Note: This spoiler-free review covers the first two episodes of Ms. Marvel, streaming Wednesdays on Disney Plus starting June 8.
Ms. Marvel is finally in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Her live-action debut comes with the studio’s winning superhero formula and an exciting coming-of-age story that only works as well as Iman Vellani’s earnest performance. Two episodes in, Ms. Marvel proves there’s still plenty of mileage for the MCU to introduce new heroes.
It’s no surprise that Marvel Studios has a knack for crafting an origin story. Since 2008’s Iron Man, the universe has only expanded with every new solo introduction. But Ms. Marvel comes with the rare benefit of time and serialization. Without spoilers, the show takes a slow and methodical approach with Kamala Khan. There’s no two-hour runtime holding back character development, which enriches Ms. Marvel’s enjoyable story.
True to the comics, Kamala is a typical Jersey City teenager keeping up with the clichés of high school. Kamala’s added family responsibilities don’t stop her from daydreaming about the Avengers. Slowly, this dream manifests into reality with a few Ferris Bueller-style misadventures and family heirlooms.
Newcomer Iman Vellani will leave a lasting impression for the MCU’s future casting choices. In a genuine move, Marvel looks to shared experiences for lead roles over A-list star power. Vellani, a Canadian Pakistani-Muslim actor from Markham, Ontario, adds a level of authenticity to Kamala Khan. Ms. Marvel captures the character’s excitement for Marvel’s larger-than-life universe.
She blushes around high school crushes, plays off awkward hallway moments and glows at Captain Marvel merch. Vellani, herself an MCU super fan, relives much of her past few years on TV. Viewers might feel like they’re watching a part-biopic-meets-superhero-flick, since Ms. Marvel shows a life changed by fandom. Marvel turns its commercialized franchise into a recurring theme while sending a love letter to long-time fans.
The series is by far one of Marvel’s most stylish entries yet. Where Moon Knight bounced its visual style off Mark Spectre’s psyche, Ms. Marvel does the same for Kamala’s imagination. Her constant daydreaming for Captain Marvel is projected with hand-drawn animations on Jersey City itself. It fits the coming-of-age direction Ms. Marvel aims for. The series keeps eyes glued using this visual technique inspired by Into the Spider Verse.
Marvel makes every TV frame feel closer to that comic book panel aesthetic. Kamala’s world feels brighter than most MCU heroes, thanks to Marvel taking every advantage of a sprawling Jersey City. Ms. Marvel preserves that high production value in its VFX department. As shown in the trailers, much of Kamala’s abilities are found in a mysterious bracelet. Her own journey of self-discovery drives much of Ms. Marvel‘s action forward early on. But viewers have yet to see Marvel’s bombastic brand of VFX-driven fight scenes.
“Newcomer Iman Vellani will leave a lasting impression for the MCU’s future casting choices.”
Marvel slightly tweaks Kamala’s abilities to shape-shift and stretch. To further tie in her connections with Captain Marvel, her mythical bracelet also grants a few cosmic surprises. When Kamala eventually hones these abilities, the show recaptures a certain thrill I haven’t felt since 2002’s Spider-Man. Ms. Marvel brings back some fun, campy antics that come with a young superhero. Vellani channels young excitement and a bit of mischief in her origin story.
This version of Kamala Khan also starts to buckle under the weight of superhuman responsibility. Like Peter Parker’s special “changes,” viewers can feel giddy at seeing Kamala Khan go through the same teenage rites. The series spares viewers from a wealth of MCU Easter eggs. Instead, these references are subtly packed in Kamala Khan’s fandom.
Bruno Carrelli (Matt Lintz) is no Ned Leeds. But he does whatever a best friend can for Kamala’s aspirations. Ms. Marvel finds plenty of meta humour through Kamala and Bruno’s banter, while poking fun at the franchise itself. The first two episodes focus greatly on their playful relationship. It’s especially fun seeing the pair on a greater mission: sneaking out to parties and getting popular.
Ms. Marvel does a solid job of developing other supporting characters, including Nakia Bahadir (Yasmeen Fletcher). Kamala and Nakia share a special chemistry through family roots. Nakia finds a subplot by getting more involved at their local mosque. Luckily, Ms. Marvel does little to veer off from the series. While Yasmeen Fletcher’s character gets credit for giving Kamala a millennial approach to connecting with cultural roots. Somehow, Marvel pulls off the juggling of a bigger cast by connecting them all to Kamala in surprising ways.
