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[This story contains spoilers for the Ms. Marvel season finale.]
“There is no normal,” Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) says in the finale of Ms. Marvel. That turns out to be an understatement, as the true extent of her powers is revealed to her in the final minutes of the series.
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The six-episode Disney+ drama, led by head writer Bisha K. Ali and directing team Adil & Bilall, made some significant changes to the character’s mythos while still retaining the core of who Kamala Khan is — “Good is not a thing you are. It’s a thing you do.”
Kamala shrugs off the notion of labels at the end of the series, content in the goodness that comes from efforts as New Jersey’s very own superhero. Of course, the reveal that Kamala is, in fact, a mutant, a surprise bolstered by a few notes from the iconic X-Men: The Animated Series theme music, is a label that Marvel die-hards won’t soon stop talking about.
It’s been three years to this month since San Diego Comic-Con 2019, when Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige ended the panel with, “The mutants are coming.” And now, they’re finally here, and from a source few expected.
What’s interesting about Kamala’s mutant status in the MCU is that it’s a further distinction from her comic book counterpart, who is an Inhuman with polymorphic powers, rather than the hard energy constructs seen in the show. When Kamala Khan was introduced in the comics in 2013, Marvel was pushing Inhumans hard in an attempt to make them an X-Men-level property. It was an attempt at synergy. If Disney couldn’t have the rights to the X-Men, then the comics would also put many of those characters on the backburner and redevelop the Inhumans as not just a small family of superpowered beings, but an entire race emerging on Earth.
Conceptually, Inhumans didn’t differ much from X-Men. Rather than an X-gene, new Inhumans were the descendants of beings whose genetic code was mutated by the Kree in the attempt to create a warrior race. Their powers are triggered by the Terrigen Mists, rather than adolescence. So, when Marvel Comics dropped a Terrigen Bomb on the world during the event Infinity, thousands of new super-being emerged, including Kamala Khan.
At the same time, Marvel Television was going all in on Inhumans in Agents of SHIELD, and the blessedly short-lived Inhumans series, on ABC. While both series existed outside of Marvel Studios and Feige’s purview, Inhumans seemed like a suitable replacement for mutants. Except, you simply can’t beat the X-Men, the history they have, or their presence as allegory. Marvel’s Inhumans initiative was short-lived, ending in 2018, shortly after Disney acquired 20th Century Fox and gained access to the X-Men. And in Marvel Comics’ current landscape, mutants are all the rage once again, while most of the Inhumans are dead or MIA.
So, what does this mean for Kamala in the MCU? Is she going to be an X-Man? It’s not entirely clear yet, though her buddy team-ups with Wolverine seem all the more likely now — once he’s introduced. It does, however, make Kamala Khan the focal point of a lot of Marvel’s mythology going forward. One could even argue that she now stands at the center of the MCU’s future.
To recap, she is the descendant of the ClanDestines, a race of beings from another dimension who were believed descendants of Djinn by locals when they arrived. She discovered her powers through a mysterious bangle that is suggested to be Kree in origin (we see a blue alien show up in a flashback when we meet the ClanDestines, and the post-credit swap with Carol Danvers [Brie Larson] in the finale also suggests a connected tech).
But despite her grandmother (Samina Ahmed), mother (Zenobia Shroff), and brother (Saagar Shaikh) also being descendants of the ClanDestines, only Kamala exhibits powers with the bangle. This is a result of her mutation, which allows her to harness energy from the Noor Dimension, much like Gambit and Bishop are able to harness and manipulate kinetic energy in the comics. But this particular harnessing of energy from another dimension, which Kamala exhibits, is what The Ancient One (Tilda Swinton) refers to as a magic in Doctor Strange, and magic is even what Kamala’s father, Yusef (Mohan Kapur) calls her in the finale.
So, Kamala Khan is a ClanDestine-descended mutant whose interaction with possible Kree tech allows her to perform what sorcerers consider magic. It’s more complicated than Kamala simply being an Inhuman, which some fans may be annoyed by. Yet that complication feels true to the character and the reason why she was created. She’s a fangirl who dreamed of getting superhero powers, and when she gets them, it’s not simply a result of one thing, but a confluence of circumstances that can be traced through the history of the Marvel multiverse, the personal and the cosmic.
The heroine can be described by so many different labels, and yet she defies expectations for all of them. She is the embodiment of the MCU, just as her comic counterpart was the embodiment of comic book powers and the onus felt by creators Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, to give us characters we can see ourselves in. As fun as it will be for audiences to see these various mythologies further explored, it seems certain that Kamala Khan, as the focus of all of these powers — ancient, genetic and extradimensional — will only be defined as one thing above all else: a marvel.
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