An enjoyable mix of superhero adventuring, coming-of-age drama, and family comedy.

Retrospective: MS. MARVEL Is An Enjoyable And Touching, If Standard, Origin Story

Kamala Khan is one of the more recent heroes to be introduced by Marvel Comics, and she made her Marvel Cinematic Universe debut even more recently in the Disney+ miniseries Ms. Marvel. With the character making her cinematic debut in The Marvels, now is a good time to look at the TV series.

Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is a Pakistani-American teenager living in Jersey City. She’s a Captain Marvel fangirl, a skilled artist, and has a dominating mother (Zenobia Shroff). When Kamala receives a bangle from her grandmother, it unlocks her powers and she becomes a local superhero. However, her powers gained the attention of the US government and people from another dimension.

Since the events of Avengers: Endgame, the MCU needed some flesh blood. Some of the major characters have left the franchise, and Kamala Khan offered something different since she’s young and from a different background than most superheroes. The series can be described as a superhero’s origin story if it was directed by Gurinder Chadha.

The comparison to Chadha is due to her filmography. She’s best known for making Bend It Like Beckham, and many of her films have focused on second-generation immigrant families, culture clashes, and coming-of-age. Ms. Marvel featured all of that. Kamala had a similar story: she was a typical teen with American sensibilities, like her clothing, but her family was more traditional. Kamala’s mum was telling her to get her head out of the clouds and not bother with this superhero nonsense.

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Ms. Marvel dealt heavily with the Muslim experience in America. One of the villains of the series was Sadie Deever (Alysia Reiner), an agent for the American government. Ms. Marvel shows the prejudice that Muslims suffered in post-9/11 America and the scrutiny they endured. It was a fresh perspective on the superhero genre and in American media.

The other dramatic thread in Ms. Marvel was Kamala’s journey of self-discovery. The series spelled this out early when Kamala met her school’s guidance counselor and he sets her an assignment to think about what she wants to do with her life. Kamala also learns of her family history, particularly her great-grandmother (since the bangle belonged to her), and Kamala’s mother wouldn’t talk about her. Kamala learned the truth about what happened to her great-grandmother during the partition of India, which gave the series its emotional heft.

Ms. Marvel can be compared to Spider-Man: Homecoming and, to a lesser extent, the DCEU’s Shazam. All of them were teenage-centric superhero stories. Tonally and visually, Ms. Marvel was similar to Spider-Man: Homecoming due to them both being lighter in tone, having high school drama, and the visual style. Kamala and Peter Parker would probably be friends if they met. Both characters sought to impress their idols, since Peter wanted to attract Tony Stark’s attention and become an Avenger, whilst Kamala was a big Captain Marvel fan since she was the one who changed the tide of the battle against Thanos. Kamala and Billy Batson had emotional stories about their identities. Kamala had to practice using her powers like Billy did in Shazam, and other characters in the MCU (i.e. Iron Man, Ant-Man, and Doctor Strange). Kamala was an artist in the series and her drawings were shown during the opening sequence and when Kamala described her plans. This felt like the end credits to both Spider-Man: Homecoming and Shazam, which also had that high schooler style of art.

Ms. Marvel was rated a 12 in the UK, the equivalent to PG-13. This is standard for a Marvel project, and it was a soft PG-13. Children below the age of 12 could watch the series without much trouble.

The issues that affected Ms. Marvel were the same other Marvel Disney+ series. Firstly, it had a story that could have been told through a film instead of a TV series. Ms. Marvel was a standard origin story that the MCU has done before but had extra subplots to help pad out the run time. Ms. Marvel felt much smaller in its scale and production values. It was notable that most of the action took place in community centers, hallways, and at a train station with no one else around. It looked more like an Arrowverse or a Marvel Netflix show.

Ms. Marvel had underwhelming villains. This has been an issue that afflicted many MCU projects. The main villains are The Djinns who were from another dimension and were threatening to destroy the mainstream MCU Earth, but the urgency and sense of danger were lacking in the show. The series needed a superpower menace but didn’t know how to use them.

Kamala was a likable character who led a likable series. The lead character and her journey gave the series a lot of heart. It was an enjoyable and sweet miniseries even if it was on a small scale.

Kieran Freemantle
Kieran Freemantle
I am a film critic/writer based in the UK, writing for Entertainment Fuse, Rock n Reel Reviews, UK Film Review and Meniscus Sunrise. I have worked on film shoots. I support West Ham and Bath Rugby. Follow me on Twitter @FreemantleUK.
An enjoyable mix of superhero adventuring, coming-of-age drama, and family comedy.Retrospective: MS. MARVEL Is An Enjoyable And Touching, If Standard, Origin Story