The Ms. Marvel comic starring Kamala Khan, the first Muslim superhero in the Marvel pantheon, was first released in 2014. Although this version of the character is relatively new, the teenage heroine quickly picked up a hardcore following and a passionately devoted fanbase who identified with the fan-turned-hero story. While that’s great for the TV series in terms of viewership, it also means fans have *opinions* about the changes the series brought to the story, especially the bangle hat’s tied to Kamala’s Ms. Marvel abilities.
Warning: Spoilers for Ms. Marvel Episode 1 follow. In the comics, Kamala Khan is a huge Captain Marvel fangirl who accidentally discovers one day that she has superpowers of her own. Khan was part of the Marvel classification of “Inhumans,” those who carried genes from an alien race that came to Earth long ago. The dormant genes are activated by exposure to a substance known as the Terrigen Mists — a substance released en masse in the comics, creating a subset of powered people. When Khan’s powers are activated, she becomes a polymorph, able to stretch and contort her body into all sorts of shapes.
The MCU has dabbled in the Inhuman storylines before. In Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., as it moved away from the big screen stories, the Terrigen Mists are introduced and eventually spread across the Earth, turning Daisy into Quake. There was also the short-lived Inhumans TV series, which focused on the royal family that originally came to Earth, characters from which were recently revived in the Dr. Strange sequel.
But with Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. no longer classified as part of the MCU and the Inhumans TV series generally considered a failure, the powers that be behind the Ms. Marvel series decided to alter Khan’s origin story. Instead, Kamala’s abilities are triggered when she dons one of her grandmother’s old bangles, sent to her family as part of a large box of costume jewelry. And rather than just having polymorphing abilities, it seems she has a range of talents.
Fans hoping Ms. Marvel’s arrival would herald an Inhuman revival are naturally disappointed, but for some, the change also seems to take something away from Khan’s story. The point of Khan’s transformation in the mist is that she’s always had these abilities inside her. They’re not something bestowed by an external object, like some fans thought was the case with the bangle. But according to Sana Amanat, who co-created the comic character and executive produces the series, the bangle isn’t the source of Khan’s abilities; it just “unlocks” them. Like with the mists, it’s activating something already within her.
Speaking to Time Magazine, Amanat pointed out that by using a bangle instead of mist, the show was tying Khan closer to her culture. “A cool thing the writers did was they linked the powers to something related to her past we thought would be very meaningful,” she said. “That was a smart way of talking about the metaphor of empowerment and linking that to heritage.”
Kamala’s primary angst stems from her destiny to be a superhero conflicting with her family’s desire to see her grow up more traditionally. By tying the birth of her abilities to something traditionally Pakistani (and handed down from her grandmother), Ms. Marvel is already signaling that these two paths may not be as divergent as Kamala believes.
Ms. Marvel drops new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.