comics.

Ms. Marvel’s Allies and Villains

Ms. Marvel has made close connections with both her idol Captain Marvel and her mentor Iron Man. She is currently part of Marvel’s newest teen superhero team, Champions, where she’s formed friendships with the likes of Sam Alexander (Nova), Amadeus Cho (Hulk), Janet Van Dyne (Wasp), Miles Morales (Spider-Man, Riri Williams (Iron Heart) and Viv Vision.

Unlike many other legacy characters, Ms. Marvel doesn’t share many of the same villains as her predecessor, Captain Marvel. Her best villains are the ones tied to both Ms. Marvel the superhero and Kamala Khan the teenage girl from Jersey City. These villains include the likes of: Josh, Red Dagger, and Doc.X.

Josh is actually a fellow student from Kamala’s high school and the ex-boyfriend of Zoe Zimmer (one of Kamala’s best friends and her former bully). Following their breakup, Josh became the villain known as Discord, teaming up with C.R.A.D.L.E – an organization created to lock away teenage superhero vigilantes. Josh knows both of Kamala’s dual identities, which makes him one of her most dangerous foes.

Doc.X is not human, but instead a computer “troll” that’s dug up personal information about Kamala, including her secret identity. He went undercover at Kamala’s school to dig up even more dirt on her and threatened to reveal her secret identity to the world. In the long run, Ms. Marvel’s secret identity was safe, but he did leak some of her friend’s secrets - including Zoe’s queerness to the whole school.

Red Dagger was first introduced as an ally and A LOVE INTEREST. They both connected on the fact that they were both Inhumans and their parents were friends. She even shared a kiss with him. The first Ms. Marvel trailer has teased that Red Dagger will also be making an appearance in the television show. Will he be a friend or a foe?

Ms. Marvel Disney+ Poster. Ms. Marvel sits on top of a streetlight, looking out at a skyline

Who is Ms. Marvel in the MCU?

Much of the basics of Kamala Khan have carried over from comics to the MCU- she's a high school student based in Jersey City, and is a huge fan of the Avengers - particularly Captain Marvel. While the genesis of her powers has changed (as we've discussed), the result is still largely the same.

There are many clues that the story is going to follow G. Willow Wilson’s first volume 'No Normal' including the story beats between best friends Bruno and Kamala, Zoe still being a bully (and her redemption arc), and the overall push to tell Kamala’s year one adventures.

Every Marvel movie has focused on different genres to create their own voice, and we’ve seen a similar approach to the Disney+ television shows as well. Wanda/Vision focused on the use of old sitcoms, Hawkeye was essentially an eight-hour Christmas movie, and now Ms. Marvel is delivering a teen television show with and for ACTUAL teens. They didn’t Dawson’s Creek the cast. They look and act like teenagers. A refreshing take, for not just Marvel, but the television landscape as a whole.

Here's what to watch before (and after, and during) Disney+'s Ms. Marvel.

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Kat Calamia avatar
Kat Calamia: Kat Calamia is the co-writer and co-creator of the queer WEBTOON, Slice of Life, and the editor/creator of Bi Visibility: A Bisexual Comic Book Anthology. She's been a comic book critic and journalist for over a decade with weekly reviews on her YouTube channel, Comic Uno, and bylines from Newsarama, IGN, DC Comics, Fandom and TV Guide. She has a Bachelor's Degree in Communications with a minor in Journalism through Marymount Manhattan College and a MFA in Writing and Producing Television from LIU Brooklyn.
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