Leading into this series’ release, I wasn’t excited. I actually think this was the least into a Marvel project I’ve been, based on the trailer and marketing. Those trailers really made it feel like it was trying too hard to be relatable to its targetted teen audience. The marketing just made it look like a cringey, boilerplate coming-of-age show with superpowers thrown in.
Thankfully, the biggest issue with this series was the marketing. Ms. Marvel is a blast from start to finish, even if it has a couple of weaker episodes in its second half. It’s endlessly charming, completely endearing and often hilarious. It has a fun visual identity, setting it apart from every other Disney+ show and most other Marvel projects.
This is, hands down, one of the best series that Disney+ has to offer.
Ms. Marvel follows Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a superhero-obsessed Pakistani teenager on the fringes of the high school popularity hierarchy. When she receives a mysterious bangle from her grandmother, she has the cosmic, crystalline abilities locked away within her unleashed. She must learn how to use this new power while also learning about the ties it has to both her familial line and the dark side of her culture’s folklore.
This review contains minor spoilers for Ms. Marvel, but not its finale.
This is the first MCU project in a long time that has real heart to it. Some other projects, like Thor: Love and Thunder, Moon Knight or Black Widow, suffer from being blatant products instead of being made with a passion for the character or the universe. Sure, sometimes the MCU gives us a No Way Home or a Shang-Chi, but these kinds of projects have not been in the majority as of late.
This heart is mostly thanks to its star, Iman Vellani. She’s simply perfect in this role. You’d think she’s a veteran actor from how fantastic her performance is episode to episode, but this is her first acting credit ever. It’s extremely impressive, to say the least. Vellani could go down as the best unknown casting the MCU has ever had, up there with Chris Hemsworth and Tom Hiddleston, if she keeps this up, which I have no reason to doubt.
This show is just so much fun. The relationships that Kamala has with her group of friends and her family ground this series in reality much more than the MCU usually can with its heroes. I genuinely love all these characters and want to see more of them. Even the smaller characters, like the Sheikh at her mosque or Kamala’s brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh), are lovable and make you want more from them. The heart of Ms. Marvel is Kamala’s family and the cast nails these characters and the moments they share. Her dad in particular (Mohan Kapur), is incredibly good. He turns lines that would usually come off as cheesy to be borderline tearjerking.
On the other side of the coin are the series’ villains. Depending on who you ask, it’s either a group called the Clandestines or the Department of Damage Control. Not knowing which is the villain is never a good sign. The issue here is that neither is fleshed out enough to be meaningful or memorable in any real way. The Clandestines are pushed out of the story before they get a real resolution and the DODC are implied to have racist leanings, but the series never expounds on that, leaving them feeling hollow. Sure, I wasn’t expecting Ms. Marvel to get explicitly political like The Boys, especially because it's a Disney property, but it is disappointing that it couldn’t take that next step to give itself a real villain.
Despite this, Ms. Marvel has the best finale since Loki, hitting all of its marks and pushing the MCU forward in interesting and exciting ways. The Marvel Disney+ shows often fall into a finale trap, never quite sticking the landing or providing a satisfying resolution, but this series doesn’t do that.
It does have faults though, like a weak fourth episode and a penultimate episode that feels like it's buying time before the eventual finale instead of setting it up. The finale makes up for these episodes though, and with the first three episodes being as good as they are, I’m willing to overlook and move past some of those two weaker episodes' shortcomings and enjoy the ride more.
In most cases, I’ve dreaded rewatching MCU projects, especially the Disney+ shows, with my family when they eventually get around to them. For the first time since Loki ended, I’m not dreading returning in the slightest, I’m actually looking forward to it. This comes down to the extremely endearing characters more than the plot they’re a part of, but that’s okay. Sometimes it’s fine to just be with the characters you enjoy watching. I could watch a whole series of just Kamala’s friends and family talking to each other.
The next time we’ll see Kamala will be in The Marvels, where she’ll fight alongside her idol Carol Danvers (Brie Larson). Before this series, I had zero hype for this film, but now it's one of my most anticipated Marvel projects, if only for the prospect of seeing the Khan family on a much bigger stage.
Ms. Marvel what MCU origin series should be, creating new fan-favorite characters in fun (even if flawed) stories instead of just being bland trailers for the next product to come off the Marvel assembly line. I can’t wait to see what Kamala does next.