When Kamala Khan debuted in the pages of Marvel Comics back in 2013, she quickly rose through the ranks to become one of the most popular characters in the publisher's entire line-up. Now, as she leaps into live-action with her very own Disney Plus series, expect history to repeat itself on an even larger scale. In other words, you're about to have a new favourite superhero.
Ms Marvel is a joyful origin story for high school student and Avengers fangirl Kamala (Iman Vellani), who fantasises about saving the world with her super-powered idols, including her cosplay inspiration Captain Marvel. When she discovers a mysterious bracelet in a box of family heirlooms, which holds the power to create hard light structures conjured by her imagination, that dream comes crashing into reality – but it could come at a price.
There are certainly aspects of Ms Marvel that feel familiar, with some of the fantastical elements – controversially altered from the original comics – feeling like they're channelling Marvel's Distinguished Competition. Just two years ago, DC's Stargirl followed another high school student empowered by an object from her family's past, while Kamala's revised power set bears a striking resemblance to that of Green Lantern at times.
Nevertheless, the series feels unmistakably fresh in its first two episodes, thanks to its stylistic flair, new perspective and an electric lead performance from newcomer Iman Vellani. As the unknown discovery of a far-reaching casting call, no one knew exactly what to expect from Marvel's latest star – but the first two episodes are a stunning debut for her, where she simply oozes charisma in every single scene.
The MCU has expanded massively in the past year or so, with the release of five movies and six streaming shows, but Vellani is still easily one of the most exciting new talents this franchise has to offer. With sharp comic timing and palpable enthusiasm for the role, the future looks bright for her tenure as Kamala Khan (next summer's The Marvels – set to be her second appearance – just became a much bigger deal).
But this show is impeccably cast across the board, allowing every character to be firmly established in just the first two episodes. Each one feels like a complex, well-rounded personality, with their interpersonal relationships carrying real weight; from Kamala's protective parents Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) and Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) to her older brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh), and her best friends Bruno (Matt Lintz) and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher).
Bisha K Ali and Kate Gritmon, who wrote the first two episodes respectively, also deserve praise, with their scripts packing rapid fire gags that almost always hit the mark. This is the most comedic Disney Plus series we've seen from Marvel Studios to date and that fits beautifully with the material, while the brisk pace that accompanies it is a welcome change from the glacial standard that has been set so far.
Don't get me wrong: I've enjoyed each of the Marvel shows on Disney Plus for their own merits, but one criticism that applies to every one of them is that they're just too slow. The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki and Moon Knight were guilty of particularly frustrating mid-season slumps, so it's my sincere hope that Ms Marvel avoids the same fate – the kinetic first two episodes are quite promising in that regard.
The stellar direction also helps keep the show in a constant state of forward momentum, with the camera rarely stationary for long in a choice that reflects Kamala's ever-buzzing imagination. Filmmakers Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah and Meera Menon find especially inventive use for it in the show's whimsical fantasy sequences and montages, which help give the show a distinct identity among a crowded field.
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Another way in which the show mirrors its lead is through its celebration of fan culture (specifically, the nice, non-toxic side). Admirers of the Marvel Cinematic Universe can expect to see some fun and unexpected references to past entries, but these are well-balanced to avoid drawing focus from what is an exciting new chapter in its own right – not to mention a leap forward for representation on the same scale as Shang-Chi and Black Panther.
Put simply, Ms Marvel is off to a brilliant start. I couldn't suppress my smile for the duration of the first two episodes as the show's colourful world, endearing cast and hilarious wit had me entranced. It's a coming-of-age story meets family comedy-drama by way of superhero origin and it all works superbly. If it can maintain this high standard across the remaining four episodes, this show could be something truly special indeed.
Ms Marvel premieres on Disney Plus on Wednesday 8th June 2022. You can sign up to Disney+ for £7.99 a month or £79.90 a year now. Check out more of our Sci-Fi and Fantasy coverage or visit our TV Guide to see what's on tonight.
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