Ms. Marvel Review -- Meet Your New Favorite Teenage Superhero

  • First Released Jun 8, 2022
  • television

Ms. Marvel is headed to Disney+ and introducing Kamala Khan to the MCU for the first time.

The second major Disney+ MCU release of 2022, Ms. Marvel, is just around the corner--and, like Moon Knight before it, it undertakes the major task of introducing a brand new character to the shared universe without the built-in crutch of an existing character to act as a co-star. That's about where the similarities between the two shows end though--which, strange as it may sound, is actually a good thing. It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say that Ms. Marvel is a "reinvention" of the Disney+ MCU formula--it's still very much a Marvel show--but it does feel completely distinct from the shows that came before it, and it manages to creatively solve some of the issues its predecessors have run up against (both on the big screen and the small.)

Starring Iman Vellani, Ms. Marvel adapts the comics of the same name and tells the story of Kamala Khan, a dorky teenager who has grown up in a world populated by superheroes saving the day. Khan is a certified fan--she runs a social media channel dedicated to heroes, focusing on her favorite of the bunch, Captain Marvel, and otherwise does what teenagers do: struggles against her strict parents, fumbles through school, goofs off with friends, you know, the works. That is, until the day she stumbles into an old family heirloom that grants her superpowers of her very own.

Comics fans will note immediately that some major changes have been made to Kamala's powers and origin story--gone is her body-warping "embiggening" and her inhuman origins, replaced by a bracer that grants her the ability to create "hard light" projections. Unfortunately, these abilities are about on par with the rest of the MCU's quality in terms of overall visual effects--they look really rough and low budget--but the narrative choices and story beats surrounding them actually do work well. The updates to Kamala's powers serve to make her story immediately more personal, and the stakes much higher for her family. And speaking of her family, they're far and away one of the strongest aspects of the show.

Alongside Kamala herself, her mother, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff), father, Yusuf (Mohan Kapur), and older brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh), provide the beating heart of the show. Kamala's homelife is at once incredibly specific to her Pakistani history, and immediately recognizable to anyone who has ever been a teenager with interests their parents just don't quite understand. Muneeba and Yusuf, specifically, get some of the funniest gags across the first two episodes that were provided for review, and provide some of the most seamless exposition the MCU has managed to deliver in some time.

Outside of her home life, Kamala attends high school with her best friends Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher)--both of whom are perfectly engaging as characters, but struggle to stand out in the high school setting. Ms. Marvel's biggest stumbling point is its high school side-stories, where it struggles to make itself distinct from any other generic coming-of-age story about nerdy kids and popular bullies. Outside of the classroom scenes and school politics, both Bruno and Nakia start to shine, with Nakia specifically really gaining forward momentum as she begins to develop her own side plot at the local mosque.

Visually, Ms. Marvel may not be quite as hyper stylized as WandaVision, but it still manages to make a very unique impact. Throughout the first two episodes, the live-action reality is encroached upon by Kamala's imagination, literally doodling over scenes and cutting away to long, fantasy digressions. It's charming--and, critically, the hand-drawn visual effects actually do look great (unlike many of the other digital effects.) It all serves to give Ms. Marvel its own unique identity within the MCU's desperately crowded pantheon--something that serves it immeasurably in terms of establishing Kamala as a brand new character.

In addition to the visuals, Ms. Marvel also doesn't shy away from facing the fact that it is part of a shared universe head-on. Unlike Moon Knight before it, which neglected to make even a passing reference to the greater MCU across its first season run, Ms. Marvel wants viewers to know exactly where it stands. Kamala is an expert on the MCU's events--she's been watching from the sidelines with interest, despite being in no way involved in any of them--which gives her a fun outsider-slash-fan perspective from within the universe itself. Kamala's got her own ideas of what happened during Endgame, for example, and sure, maybe they're not entirely accurate, but at least she's able to point to these events and acknowledge that they affected her in some small way. It really does help her story feel like it has some greater level of consequence in terms of Phase 4's progression, rather than yet another mysterious new character who may or may not pop back up in the future.

Of course, this review is based solely on the first two episodes, provided for screening by Disney. With six in total, there is still plenty of space for twists or surprise reveals down the line--so it's probably best to not bank on anything as a certainty until the season finale debuts in July. That said, based on these early episodes, Ms. Marvel is an extremely fun, deeply charming watch with a cast of great new characters and a gravity that other Disney+ MCU projects have been lacking.

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The Good

  • Kamala is charming, fun, and immediately engaging
  • Updates and changes to Kamala's comic book history work well
  • Kamala's family is funny and relatable
  • Stylized doodles and sketches look great and work with the tone of the show

The Bad

  • Kamala's powers look unfinished and unpolished
  • School side plots feel like cliche time sinks

About the Author

Disney provided two episodes of Ms. Marvel for review. Mason Downey is an Entertainment Editor at GameSpot.