As the 7th Marvel Studios Disney+ series and 14th project of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s Phase 4, Ms. Marvel’s first episode manages to shine as the beginning of an origin story that, so far, feels distinct from the constant influx of MCU content throughout the past couple of years. In other words, Ms. Marvel stands out, and it does so despite not teasing fans that the series will be a game-changer for the franchise. The character of Kamala Khan makes a triumphant leap from comics to screen, and the way the episode is shot, edited, and visualized gives the start of Ms. Marvel a texture that makes it arguably the most unique-feeling project of the MCU in years.
Of course, at the heart of the first episode and series is Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan. Kamala is a Muslim American-Pakistani teenager from Jersey City who is obsessed with the Avengers. The character has been a comics favorite for nearly a decade, so Ms. Marvel exceeds in Vellani’s seemingly flawless portrayal of Kamala. The first episode treats Kamala’s family and cultural background like any other; for the casual viewer, Episode 1 does not subtitle basic phrases spoken in Urdu and does not baby the audience or other the Khans by explaining every detail of Pakistani- or Islamic-influenced element in Kamala’s life. She is noticeably different in terms of her background from the heroes and characters of the MCU thus far, but her culture is not treated as something mysterious or otherworldly—Kamala Khan is Kamala Khan. And her inclusion into the MCU makes Earth-616 a bit more real and a bit richer.
Speaking of richness, the mechanics of this episode are mesmerizing. The inclusion of animation, the fast-paced editing, and the quirky shots give Ms. Marvel a visual but intangible texture that genuinely feels unique in the MCU. To achieve this, it does not have to be on the same terrain as Guardians of the Galaxy or Thor: Ragnarok. The subtlety itself is brilliant, as it feels like the viewer is in a new world without having to leave the old one.
Plenty of fair concern was levied against Ms. Marvel in advance due to the fact that the series changed her power set from the comics. What we see in Episode 1 is not enough to begin to truly decide whether the changes are a true downgrade. But an undoubted positive to the change is that now her powers and their origins are a mystery. In that way, the series moves into uncharted waters—even the viewer doesn’t know where the journey will ultimately take Kamala and how she could connect to the greater MCU.
Fans have also never truly seen the MCU from the angle Ms. Marvel has created. Kamala is all of us—obsessing over the Avengers, wishing she had superpowers, and living in an age of heroes. This “regular citizen” angle has never been explored before and Kamala’s coming-of-age and coming-of-superhero story takes place in a world fully aware and mindful of most of the events of the MCU. So seeing how Kamala works her way into the overarching MCU will surely be something special.
The premiere episode of Ms. Marvel achieved something miraculous—standing out while fitting in. Vellani is a perfect casting and driving force for Kamala charm, and the series’ placement in the MCU feels natural. Still, between the charisma of Kamala herself and the texture of the episode, Episode 1 feels uniquely Ms. Marvel, and so far Ms. Marvel has built a world for itself that can’t help but make the future of the rest of the MCU look brighter.