‘Ms. Marvel’ Episodes 1-2 Review: MCU’s First Muslim Superhero Gets A Culturally Rich Origin Story, Fangirl Iman Vellani Is A Perfect Kamala Khan

‘Ms. Marvel’ Episodes 1-2 Review: MCU’s First Muslim Superhero Gets A Culturally Rich Origin Story, Fangirl Iman Vellani Is A Perfect Kamala Khan

This is now an Iman Vellani stan account. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed watching social media clips and interviews of her fangirling over the MCU and its actors. And that has almost instantly endeared her to me. But the question, of course, is whether she aces her act as Kamala Khan, MCU’s first Muslim superhero, and an obsessive Captain Marvel fangirl who gets powers of her own? Yes, yes she does! Having watched her in the first two episodes of Ms Marvel, I can promise you, that she is the main attraction of this new Disney+ series that serves as an origin story for a new superhero. But Iman’s promising act is only the beginning. In the two episodes that I’ve watched, Ms. Marvel has begun weaving a seemingly rich story that encapsulates both the coming-of-age of our hero as she discovers powers she only fantasised about as well her experience of being a second-generation South Asian immigrant and the struggle that comes with balancing her dual cultural identities. And it’s charming and enjoyable as hell!

 

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Ms Marvel is based on the character created by Sana Amanat and adapted for the screen by writer Bisha K. Ali. The six-episode series is directed by Adil El Arbi & Bilall Fallah, Meera Menon, and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. The cast is headlined by Iman Vellani and includes Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher, Aramis Knight, Saagar Shaikh, Rish Shah, Laith Nakli, Azhar Usman, Travina Springer, and Nimra Bucha.

The team working on this series has been the primary reason for my lofty expectations to bring in the authentic cultural experience that you’d expect from a story like this one. Unlike most superheroes who have personal trauma or tragedy that shapes their story, Kamala Khan actually has a pretty normal life. Her parents, Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) are your typical South Asian parents—overprotective but at the same time loving and with a hearty sense of humour—who are trying to build a life in another country while making sure their kids respect their roots.

(L-R): Mohan Kapur as Yusuf, Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan, Saagar Shaikh as Aamir, and Nimra Bucha as Najma in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

She has best friends in Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher), even though the popular girl in school thinks Kamala is uncool. And she has her imagination, which is brimming with possibilities. This makes her origin story a refreshing one, with lots of scope to explore the coming-of-age angle, for both an immigrant girl who hero-worships the American superhero ideal and who finds that having the superpowers that she’s always fantasized about might not always be a good thing. How Kamala gets her powers in the series, I assume, is going to forge an interesting link between these two aspects of the show.

They had me at ‘Blinding Lights’ by The Weeknd playing in the first official trailer. I mean, come on, it was perfect in so many ways—just look at the blasts of light that she can shoot! The added buzz was the electrifying presence of Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan. The trailer also gave us a glimpse at the cute and popping comic book vibe of its visuals which really elevate the look and feel of the series. It’s like we’re watching Kamala’s imagination come alive! The special effects we see as Kamala gets her powers and begins using them, are pretty great too. The MCU Phase Four is practically purple, and so is Ms. Marvel’s colour palette, full of deep reds and gold, blues, earthy browns and greens, pinks and purples. Captain Marvel’s blue and red fuse to form Ms. Marvel’s purple (Kamala is often dressed in these colours) and it’s a neat little detail amongst many others that this show adds.

Now, I haven’t read the comics, but as a true fangirl would, I did some required reading, which told me that the powers of MCU’s Kamala Khan have a different origin story than in the comics and are also not the same powers. In the first episode, we meet Kamala Khan, this Pakistani-American teenager who lives in her own imagination most of the time, writes fanfiction on AO3 about her favourite superheroes, and is dreading seeking permission from her Ammi and Abbu to go to AvengerCon. A girl who would rather get punched by Thanos than ask for permission for a night out from her parents? Her elder brother Aamir getting all the ‘permissions’ and assuring her he’ll take her side? You know they got the pains of being a brown girl right! She of course manages to go, with quite literally some superhuman effort and help from her BFF Bruno, but that’s when Kamala’s life suddenly goes, “Cosmic”.

Also cosmic? The AvengerCon set! My lips are sealed but I would genuinely move heaven and earth like Kamala did to get to one if Kevin Feige actually makes it happen.

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

Ms. Marvel builds a charming and rich world around Kamala and gets it all so bang on that it is one of my favourite things from what I’ve seen so far. The show gets the South Asian family dynamics quite right, helped tremendously by the performances of Iman Vellani, an adorable Mohan Kapur, and a particularly on-point Zenobia Shroff. Everything from their home, their relationships with each other, typical desi mom Muneeba sending her daughter’s American bestie home with dabbas of Indian food, to the mish-mash of liberal and conservative values that are most South Asian-American households. I related max with Kamala’s struggle to want to live in her fantasy world while her parents are trying to plant her feet firmly on the ground because that’s my story too. As a writer with an overactive imagination, it’s often a struggle to live in the real world. In fact, it pains me every time I miss out on fan conventions like San Diego Comic Con or a Marvel red carpet event because I am all the way here, and it’s all happening in a whole different world that feels unreachable.

