Know Your Marvels: Ms. Marvel
A new superheroine is coming to the MCU, and she’s going to shatter barriers along the way; this is our Know Your Marvels series, and today we discuss Ms. Marvel.
Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to Kamala Khan, the teenager who idolizes Carol Danvers and eventually replaces her.
But just who is this young hero? Let’s find out!
Who Is Kamala Khan?
Before we discuss that, we should answer the question, “Who is G. Willow Wilson?”
In 2007, the unknown writer earned acclaim for her work in a graphic novel called Cairo, although that was far from her first claim to fame.
As a reporter, she’d previously become the first Western journalist to interview an especially divisive Grand Mufti, the leader of Egypt.
- Willow Wilson is a badass.
After Cairo, she started working on a groundbreaking comic book project called Air, a 24-book series that deserved a better fate. It’s brilliant.
If you can find a copy of Air digitally, buy it and read it.
Somewhere along the line, the New Jersey native converted to Islam, a decision that has impacted Marvel Comics profoundly.
After returning home to the United States, Wilson wrote Alif the Unseen, a masterpiece that won the 2013 World Fantasy Award. Bad. Ass.
Soon afterward, Marvel came calling and asked the rising talent what she wanted. She chose to add a touch of sorely needed representation to Marvel.
Wilson wrote the character of Kamala Khan, a 16-year-old Pakistani-American Muslim New Jersey resident who discovers that she’s an Inhuman.
Her superpowers allow her to change her shape. Khan is a polymorph who can expand and contract her body at will. Think of her as a new-age Plastic Man.
Because of Wilson’s writing skill, Khan quickly became an overnight sensation in Marvel Comics, an anchor character on the level of Miles Morales.
Not coincidentally, Marvel wanted to tell that same story in the MCU. Enter complete unknown Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan, savior of Jersey City.
Is Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel?
She will be. She definitely aspires to be.
At the start of the comics, Khan draws inspiration from her idol, Carol Danvers. Marvel actually planned this one out well in the comics.
Khan watches personally as Danvers subdues the ever-dangerous Yon-Rogg. This happens in Captain Marvel #14, which was released before Ms. Marvel.
So, when Khan gains her abilities, she makes an outfit akin to the classic Ms. Marvel look.
You can think of this character as a superfan who grows nearly as powerful as her hero.
However, she’s still a teen girl struggling with her dual identities in a society that doesn’t treat minorities well.
More importantly, Vellani is TINY, an intentional casting choice. She looks small and fragile, making it all the more shocking when she beats up thugs.
I’d answer the question by saying that during the first part of Ms. Marvel the TV series, Khan isn’t Ms. Marvel. She’s someone innocently performing trademark infringement.
What’s the Plan for Ms. Marvel?
The magic word here is representation. Despite Marvel’s best efforts, the MCU hasn’t featured enough female superheroines yet.
We’ve had even fewer who aren’t lily white, and the only teenager running around the MCU is currently a Sony license, Peter Parker.
Marvel is taking a new approach here. It’s retelling the same Spider-Man story in broad strokes.
We’ll meet a teenager in one of New York City’s boroughs, the unofficial sixth one of Jersey City. He She will gain remarkable abilities and try to harness them.
All the while, she will struggle with the existing challenges of high school. That sounds overly familiar, doesn’t it? If she gets a spider-bite, Sony might sue.
Just as importantly, Ms. Marvel will show the challenges of being a Pakistani-American Muslim, a subject that hasn’t been explored enough in modern cinema.
In truth, I have difficulty in thinking of qualifying examples in major movies or TV shows. The Big Sick is the closest one I can name, and it’s a man.
So, we’re definitely talking about a rare kind of representation. Even if you don’t care about that topic, you’ll still be interested for one simple reason.
Kamala Khan is incredible.
Seriously, in only the past decade, Harley Quinn has evolved into a pop culture icon.
However, three other comic book characters have either followed that same trajectory or will do so soon.
I already referenced Miles Morales, the main character in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. The female lead in that, Gwen Stacey, is another.
Then, there’s Kamala Khan. That’s the holy trinity of rising Marvel characters. Of course, none of them rivals Harley Quinn…yet.
Still, that’s the scope of popularity we’re discussing if Ms. Marvel works as a TV series.
How Will This Story Fit into the MCU?
Oddly, the plan here fits similarly to what Marvel has set in motion with WandaVision.
In that story, two different characters from that story elevated their profile before appearing in other MCU movies.
Wanda plays the heavy in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Meanwhile, Monica Rambeau will flex her new Infinity Stone-granted powers in The Marvels. Hold that thought.
By the end of Ms. Marvel or at the start of The Marvels, Khan will earn the respect of Carol Danvers.
At this point, she will become the official Ms. Marvel, an essential moniker in Marvel Comics. However, it’s not one that Danvers herself has held in the MCU.
Captain Marvel started with that captain title and has since earned a promotion to Master of the Universe or something akin to it.
Seriously, the two most powerful beings in the MCU right now are Carol Danvers and Wanda Maximoff.
Since Rambeau’s powers come from an Infinity Stone, she might be in the top five as well.
Marvel has cleverly introduced the notion that the Infinity Stones grant the most power. But Kamala Khan possesses nothing on that level.
She’s a teen girl with superpowers she barely understands. At some point, she will interact with Danvers and become a protégé.
The two women will join Monica Rambeau and become The Marvels, a “family of heroes” who battle the evils of the MCU.
With The Mutants and First Family also coming soon, Marvel is committing to family-based super-teams over the next few years.
Ms. Marvel represents the first step on that roadmap…or second, depending on how you evaluate WandaVision.