Marvel adds a new perspective through Kamala’s Pakistani-Muslim identity. The series’ first two episodes naturally explore her religion. Viewers will get to see Kamala’s background told through her time at the mosque, endearing banter with aunties and Eid. Somehow, Marvel stays on track with its origin story and connects the dots with Kamala’s powers.
This was a storytelling technique that worked in Shang-Chi, as Marvel incorporated respective traditions and some folklore to shape a hero. Ms. Marvel takes this further by giving Kamala even more to protect; family, friends, cute boys and her local community. The first two episodes adhere to TV beats with Kamala unravelling a mystery behind her powers. Gradually, viewers will have one question answered and another twist to stay engaged for the next episode. Six Disney Plus shows in, Marvel keeps its momentum for longer-form storytelling.
In a far cry from most MCU heroes, Ms. Marvel immerses viewers in a suburban family life. Khan’s alter ego is cemented with a seemingly normal household environment. Marvel paints a refreshing picture of an immigrant family in Jersey City. Free from spoiler-territory, the series spares Kamala Khan of a dark origin story. Instead, viewers fresh from Moon Knight and Multiverse of Madness will find the latest entry more lighthearted than ever.
This comes with wonderful performances from Mohan Kapur and Zenobia Shroff, respectively playing Yusuf and Muneeba Khan. Kamala’s parents came as strict as my own growing up. While strong performances add to Ms. Marvel’s low-stakes adventures. Saagar Shaikh plays a cool, older brother as Aamir Khan. But Marvel doesn’t exactly use his strong performance to push that family dynamic forward. I would have loved to see Aamir do more to ease the tension between Kamala and her parents.
“The series is right to make high school a character in itself and finish what the MCU’s Spider-Man films started.”
There’s a significant heft to the story as Kamala starts breaking the mould of her parents. Here, the show finds that tension before any villains come into the mix. Khan’s early superhero activities brilliantly tie into the family dynamic with repercussions. Ms. Marvel quickly ups the ante once Kamala discovers her powers and struggles to keep it a secret.
To a fault, Marvel keeps Kamala front and centre for the bulk of the series. The series has yet to jump across other characters and instead brings them in as a centre surprise. Viewers might feel like they skipped a beat without seeing development for super villains to come. While I’m hoping the series takes time to introduce Aramis Knight’s Red Dagger.
Ms. Marvel’s own coming-of-age story scratches an itch left by Spider-Man: Homecoming. Tom Holland’s time at Midtown High was briefly touched on without him really being in the hallways. Unlike Peter Parker, viewers get an even deeper look into Kamala’s high school life. As Stan Lee intended for all Marvel heroes, Ms. Marvel gets her own share of very human problems.
The series stays grounded as Kamala struggles to fit in and meet family expectations. In fact, Ms. Marvel’s most human scene in the first episode is shown without dialogue, special effects or music. Viewers might get flashbacks to one of their worst high school days – something that completes the live-action Kamala Khan. The series is right to make high school a character in itself and finish what the MCU’s Spider-Man films started.
“The series adds something new with a teenage drama, but has yet to raise a bar on the superhero angle.”
Speaking of Spidey, viewers will be surprised to see a No Way Home character return. Their goals come with some over-the-top seriousness, which match Ms. Marvel’s superpowered stakes. It’s no surprise that a looming character like Wong or Nick Fury would come to shake things up. But near the end of episode two, Ms. Marvel adds a troubling sign of repetition from past MCU films. The series adds something new with a teenage drama, but has yet to raise a bar on the superhero angle.
Ms. Marvel adds an exciting breath of fresh air to a superhero origin story. Its directors and showrunners pull off a feat in preserving quality without losing sight of fun. The series quickly finds a beat for mixing a teenage fever dream that’s equally enjoyable to watch.
Iman Vellani’s live-action debut as Kamala Khan shows a clear love for the new-age Marvel Comics character. TV pacing lets viewers into Kamala’s world through a strong sense of family, community and responsibility. The supporting characters might struggle to keep up with Kamala’s rapid coming-of-age story. But I’m excited to see how Ms. Marvel brings her unwavering youth and roots to Phase Four and beyond.