Superpowered accessories are quickly becoming a staple element of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After wrapping up a multi-part arc about a team’s efforts to negate a purple titan’s gaudiest fashion accessory, Ms. Marvel throws us into the story of a teen’s magical inherited bangle. Ms. Marvel is a comic-booky, meta look into superhero fandom-turned-superheroics, but it lands due to a talented cast of characters and a genuinely wonderful discovery with Iman Vellani, whose super-power appears to be infinite charm.
The series stars Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan (aka Ms. Marvel), a 16-year-old Pakistani-American high school student with a superhero obsession. Make that an obsession over one particular superhero, Captain Marvel, who she idealizes. She has a pair of close friends in Bruno Carrelli (Matt Lintz) and Nakia Bahadir (Yasmeen Fletcher), and has to deal with being a smidge of a social outcast while her overprotective mother Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and kind (though not exactly hip) father Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) well-meaningly stand in the way of her individuation.
The series’ aesthetic is a fun departure from many of the Marvel series that have come before, boasting a whimsical comic-book feel, loads of color and personality, and a bit of a meta-aesthetic befitting a hero whose journey starts as a fan in a world with heroes. It makes for a series that in many ways pulls the viewer into Kamala’s subjectivity more than we’ve seen in a few of the MCU series thus far.
The potential downside here is twofold. On the one hand, two episodes in it is hard to see if the series will overcome its current slightly childish tone—it’s fine to have a young-skewing series for a younger demographic, though it’s simultaneously limiting. On the other hand, it’s also hard to see what to expect going forward, beyond the standard Hero’s Journey and vague government opposition. For a 6-episode series, it would be nice to have a greater sense of where the series and its world are going.
All that said, Ms. Marvel has a lot going for it. The richness of its cultural specificity makes for a multifaceted world that truly feels lived-in—it feels grounded and authentic in a very refreshing way, and that nuance adds a depth to Kamala Khan’s teenage struggles that isn’t often shown in a series of this nature.
As for the cast itself, Iman Vellani is a wonderful find and addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. For a young actress with relatively few credits under her belt, Vellani boasts an absurd amount of on-screen charisma, charm, and comedic timing. This critic looks forward to her future appearance in “The Marvels” and beyond. The supporting cast all land as well, with Matt Lintz shining as her loyal best friend and Yasmeen Fletcher showcasing a stellar chemistry with Vellani (and loads of on-screen charisma on her own).
A short way into the series, it’s also interesting to see how the MCU develops Kamala’s powers. Controversially, it’s been widely known that her magical construct abilities diverge from her shapeshifting abilities (as developed in the comics). We thus far haven’t seen the former and have no hint of the latter… but Marvel is throwing curveballs these days, so it’s a large mystery what powers or levels of power we will see in the future.
In short, there’s a lot we don’t know about what’s in store in the series’ final four episodes. At the same time, Vellani and her talented cast of associates are absolutely charming enough to make for enjoyable traveling companions towards that curious end, and the series’ meta-comic-vibes are done in a fun, engaging way. It’s one of those magical series where the end-point isn’t all that clear but the journey may well be worth it either way—a stunner of a series so far.
Ms. Marvel premieres June 8th, 2022 on Disney+.