Everyone loves an underdog. Everyone loves a dreamer. When Ms. Marvel begins, our titular heroine, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) is an Avengers fan who doubts that brown girls from New Jersey are capable of saving the world. A mysterious family heirloom soon shows her that everything she thought she knew about herself, and her destiny, is about to change.
We’re introduced to Kamala as she puts together a YouTube video about the heroic feats of Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel. Thanks to news reports and podcast interviews, Avengers fans have been able to piece together what occurred during the climatic battle shown in Avengers: Endgame. As far as the world knows, Carol Danvers was the hero who turned the tide of the battle and saved the day. Kamala spends much of her time daydreaming and wishing she was as extraordinary as Captain Marvel.
Kamala has her head in the clouds and everyone from her parents to her high school guidance counselor are concerned about her future. They think she should spend her junior year of high school planning for college and a career, and less time obsessing over the activities of Captain Marvel and The Avengers.
Kamala’s classmates view her as awkward and out of place, and teachers mispronounce her name without a second thought. Lucky for her, she has friends like Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) to provide moral and emotional support throughout her high school journey.
A mysterious bangle and an Avengers Convention send Kamala’s life down a path she could have never anticipated. She’s suddenly capable of wielding cosmic constructs and uses this power to save lives. With this gift comes new confidence and new dangers.
Kamala Khan is a character you can’t help but root for. She’s an adorable, dorky Avengers fangirl. Iman Vellani brings so much spunk, charm, and heart to the role. She perfectly encapsulates the highs and lows of growing up and trying to be true to yourself in a world full of people trying to change you. Vellani sells the idea of Kamala being a young woman trying to find her way in the world and going about it in the messiest way possible.
Matt Lintz does a great job as Bruno, Kamala’s bestfriend and the person she confides in about her powers. There are interesting hints about his family situation and his complex feelings for Kamala. All of which I’m sure the show will explore in future episodes. Yasmeen Fletcher is fun and quirky as Kamala’s friend, Nakia. They share a culture, and thus, share the same growing pains as they try to find themselves and respect their heritage.
Mohan Kapur and Zenobia Shroff play Mr. and Mrs. Khan as strict parents who, despite what their daughter might believe, realize that Kamala is growing up and desires to establish her own identity. One of the most heartbreaking moments in the pilot is a scene in which Mr. and Mrs. Khan try to compromise with Kamala about attending Avengers Con, only for her immature outburst to lead to her father’s feelings being hurt and her mother being even more disappointed in her.
Alysia Reiner and Arian Moayed portray two mysterious government agents who are definitely going to cause some trouble for Kamala and her allies in the future.
Rish Shah, Laurel Marsden, Travina Springer, Saagar Shaikh, Laith Nakli, Fawad Khan, and Nimra Bucha round out the cast.
Representation & Theme
In the first episode, Kamala comments to Bruno that brown girls from New Jersey don’t get to save the world. The beauty is that not only does Kamala’s pessimistic prediction prove to be false, but her story is showing little brown girls everywhere that they are strong and capable heroines who can change the world. Kamala and her family beautifully represent a group of people that deserve to see themselves as the heroes of their own stories. The series proudly showcases Kamala’s heritage and culture, and it’s a beautiful sight to behold.
As I mentioned before, the coming-of-age theme is very strong within the first two episodes. Everything from botched driving test to uncomfortable encounters with a former friend turned bully, are present. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t all angst and teen misery. There’s a musical sequence in Episode 2 that perfectly encapsulates what it feels like to fall in love as a teenager. It’s fun, quirky, and refreshing. The episodes are full of moments like that.
Back in March, I had the honor of moderating a panel on coming-of-age stories at the North Texas Teen Book Festival. New York Times bestselling author, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, who has written over twenty young adult novels, stated that some of the core elements of coming-of-age stories are the journey of self-discovery and characters who are “on the verge of becoming.”
Now what the protagonist becomes, and how that upends their life, depends on the circumstances of the story. The protagonist must, for better or for worse, pick a direction.
I mention this because there’s a moment at the end of episode 1 in which Kamala’s mother poses the question to her daughter about who and what she wants to become. After her mother leaves, Kamala makes a definitive decision: she’s going to be a superhero.
And we’re all lucky that we get to sit back and enjoy the journey.
The first two episodes of Ms. Marvel debut on Disney Plus Wednesday, June 8th.
Kamala Khan’s debut is fun, charming, and action packed. The future of the MCU has arrived!
Writer. Video Essayist. Film/TV Critic. Pop Culture Enthusiast.
When he isn’t writing for Geek Vibes Nation or creating content for his YouTube channel, Tristian can be found typing away at the young adult novel he has been working on for three years.