Please note – the following contains minor spoilers for Ms. Marvel on Disney+ and should be read at your own discretion. We’ve taken care not to include any plot points that aren’t apparent from already-released trailers, but if you’ve been avoiding those you should probably skip the below as well!
Ms. Marvel feels like a superhero series tailor-made for a new generation of Marvel fans. I might not be a TV/movie critic and this isn’t a review, but after being treated to an early screening of the first two episodes of the latest MCU ‘Phase Four’ TV series, I’m certain of that much at least. I’m also incredibly keen to see more.
As someone who’s yet to fully immerse themselves in the Marvel Cinematic Universe when it comes to feature films, I’ve been oddly drawn to everything that this current MCU phase has brought to the small screen. WandaVision, Loki and the recent Moon Knight have all been well made and binge-worthy watches, and the former two even convinced me to head to the cinema to check out Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. If the track record is anything to go by I guess I’d better pencil in an opening day session of The Marvels when it releases next year, because Ms. Marvel already has its hooks in me.
The series’ debut episode introduces us to this retelling of the origins of Ms. Marvel, real name Kamala Khan, who’s played to perfection here by Iman Vellani. If you’ve read the comics or even played the Crystal Dynamics-developed Marvel’s Avengers, you might be familiar with Kamala Khan’s origin and powers, but things are quite different in the Disney+ version of the character. Rather than inheriting polymorphic abilities from Terrigen mist exposure, this version of Kamala finds a magical bangle that allows her to generate a purple, crystal-like aura that she can use to manifest physical extensions of herself as well as objects like floating platforms or shields. It’s a pretty big departure, but one that Marvel Studios president, Kevin Feige, says was necessary for where the adaptation fits into the MCU.
Said bangle is our first, very small taste of a set of core mysteries that are set up in these first two episodes of Ms. Marvel, but aside from a quick mid-credit scene in episode one and some events late in the second episode I was pleasantly surprised at how much time is spent on Kamala simply navigating life as a Pakistani-American teenager. Though I’m not personally privy to the kind of family and cultural dynamic that’s portrayed here with Kamala, it’s certainly refreshing even as an outsider looking in to see that her Pakistani heritage and Muslim upbringing are paid more than lip service and serve as genuine focal points at least in this first third of the series’ six-episode season.
The vibrant and multicultural setting of Jersey City and its huge Muslim community also contributes greatly to Ms. Marvel’s aesthetic trappings, already brimming with colour and energy thanks to constant on-screen animated effects and environmental easter eggs. Kamala’s thoughts are often displayed as sketches brough to life on walls and points of interest, as are her text messages to friends and other bits of storytelling that would normally require interrupting the show’s cracking pace to communicate to viewers traditionally.
Some might find the cacophony of colour and movement a bit much, but I’d suggest those people aren’t the target audience here (and are probably very boring), a sentiment that’s likely proven by directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah’s almost music video-like approach to the show’s visual composition. I was reminded throughout of Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim film with the stream of exaggerated shots and snappy editing, all of it backed up by an eclectic and thematic soundtrack featuring the likes of M.I.A., Swet Shop Boys and a healthy dose of Bollywood.
While the second episode does still spend a lot of time on Kamala’s personal conundrums – parties, boys, the usual – revelations in its second half kick off the unravelling of answers about the origins of the mysterious bangle. This still leaves us with plenty of questions about where all of this fits into the MCU proper and how the series will tie into The Marvels, but with four episodes yet to go I’m confident this’ll not just be worthwhile as an entry-point into the character of Ms. Marvel but a genuinely great little romp all its own.