Putting New Jersey back on the map.
It’s been well over a month since Ms. Marvel aired its season finale on Disney+ and I’m just getting around to watching the show. Why? Eh. Lack of interest. Not in Ms. Marvel itself as a landing pad but out of sheer exhaustion for Disney property saturation. It doesn’t help that Obi-Wan was such a boring garbage heap that I never got past episode four. Now some of you may be wondering if I have ever read a Ms. Marvel comic, considering Kamala Khan showed up as late as 2013 and I constantly talk about how I don’t read “that nerd shit.” Incidentally, Ms. Marvel is one of maybe three comics I’ve read in the last decade.
Ms. Marvel stars Iman Vellani as the adorable Kamala Khan, the 16-year old Pakistani girl played by a 20 year old actress trying to eek out a living in New Jersey. A socially awkward girl dealing with school, her friends, what she wants to do when she graduates, and finding her place in the world. Her parents Muneba (Zenobia Shroff) and Yusuf (Mohan Kapur) are always worried about her, her best friend Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher) campaigns for the Mosque board to break the glass ceiling for Muslim women, and her friend Bruno (Matt Lintz) is a pasty white boy nerd dork who thirsts for her like he’s trapped in the desert. Kamala meanwhile has her eyes set on Kamran (Rish Shah), who is what you’d get if you took the handsome jock stereotype and just made him Pakistani. In short, it’s a story we can all relate to.
Now if you’re familiar with the source material, you know that Kamala is a big nerd toward the Avengers. The plot of the video game Marvel’s Avengers focuses on Kamala attending Avengers Con and then reuniting them years later. Kamala’s life in the show is flipped turned upside down of course at Avengers Con when she puts on a bangle that unlocks her superpowers. She then becomes the target of a group called the Clandestines, people looking to return to their own world who can only do so via a process that would also destroy Kamala’s world in the process. Kamala must find her roots if she wants to protect her family, understand her powers and herself, and save the world.
Alysia Reiner is back as Agent Sadie Deever who works alongside P. Cleary (Arian Moayed) in the Department of Damage Control, an agency that sounds just obvious enough to be a Marvel construct and just stupid enough to be a real government agency. Canonically the Department of Damage Control has only appeared in the last two Spider-Man films, and only briefly to act as sort of a vaguely defined, potentially malicious, yet deeply incompetent organization set up with help from Tony Stark after the events of Avengers. The villainous Clandestine are one of the more grounded we’ve seen in Marvel for outworld beings and such a background act that many of them are credited as simply guest stars. Najma (Nimra Bucha) is a good head villain, and I think it’s mostly in her determined psycho eyes and strong jaw.
I suppose one thing I enjoy about Ms. Marvel is that it doesn’t subvert its own premise. I’ve noted this before with Loki, WandaVision, and What If…? that Disney likes to advertise its shows and then get bored with that concept about two episodes into the mini-series. Ms. Marvel takes a detour in episode 5, but goes right back on track for a decent finale. It’s a good show and it clearly has some heart behind it. Kamala is one of the few characters in Marvel that has a family, let alone one that feels organic and has a constant presence.
I am a little disappointed that the show ditches its early style for the most part, where the environment blends in with Kamala’s imagination and makes each scene a visual treat. It’s a nice visual touch and I’m guessing they probably didn’t want to devote the budget to it over all six episodes. The VFX budget of the show takes a real nosedive in the finale, where it feels like they clearly ran short of effects time and resources and the crystal power effects feel like they’re straight out of an early 2000s CW show. It doesn’t look terrible, but the more Disney pumps out Marvel shows the more stretched their budget is obviously showing.
All in all, a good show. Iman Vellani brings a warm charm to Kamala Khan that I’m sure will drive her at least the next ten years in the MCU and then after that? I look forward to seeing her in real movies. Perhaps less so when she stars in the all-female reboot of Army of One in 2036. Otherwise, Ms. Marvel kept me watching the whole season which is more than I can say for Hawkeye, Obi-Wan, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and The Book of Booba Feet. I’m not looking forward to watching She-Hulk.
God Disney sucks.