Although I consider Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel to be the most authentic adaptation Marvel has ever done, it has been no small matter they made some key changes from the comics. Now that everyone has seen two episodes, here are my theories on some of the Ms. Marvel changes, and how they could potentially help MCU Kamala’s character journey and add even more meaning to the same story from the comics.
[Warning: Spoilers for Ms. Marvel episodes 1 and 2 are below!]
Changes to the bangle and Kamala’s family
First off, as I wrote about in February, the bangle storyline from Ms. Marvel: Civil War II is essential reading for the series! Issues #8-11 each start with a short prologue chronicling how the bangle helped Kamala’s great-grandmother Aisha during the Indian/Pakistan partition, then how the bangle was passed down from generation to generation to Kamala.
The first change I want to talk about is the name of Kamala’s grandmother (the phone call in episode 2). In eight years of Kamala Khan literature, her grandmother still hasn’t been given a name in the comics. The show rectifies this by immediately naming her Sana in episode 1. This is a great nod to Sana Amanat, who is the Ms. Marvel co-creator, comic editor, and an executive producer on the show.
Of course, the most important change is the bangles and how they have affected Kamala’s family. In the comics, the bangles are simply a cherished family heirloom connecting four generations of women. Yet in the show, the bangles have become a source of division. Kamala’s mother Muneeba (Zenobia Shroff) has strong negative feelings towards them, particularly for how they disrupted her relationship with her own mother Sana (Samina Ahmad), and grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat). Instead of being lovingly passed down to Kamala, the bangles in the show are almost something forbidden that Kamala should stay away from. This is a big departure!
But as a matter of fact, I think these changes are what will create Muneeba’s arc this season. If Muneeba learns the truth of the bangles through Kamala and learns to re-evaluate her past, then I think the season could resolve the maternal legacy storyline with Muneeba reconnecting with her mother Sana, gaining a new understanding of her grandmother Aisha, and sharing a lot of happy tears with all the women involved.
The bangles would shift from being a source of division to a source of loving connection. Their symbolism would be just like the comics, but with six episodes of lived meaning that give new value to Kamala’s family story and to the bangles themselves. If the bangles are used to progress Muneeba’s character arc and reconnect the generations of women in Kamala’s family, then the changes would add a valuable story to what was already something beautiful in the comics.
Power set changes to Ms. Marvel
The biggest change on anyone’s mind going into this show was the change to Kamala’s powers. With two episodes out, everyone can form their own opinion on how well the change sits with them – but how do these new powers really compare to the comics?
First of all, the big hands are still there. In the comics, Kamala has the power to grow/shrink parts of her body (early on, she even has the power to shapeshift, though this quickly falls away). Her ’embiggening’ ability is what gives her the iconic big hands, and yes, the show is still doing the big hands justice.
However, instead of glowing yellow like they sometimes do in the comics, MCU Kamala’s powers are purple, and they’re constructs formed around Kamala’s normal-sized hands. Additionally, because the constructs form around her body, this means she can only ‘grow’ but she can’t shrink like she occasionally does in the comics. MCU Kamala can also create little platforms, which is a new ability she is struggling to understand and control.
Keeping Kamala’s original power set intact was important because her gross, weird stretching was a metaphor for feeling uncomfortable in her own skin as a brown teenager in the United States. This past week, Ms. Marvel head writer Bisha K. Ali defended their mindset behind the changes in a new interview with Deadline.
“All the creatives involved with this project are super fans of the comic books. We all feel deeply reverential towards the comic books and we feel as strongly as the fans do about the comic books.
The thing that felt really important to honor was that in the comic books, her power set and how her powers manifest are deeply tied to her character and where her psychology is, how she perceives herself in the world, how she perceives the changes in her body as a teenager, how she perceives herself relative to the other superheroes that exist. All of those are inherently tied and analogous in that powerset she has.
I do think the connectivity between the powerset we’ve developed, what it means about her, everything it’s going to express about who she is, her character journey, her psychology: Those are still inherently tied. That was something that, my god, I just had to hold onto.”
– Bisha K. Ali, head writer of Ms. Marvel (via Deadline Podcast interview – at 7:50)
Already in episode 2, we’ve seen how Kamala’s struggle to control her powers mirrors her struggle in the comics, leading to embarrassment and fear of her own body. A simple solution might be to remove the bangle, but it seems like she possibly can’t – reminiscent of the alien Omni-Watch from Ben 10. Just like in the comics, Kamala’s powers are changing how her body behaves, and she has limited control over it. They embarrass her. The metaphor is intact.
During her first true hero rescue outside the mosque, she nearly fails to save the boy. The comics have different powers and a different hero situation, but the emotional lesson of failure is essentially the same there too. While not 1:1, most of Kamala’s character struggles are still the same.
The only character beat I’m still waiting for is when she stops trying to be Carol Danvers (a white hero) and learns to embrace her culture, her body, and herself as Kamala. I think this will surely happen in the show, so I hope they are able to do so with the same poignancy as the comics.
I am also excited about the future of Kamala’s powers. A key part of Ms. Marvel: Mecca was also watching Kamala learn to use her powers creatively. Given that her MCU powers are based on light instead of embiggening, I wonder what how she could use her MCU powers creatively too.
What’s the MCU equivalent of these pages?
The Change to Ms. Marvel’s Lightning Bolt Symbol
Over the weekend, I discovered a Pakistani-American Muslim Tiktoker from New Jersey – @watchwithneebz. On top of his great cultural breakdown of Ms. Marvel episode 1, Neebz also had a brilliant theory for the change in Kamala’s lightning bolt symbol. In the comics, Kamala is the second Ms. Marvel, after Carol Danvers had previously held the title, and Kamala simply adopts the lightning bolt symbol from her. However, since MCU Carol Danvers was never Ms. Marvel herself, where does Kamala’s lightning bolt symbol come from?
Neebz’s theory is that Kamala’s symbol in the MCU is actually كـ (“Kahf”), which is the letter ‘K’ in Arabic. Like how Superman has his S, this would give Kamala her own كـ, which doubles as a S-shape and matches her first initial in Arabic.
The classic initialism symbolism goes hand-in-hand with Kamala’s color set of red, blue, and yellow, which already evoked the ethos of Superman as an inspirational, optimistic immigrant hero. It would also match Kamala’s arc of embracing her unique cultural heritage by showcasing her Arabic initialism so proudly, as opposed to how timidly she holds her name necklace in episode 1. I think this theory makes so much sense for Kamala’s character that I’d even like to see her comic counterpart adopt كـ as her symbol too, instead of continuing to reuse Carol’s old lightning bolt.
So since Carol was never #msmarvel in the MCU where does Kamala get her symbol from & why is it a lightning bolt? Well it’s not! My theory is it’s her name in Arabic. I saw her fidgeting w it and notice it’s her symbol! #kamalakhan @MiniB622 pic.twitter.com/0P0iNiDv9o
— watchwithneebz (@watchwithneebz) June 10, 2022
So those are some theories for the reasons behind some of the changes to Ms. Marvel so far in the show, and what I think they could mean for the future of the show and Kamala’s character arc!
What do you guys think of the show so far? What are your predictions for the upcoming episodes? Let me know on Twitter @vinwriteswords and remember to follow the site @MyCosmicCircus for more theories about upcoming Marvel projects!
Also now that both episodes are out, feel free to check my review and let me know what you think!
All images courtesy of Marvel.