TV review: 'Ms. Marvel' off to refreshingly human start

Kamala (Iman Vellani) gains super powers in "Ms. Marvel." Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios
1 of 5 | Kamala (Iman Vellani) gains super powers in "Ms. Marvel." Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

LOS ANGELES, June 7 (UPI) -- Ms. Marvel, premiering Wednesday on Disney+, stands out by focusing on the people who live in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's clear the superheroes will eventually intrude, but until they do, it's the most refreshing Marvel series to date.

Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) just turned 16 and failed her driver's test. Kamala is a big fan of Carole Danvers, the movies' Captain Marvel.


Kamala expresses her admiration by making animated videos for YouTube and entering a cosplay contest at Avengercon. A bangle from her grandmother gives her powers of her own.

Ms. Marvel devotes attention to Kamala's Pakistani culture. Her family speaks a little Arabic and discusses their prayers.

Episode 2 even features the Call to Prayer in a mosque. It's remarkable to put this ritual on display in a Marvel show for Disney+, even more so when characters call out the custom of separating women by a partition in the back.


Ms. Marvel is a universal coming-of-age story about high schoolers who try to be their authentic selves. Overprotective parents and mean classmates are among the issues with which they contend.

Kamala faces even more, such as a coach who can't be bothered to learn how to say her name right. Ms.Marvel also conveys how people of color can't even count on basic considerations that others may take for granted.

It's also great to see a Marvel show take place in a real city. They may have filmed in Atlanta, but whether it's dressed as New Jersey or Anytown, USA, it's a real place.

Most of the Marvel movies now exist entirely on green screen stages. It can't be underestimated how much showing a place in which real people interact creates a feeling of a relatable world.

The dynamic camera angles and editing directors employ create a more immersive environment, too. Adil and Bilall directed the pilot and Meera Menon the second episode.

The show incorporates Kamala's art as she imagines her animated figures interacting with her real environments. Jump cuts allow time to speed up, and the camera captures Kamala's point of view. Lighting changes between Kamala's fantasy and her parents in the real world, within the same scene.


All this works to make the Kamala Khan show an endearing entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Of course, it's called Ms. Marvel, so even if we didn't know the comics, we'd know it would find a way to incorporate Kamala into the universe, especially with her intense admiration for Danvers.

Episode 2 features Kamala practicing her powers, which always is the best part of a superhero origin story. That's still fun, but her public exploits have gotten on the radar of some shady government types who are looking for her.

Hopefully, Ms. Marvel can retain its identity when it becomes more of a typical Marvel show. Even if it doesn't, just letting Kamala Khan join the club is progress.

Fred Topel, who attended film school at Ithaca College, is a UPI entertainment writer based in Los Angeles. He has been a professional film critic since 1999, a Rotten Tomatoes critic since 2001 and a member of the Television Critics Association since 2012. Read more of his work in Entertainment.

Latest Headlines