You may think there’s nothing more superhero TV shows and movies can offer audiences, but you’d be wrong.
Kamala Khan is adorable. She’s fearsome too, but she is, above all, adorable.
There are few things in the Marvel Cinematic Universe that can be described as adorable. Baby Groot, for sure, but he only stuck around for one movie. Peter Parker’s crushes on Liz and then MJ, but that’s laced with the awkwardness of teen romance.
Kamala (Iman Vellani), though, is adorable. She’s an unadulterated bundle of enthusiasm, optimism and charm without being twee, exactly the combination you need if superhero fatigue has settled in.
Fatigue is a real thing in the genre given the reams of superhero and anti-superhero titles across screens big and small, but Ms Marvel is an injection of freshness in part because Kamala is a fan.
When the series starts, Kamala is like any other superhero superfan. She has memorabilia plastered on her walls, eagerly anticipates fan conventions and is pumped for her cosplay outfit.
She and her friends talk about heroic exploits and obsesses over the lives of MCU mainstays including Captain Marvel, after whom she later fashions her moniker.
Kamala is just like one of the legion of real-life MCU fans who have devoured every one of the franchise’s movies (28 and counting) and TV and streaming series (countless).
Her in-universe fervor is an energetic reminder that for all of its flaws and ubiquity – or what it says about the Hollywood machinery – there is still something special about this narrative universe that has shaped dominating popular culture.
It’s the character’s relatability and the “what if?” fantasy scenario of morphing from a fan to being one of the superheroes that gives Ms Marvel an added zest. Imagine it happened to you – would you feel burdened with responsibility or would you just have fun with it while you can?
Hailing from Jersey City, Kamala is a suburban teenager from a Pakistani background. Her life revolves around school, her friends and her family.
For a mega-franchise, Ms Marvel has taken a surprisingly grounded approach to contextualize the character within her Muslim community.
There are scenes of Kamala at her mosque, during which she and her friend Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) lament the shonky facilities available to female worshipers compared to the men’s, or how she interacts with all the various “aunties” and “uncles” offering unwanted life advice.
Her immigrant parents have expectations that will be familiar to teens of many creeds and backgrounds.
It’s groundbreaking in a quiet, almost stealthy way, especially when you consider that the show also makes references to the trauma and displacement of the 1947 Partition of India.
That is not something you would’ve expected to come up in a Marvel show, its violent legacy connected to a 2022 teenager with superpowers.
None of this is signed as capital S significant, rather it’s allowed to be played out as texture in an authentic, lived-in life. It just is.
You come to understand – quickly – exactly what kind of character Kamala is, where she comes from and what she’s going to be capable of, and it’s an exciting development in a teeming MCU.
The role is Canadian teen and self-confessed MCU fan Vellani’s first role and she is a wonderful discovery. She’s packed with charisma and has a natural instinct in balancing comedy, pathos and ballsiness, which makes her an absolute delight to watch – and she’s backed up with sharp writing and a dynamic tone that’s closer to Spiderman than it is to Eternalsbut also entirely its own thing.
If Vellani is the future of the MCU – and she’s already filmed her scenes for The Marvels alongside Brie Larson and Teyonah Parris – then the superhero franchise still has a lot to offer its many, many fans. Kamala would agree.
Ms Marvel is streaming now on Disney+ with new episodes available on Wednesdays