This review features minor spoilers for Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness.
Marvel Comics readers will know that the character of Kamala Khan as the new Ms Marvel debuted on the page in 2013, a year after the most famous claimant to that name, the oft-complicated, self-battling Carol Danvers hung up her old title to assume the mantle of Captain Marvel. In contrast to her famous predecessor, Kamala Khan had all the energy you would expect of a smart, savvy, and very stressed out teenager grappling with life whilst learning she has the opportunity to be as much of a superhero as the very superheroes she looks up to. Since those earlier days, Kamala has grown from that bewildered teenager to an admirable leader and total joy to read in every issue.
Thus, it only makes sense that so much expectation was levied upon the character's introduction into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, especially since she would then be the most high-profile Muslim superhero in the MCU's roster. The show struck gold with the casting of Iman Vellani, who holds her own throughout all six episodes, portraying the complications of existing as different forms of herself - for her friends, for her family, as a hero - with endearing earnestness. Her smile positively pops off the screen, and such is her energy that you could just as much watch her do anything, no matter how mundane, as watch her get up to superhero hijinks.
In that respect, through a limited series the creators have done the character justice by giving her story and experiences time to breathe in a way that would not have been possible in a feature film. Scenes with her family members in particular are worth pausing and going back through multiple times to catch lots of little moments between them; moments that also, when tracked from episode to episode, helps us see the growth of Vellani's Kamala. A scene during the sixth and final episode between Kamala and her father is one of most moving in the show, and feels palpably genuine and heartfelt. More than just a superhero show, Ms Marvel is a show that helps to shed light on the Pakistani-American experience in a powerful and emotional manner.
When it comes to the larger MCU narrative, the show also introduces the concept of mutants through their reference to a 'mutation' in Kamala's genes, and a hint of the X-Men theme that sharp-eared viewers might catch. Finally bringing all the various groups and teams to be found in the MCU has been a long process, with cameos in Doctor Strange and the Multiverse of Madness hinting at things to come, but the mutant reference in Ms Marvel brings the world of the X-Men into the narrative more directly than the aforementioned Patrick Stewart cameo.
The action sequences are fun throughout, and will please any fan of the MCU, but the true success of the show is how well the show runners have re-created the heart and heroism that makes the original comics so enjoyable to read. Kamala has often felt like a hero you'd want as your friend, with her friends the kind of friends you'd wish to have around you if you ever inexplicably ended up with powers. No matter how big the villain, the lives of all the characters give the stories in the comics a beating heart, and it is the same with the series.
The colour scheme also pops throughout, with richer shades of the primary colours a constant reminder that this isn't a simple cookie cutter hero story. Sometimes it feels like the plot moves too quickly, or scrambles to wrap up all its various threads in satisfactory enough manner, and as a result the show begs for another season (or even just a few more episodes) in order to give each storyline its proper dues (particularly with the side characters). We will see Kamala (and co) again in The Marvels, a movie with Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), Monica Rambeau (Teyonah Parris) and Ms Marvel herself returning in a manner that will hopefully also answer the questions thrown up in episode six's post-credit scene.
Overall, Ms Marvel can be considered one of the more successful properties to come out of the MCU's Phase Four, as a show that delivers for long-term fans of the character, whilst also being a fun, engaging watch that is never too absorbed in its own plot or concepts to lose the interest of the viewer. We will not see a season two until The Marvels hits silver screens, but that's no matter: any chance to see more of Kamala Khan and her world is surely a good one.