Also Read: Ms. Marvel Actor Iman Vellani Talks About Her First Meeting With ‘One Of the Toms’ Of MCU. We Love This Meet Cute!

I have zero references for how the character is in the comics, but I genuinely love how Kamala is written in this series. She is adorable and funny, and Iman Vellani nails the part, especially the funny bits. The way her face lights up when she’s talking about her favourite things (superheroes) is just *chef’s kiss*. But also, the parts, where she tries to juggle her dual cultural identity while people around her try to tell her who she should be, feel authentic. In the first two episodes, the show is only beginning to explore what it means to be a Muslim immigrant in America and in my limited knowledge, I believe it gets that right. There’s a prayer scene in the community’s local mosque and even an Eid celebration. I loved the part where Bruno asks Kamala upon being invited, “Which Eid is this?” Because of course, he’d know this important festival in his BFF’s culture but not enough so he’d have to ask that!

Iman makes Kamala believable and extremely relatable, and I am sure a lot of fangirls like me will see themselves in her. Kudos also to the art design team for designing Kamala’s bedroom. I see the doodles, and the art, and the memes, and it is all just spectacular. I want that room and Kamala’s fandom t-shirts too!

Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

The show gives its other characters some explorable tracks too as we move into Episode 2. We need to talk about Bruno (a really great Matt Lintz), whose friendship with Kamala is the purest thing! I would like a BFF like this please, although he keeps a lot of his feelings bottled up. The headscarf-donning Nakia is struggling with her mixed heritage as she makes her place in a male-dominated world where religion favours the other sex. Even Muneeba seems to have secrets of her own that date back to an important period in South Asian history that I have a feeling, is going to lead to the one thing (or person) that I desperately want to see on this show! (I kid you not, I’ve been relentlessly tweeting my FOMO about it.) And then there’s Kamran, played by Rish Shah, the new kid in school Kamala is crushing on and in whom she finds easy attraction because of their shared culture. We know now not to trust the guys who look too good to be true, but that journey of finding it out the painful way is all part of growing up.

As I said, it’s a well-rounded world brimming with possibilities for a different kind of heroic journey for our heroine, and I am eager to see how she stumbles through it to find her inner superhero, and where the other characters in her story go next.

(L-R): Yasmeen Fletcher as Nakia; Matthew Lintz as Bruno, and Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL. Photo by Chuck Zlotnick. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

But this world wouldn’t rock the way it does without some ‘cosmic’ music too. ‘Blinding Lights’, as I would eventually find, is only the beginning. Ms. Marvel has a great selection of tracks that add more dimension to Kamala’s world. In fact, the music is something that I got the chance to ask Sana Amanat and Bisha K. Ali about during the Ms. Marvel press conference. And their excitement about the question and passionate response to it tells you so much about their need to get the mix right. Just like Kamala is a mash of cultures, so is the music. You’ve got artists like The Weeknd but also some rap from Riz Ahmed, Rajakumari, Ritviz, (did I also spot an A.R. Rahman?) and songs from Pakistani artists, such as ‘Ko Ko Korina’, which even Iman Vellani revealed was something her own father sang to her! I’m already humming this one.

You’ve probably also read all about the impending Shah Rukh Khan nods in Episode 2, and trust me, they feel organic and perfect. I’ve just been rooting for a Brie Larson cameo in a post-credit scene at the end so far, and even that’s a bit ambitious. But now, having heard the creators talk about how they’re willing to reshoot parts if SRK agrees to come on board (in jest, of course), I’ve been fantasizing (in true Kamala style) of Farhan Akhtar asking the Don actor to just do it!

Also Read: Ms Marvel Writer Sana Amanat Says If Shah Rukh Khan Wants to Be In the Series, They Are Ready To Reshoot It

Verdict

I’m loving and truly enjoying what I’m seeing so far in Ms. Marvel, which seems to have done justice to the ethos of the character and their story. An impeccable Iman Vellani plays Kamala Khan as if it was a role custom-made for her. She makes Kamala relatable for brown fangirls like me, and I feel seen! The rest of the cast adds enough charm for you to begin caring about their characters, particularly, Matt Lintz’ Bruno! I love his and Kamala’s friendship! The writers and directors have managed to build a rich base of cultural context for Kamala’s coming-of-age story. And it’s going to be exciting to see how the story of MCU’s first Muslim superhero flourishes within it, and whether it does stay true to the hype around its inclusivity and representation, all while telling a thrilling story.

(L-R) Iman Vellani as Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan and Matt Lintz as Bruno in Marvel Studios' MS. MARVEL, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Daniel McFadden. ©Marvel Studios 2022. All Rights Reserved.

The first episode of Ms. Marvel drops on Disney+ Hotstar on June 8, 2022, with new episodes coming weekly, every Wednesday.

P.S.: Just tell me, please guys, Fawad Khan episode when???

Also Read: Disney+ Series Ms. Marvel Release Date, Cast, And How To Watch

Ahead Of ‘Ms Marvel’ Release, Farhan Akhtar Writes Note Saying He Is Proud Of Its ‘Conscious Inclusiveness’

Jinal Bhatt

A Barbie girl with Oppenheimer humour. Sharp-tongue feminist and pop culture nerd with opinions on movies, shows, books, patriarchy, your boyfriend, everything.

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