The Marvel Cinematic Universe is introducing a new hero in Ms. Marvel, which hits Disney+ on June 8. Here's everything to know about the show, the character, and her future in the MCU:
Who is Ms. Marvel?
The Ms. Marvel title has referred to several different comic book characters over the years. It was initially used by Carol Danvers (played by Brie Larson in the films) before she was known as Captain Marvel. Sharon Ventura, a.k.a. She-Thing, also went by Ms. Marvel, as did psychologist Karla Sofen.
In the 2010s, the Ms. Marvel name passed to a new hero: Kamala Khan. She is a Muslim Pakistani-American teenager from Jersey City who writes Avengers fan fiction and is particularly obsessed with Carol Danvers — and, like her idol, ends up gaining superpowers herself.
The Disney+ series tells Kamala's story, and the show similarly depicts her as obsessed with all things Avengers with posters of Captain Marvel up on her wall.
What are Ms. Marvel's powers, and how does she get them?
In the comics, Kamala sneaks off to a party and on her way home, she becomes engulfed in strange gas, at which point she has a vision of Captain Marvel, Captain America, and Iron Man. After telling Carol Danvers that "I want to be like you," she gets her wish, emerging as Ms. Marvel — and suddenly looking tall and blonde like Carol.
Kamala discovers she now has the power to "embiggen" and can grow and stretch her body, though it's not initially presented as a triumphant moment. Instead, she is immediately uncomfortable and scared, feeling her skin has "tensed up." The first time she saves someone, it's a bizarre scene where her hand grows in size and she has trouble getting it to shrink.
Kamala can also heal herself and use her morphing abilities to change her appearance. It's later established she is actually an Inhuman — a race of superhumans sort of like the mutants from X-Men — and the gas she encountered was something called Terrigen Mist, which activated her dormant Inhuman genes.
The Disney+ series, though, has tweaked this backstory and Kamala's powers a bit. In the show, her abilities seem to be connected to a mysterious bangle she comes across, and when her hand grows, it's more like a crystalline projection of a hand rather than her body physically growing and shrinking.
This tweak has been somewhat controversial among comic fans. Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige told Empire the change was made because Kamala "came about in a very specific time within the comic-book continuity," but "she is now coming into a very specific time within the MCU continuity," and "those two things didn't match." He presumably means that because the Inhumans aren't much of a factor in the MCU right now, it made sense to rewrite her backstory, perhaps to connect her powers more directly to Carol Danvers. Plus, G. Willow Wilson, who co-created the character, acknowledged Kamala's stretching abilities would probably look "really creepy" if translated accurately to live-action.
Still, Feige told Empire, "If you want big, giant hands and arms, well they're here in spirit, if not in stretchy, plastic-type ways."
Who's playing Kamala?
Starring in the lead role is 19-year-old Iman Vellani, who was a complete unknown before being cast. Other than Ms. Marvel, she has zero film or TV credits whatsoever, other than a few short films. She's originally from Pakistan, and she was a part of the Toronto International Film Festival's "next wave committee," a group of "hopeful young film enthusiasts."
Where did we leave Captain Marvel in the movies?
In her 2019 film, Captain Marvel is a former Air Force pilot taken in by the Kree, a race of aliens, after gaining superpowers in an accident involving the Tesseract. She eventually realizes she's on the wrong side of a war between the Kree and the shape-shifting Skrulls, so she leaves them and sets off into space. That was in the 1990s, and we don't know much of what she was up to between then and Avengers: Endgame, when she returns to help defeat Thanos. For Ms. Marvel, though, it's worth remembering that Carol played an instrumental role in the final battle, single-handedly taking down Thanos' ship and coming close to killing him herself.
Why is Ms. Marvel's introduction so significant?
When she was introduced in 2014, Kamala Khan made history as Marvel's first Muslim superhero to headline her own series, and she'll similarly become the first lead Muslim superhero in the MCU.
The character was created "out of a desire to explore the Muslim-American diaspora from an authentic perspective," editor Sana Amanat said in 2013. Amanat, who also serves as a producer on the show, added to Entertainment Weekly, "I know how incredibly important it is for people to have this out there, especially for young Muslims and young Pakistanis and Indians and people of color and young women."
What's the future of Ms. Marvel in the MCU?
Ms. Marvel will set the stage for the next Captain Marvel film, The Marvels, debuting in July 2023. It sees Kamala Khan actually team up with her hero, Carol Danvers, as well as Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris), the S.W.O.R.D. agent from WandaVision whose mother was friends with Carol.
Marvel also appears to be planting the seeds for the formation of the Young Avengers, with numerous young heroes kicking around in MCU including America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez) from Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) from Hawkeye, so it's possible Kamala will join that group. She wasn't one of the Young Avengers in the comics, but after becoming a full-fledged Avenger, Kamala broke from the group to help establish a team of teenage heroes known as the Champions, allying with Spider-Man.
Regardless of who she might team up with, get used to the names Kamala Khan and Iman Vellani, as we'll be hearing both a whole lot throughout the MCU's new era.