The seventh television series in the ever-enlarging Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ms Marvel tells the story of Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a Pakistani-American teenager living in Jersey City. Kamala is an aspiring artist with a passion for superheroes but feels out of place at school and home, and is uncertain about what she wants to do with her life. These problems become more complicated when a magical bangle gives her superpowers, piling the responsibilities and trials of being a superhero on top of her existing identity crises.
Kamala is the first Muslim superhero in the MCU and her story reflects that, using the explorations of identity inherent to superhero stories as an effective vehicle for investigating the complexities of Muslim identity. From the visuals to the writing, Ms Marvel is saturated with an authentic and sincere depiction of the Muslim experience, touching on a number of cultural and societal talking points with care and passion. It’s a very grounded story, still connected to the media juggernaut of the MCU, but thankfully able to exist as a standalone narrative, putting Kamala’s very engaging character arc above the series’ position in the greater cinematic universe.
Kamala’s story isn’t treading particularly new ground outside of the context of the MCU, and this specific cultural examination has been done before, but it’s nevertheless done well here, with the show managing to tell a familiar story effectively with a distinct visual flair. It also carefully avoids falling into cliches about the Muslim experience – the strict parents and religious relatives are here, but they’re handled with nuance and supported by strong performances from the cast.
Vellani steals the show as Kamala, bringing the perfect energy and emotion to the role and presenting Kamala’s complex character journey flawlessly. Her excellent performance is bolstered by the supporting cast: Matt Lintz is an effective counterpart as Bruno Carelli, Kamala’s best friend, and Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur and Saagar Shaikh are great as Kamala’s family, bringing out new and compelling facets of Vellani’s performance in their interactions.
Overall, Ms Marvel is off to a very strong start, delivering a story filled with enthusiasm and charm that’s a breath of fresh air among the generally narratively and visually homogenous entries in the MCU. On paper, it’s a fairly standard superhero origin story, but it works with that simplicity to create something that’s at once recognisable and excitingly new.
Ms Marvel is released on Disney+ on 8th June 2022.
Watch the trailer for Ms Marvel here: