The title heroine Kamala Khan's (Iman Vellani) main fear in the first episode of Ms Marvel — the Disney+ six-episode series produced by Bisha K. Ali and co-directed by Adil El Arbi and Bilall Falla — is zeroing in on a "final flourish for her outfit." Khan, a shy 16-year-old Pakistani-American high school student from Jersey City, is a self-proclaimed superhero fanatic who spends much of her waking hours thinking about her hero Captain Marvel.
Kamala's overactive imagination is prone to animating reality in between failing driver tests (Kamala saying "Bismillah" before starting her test is an undeniably nice touch) and sitting through sermons delivered by her suitably dramatic immigrant parents (Zenobia Shroff and Mohan Kapur, both in terrific form).
The quirky opening animation sequence (which harkens back to Mitchells vs. the Machines) hints to this. Kamala's voice is initially heard as a voiceover in a fiction video she's preparing to upload to YouTube, narrating the Avengers' escapades. Her animated hand-drawn paper dolls are overlaid atop her feverish recaps of the Battle of Earth and eager theorising about Thor's secret fondness for gaming. Her major concern is still completing "the last flourish for her outfit" in order to compete in the Captain Marvel cosplay competition at the first-ever Avenger-con.
Kamala, who sneaks out of the house to attend the event with Bruno (Matt Linz), her closest friend and fellow superhero nerd, discovers for the first time that she has superpowers after donning a family relic designed to complement her costume. The season debut of Ms Marvel, like any other origin narrative, focuses on world-building, or laying the groundwork for the superheroic metamorphosis of an average Pakistani-American adolescent with a penchant for seeing stars in her eyes.
That gets me to the first points that characterise the show's (and the upcoming film) significance: Kamala Khan is the first Muslim superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), and her presence defies the superhero genre's default white male paradigm. Kamala has swiftly risen to become one of the MCU's most popular heroines, despite being a relatively recent arrival in the Marvel books, having been established less than a decade ago (by a team that includes Sana Amanat, who acts as the series' executive producer).
Part of the issue is the obvious lack of diversity on the MCU's roster, which Marvel recognised and attempted to fill with the introduction of Kamala Khan. Ms Marvel's acclaimed position reflects an entirely different route for the MCU, one capable of putting a fresh twist on a history, resulting in colourful, engaging storytelling. But representation isn't the sole goal of Ms Marvel.
Although the origin of Kamala's talents in the series is a divergence from the comics, the writing never loses sight of its own voice and locates humorous moments via sheer precision. From Swet Shops Boys' "Ko Ko Korina," an enormously hummable Pakistani classic, to Coke Studio's "Peechay Hutt," the soundtrack is loaded with immediate bops.
Kamala's family, which includes her older brother and parents, is shown with comparable attention, eschewing the stereotypical portrayal of brown families, whose cultural identifiers are frequently reduced to a punchline. Ms Marvel, on the other hand, does not exploit Kamala's cultural history as a plot device; instead, it employs it as a weapon – in a gratifying manner — weaving it into every part of her adolescence.
A scenario in which Kamala's parents recommend that she wear a modest green salwar kameez and dress up as Hulk to the Avenger-con while being escorted by her similarly clad father is hilarious. However, the humorous plotline is mixed with a degree of emotional contemplation regarding immigrant families' natural generational difference and how easily devotion may approach suffocating.
In this sense, the artistic flourishes support the plot by striking a fine balance between being fun and deep. As smoothly as jump cuts and irreverent transitions, split screens take over the screen. Doodles, speech bubbles, and sketches regularly come to life, as if the eye-popping graphics are meant to give viewers a firsthand look into the mind of a restless adolescent. My heart was quickly captured by a bright scenario in which a text message is reflected in street lights and a sorrowful emoji transforms into a neon business sign.
The first episode, aided by Vellani's breakout performance, effectively captures the frenzied energy of a young superhero. In this regard, one of Ms Marvel's debut episode's assets appears to be its ability to look and feel like a high-school programme. Ms Marvel seems like the ideal wish-fulfillment of the ultimate fangirl fantasy because it lets Kamala's narrative unveil its intricacies on her own terms. It has everything you could ever want.