Slight spoilers for the premiere episode ahead
Sometimes, you want to have fun as a superhero, you know? The MCU has been wading in the heavy undercurrent of grief and trauma as we revisit the remaining characters post-blip. But on the other side, a new generation of characters is emerging, forever inspired by their battles. In the Hawkeye series, Kate Bishop found her hero in Clint, seeing the Battle of New York. It’s a similar track for Pakistani-American Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) and her admiration for Captain Marvel — the opening minutes of Ms. Marvel features a voice-over from Khan raving about how Cap beat up Thanos as her illustrations come alive.
The excitement and wonder of what it would feel like to have powers shines brightly in Ms. Marvel‘s premiere episode. It’s not all doom and gloom in the MCU’s universe — there’s a next-generation who sees hope through the rubble and those we’ve lost. For this series, in particular, the importance is rooted in someone who is not a millionaire or an expert in hand-to-hand combat. Kamala is a high school junior who lives in Jersey City, trying to figure life out while wondering if there’s something greater. Manhattan’s skyline takes Kamala away from the life of familial/guidance counselor expectations and college applications.
Directors Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah balance the cartoony and wondering world in Kamala’s head, her Muslim heritage, and how previous events concerning the Avengers have affected the world in a fun way. We got to see the socio-economic consequences of millions of people disappearing (and reappearing) in The Falcon and Winter Soldier. With Ms. Marvel, Kamala just wants to go to Avengers-Con with her best friend Bruno (Matt Lintz). But the life of a superhero isn’t all rosy — there’s that thing called responsibility — even for aspiring ones.
Kate Bishop often bumped heads with her mother over her wanting to save the world, and Peter Parker had to balance his real life and web-slinging duties. Ms. Marvel provides a different aspect of that plight, with its cultural elements, that writer Bisha K. Ali interweaves in this origin story. Kamala is proud of her Muslim heritage and feels a pull from the American influences she grew up with. Her mother, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), is strict and would instead, her daughter to stick to her studies rather than want to fight off aliens. The premiere establishes how hard it is to live up to your family’s expectations while trying to create an identity outside it. In one scene, Kamala goes shopping with Muneeba, and Muneeba talks to friends about a lady who is not married and travels to different countries. While Kamala gets bright-eyed, that lifestyle is frowned upon.
Outside stringent curfews, there’s no slowing down time. Kamala is growing up, but not losing that sense of wonder. However, her trying to be everything to everyone is going to be difficult. Her parents try to indulge in her love for the Avengers in a briefly hilarious scene, but it then turns to heartbreak because of the generational divide. Iman Vellani brings a delightful energy to this character — whether it be geeking out with Bruno or having a heart-to-heart with her brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh). Vellani’s performance gets you invested in Ms. Marvel in just the first episode. The stylistic choices using doodles from Kamala’s notebooks alongside backdrops and descriptions of plot points make things seem fresh.
The powers which Kamala gains are touched upon and have some ties to her family history. Some visual kinks have to be worked on concerning how her powers look. As seen in previous Disney+ shows, Marvel likes to go into a particular theme gradually, and it seems like this will be no different. Ms. Marvel‘s premiere will feel recognizable because the template of a teenager trying to dive into impossibilities will resonate with anyone. There aren’t any bad guys or secret organizations to attend to (yet), but someone who is trying to satisfy all parts of themselves. That prospect may be jarring for fans who expect a potent antagonist from the get-go. But Kamala is figuring things out. From that alone, there are a lot of stories to mine and cultivate.
Photo Credit: Disney/Marvel