Entertainment

Ms Marvel first impression: Iman Vellani’s series is most fun MCU has been for years

The Kamala Khan iteration of Ms Marvel has been around for not long (less than a decade, to be precise) and she is already one of Marvel Comics’ most popular young superheroes. Created by Sana Amanat (editor), G. Willow Wilson (writer), and Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie (artists), the character has brought to the Marvel Universe a part of the world — South Asia — that is largely new and under-explored, and for the most part, has been viewed from an exotic, oriental lens.

Mr Marvel changed that for Marvel Universe. And Ms Marvel, the show, changes that for Marvel Cinematic Universe. Centred around a Pakistani-American teen from New Jersey named Kamala Khan, the story follows her life and adventures as she gets superpowers and becomes a bona fide superhero in the Marvel pantheon.

The series, created by Bisha K Ali, has so far done a swell job balancing the superhero sensibilities of MCU storytelling with a sweet and entertaining coming-of-age story of a young girl discovering her place in the world. It is a story that has been done before, but never this well.

The strong writing by Bisha and her team does make the series feel like its own thing, despite a few annoying yet requisite references to the rest of the MCU (which are comparatively forgivable here, as Kamala Khan was a fangirl of Carol Danvers and Avengers before she became a superhero).

Iman Vellani, our titular superhero herself, is instantly likeable. There has probably not been as on-point a casting in MCU in years. She does feel like she escaped the comic-book pages to play the role. There is always that twinkle in her eyes that we associate with the superhero, that cheerfulness, which contrasts with a little teenage angst we also get to see. Her character is pretty deeply written for your standard teen superhero.

But the best part of the show is her sheer joy in discovering her superpowers. Unlike some superheroes I could name, Kamala finds delights in her newfound superpowers, even if she is unable to control them. There is a very Shazam-like sequence in which she and her friend try to pinpoint what, exactly, her abilities are. There are a few references that Shah Rukh Khan fans will love. The depiction of Pakistani and South Asian culture and values, with both their good and bad bits, is dead accurate, at times uncomfortably so.

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