'Ms. Marvel' Is a Confident Step Forward for the MCU Created by Bisha K. Ali

Starring Iman Vellani, Rish Shah, Zenobia Shroff, Mohan Kapur, Saagar Shaikh, Matt Lintz, Yasmeen Fletcher
'Ms. Marvel' Is a Confident Step Forward for the MCU Created by Bisha K. Ali
Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios
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Markham, ON's very own Iman Vellani is magnetic force of nature who brings her youthful exuberance and charm to make a splashing debut as Kamala Khan in the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel. The series authentically celebrates South Asian heritage sans stereotypes, adding layers of the family dynamics and culture that makes Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, who she is. 

She is also the MCU's first Muslim superhero, so expectations are riding high on how the series depicts this on screen. From the first two episodes critics were given, I can safely say that the show flips the script on stereotypes and celebrates South Asian culture respectfully.  

Her cultural lineage is not added for the sake of it, or forced into the storyline, but is rather a part of the show's small moments — like when she bonds with her crush, Kamran (Rish Shah), over Bollywood movies and Indian superstar Shah Rukh Khan.  

The first episode much fleshes out the characters, giving us an inside look into the young teen's life. Kamala is a 16-year-old Pakistani-American teenager from New Jersey who is obsessed with the MCU, and particularly with Captain Marvel. She lives with her father Yusuf (Mohan Kapur), mother Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and older brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh). She goes to Coles Academic High School with her friends Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher). 

She tried to convince her parents to let her attend the first ever AvengerCon, where she plans to dress up as Captain Marvel and win the contest. When Kamala discovers an ancient family heirloom and puts it on at AvengerCon to complete her costume, it gives her superpowers.  

There's a line from Kamala that stuck with me after watching: "It's not really the brown girls from Jersey City who save the world." Ms. Marvel gives space for brown girls to exist in the superhero universe, and while we've just started to see brown princesses in the Disney realm, it's about damn time we see one in the Marvel universe. Vellani is the second South Asian hero in the MCU (following Kumail Nanjiani's Kingo in Eternals), and the first female one. The series was helmed by creator and head writer Bisha K. Ali and directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah; having proper representation in the writers' room and with the creatives is always key, and their influences are quite clear as the story arc continues.  

In Ms. Marvel, it's hard to tell where Kamala ends and where Vellani begins — they feel one and the same, especially since the actress has said that she's basically Kamala Khan. She brings warmth, humour, wits and awkwardness as a clumsy, giddy-headed teen, which makes her utterly relatable.  

Vellani's charming energy is infectious as the charismatic Ms. Marvel, and I can't wait to see how the series progresses — especially as she'll soon star in 2023's The Marvels alongside Brie Larson's Captain Marvel. (Disney)