Marvel Studios’ Ms. Marvel has made her spectacular debut on Disney Plus, with Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan. Kamala has been one of the brightest rising stars in Marvel Comics since her debut in 2014*, but though she’s been featured in animation and even some pretty high-profile video games, she’s been invisible to the moviegoing audience until now.
In the first episode of her Disney Plus series, Kamala is just beginning to get in touch with her superpowers, but you might be wondering what they’ll look like when she masters them. Or maybe you’ve heard that her powers are really different in the show than in the comics. Here’s the lowdown on Ms. Marvel’s strange superpowers and abilities.
*Yes, we know Kamala’s first appearance was technically in 2013, but it was an unnamed cameo. Her first comic series, Ms. Marvel, debuted in 2014.
Ms. Marvel is a stretchy hero
When Kamala discovered her powers in the pages of Marvel Comics, they were a lot like those of Mister Fantastic, or Elastigirl, or Michael Jordan: She could stretch her limbs to noodle-y length. This put her in the long-standing class of stretchy characters, whose bodies behave more like chewing gum than flesh and bones, but Kamala added her own style on top. She could also shrink and enlarge her body, either all at once or one body part at a time, as in her signature move: shouting “Embiggen!” and punching things with a giant fist.
The first time her powers manifested she shape-shifted into a completely different human form — but that seems to have been a one-time only effect of being exposed to the strange mists that triggered her transformation. What was the deal with that mist? Well, it’s a long story and you don’t really need to know it, because…
Ms. Marvel’s powers are very different in the show
In the television series, Kamala’s powers are still developing, but based on what we’ve seen in the first episode, trailers, and promotional images, it appears that a mysterious family heirloom has given her the ability to conjure and project different shapes in the air. Some trailers have showed her hopping from conjured platform to platform, while in the first episode she conjures a giant stretchy fist to save a classmate from being crushed. In some ways, these new bangle powers are replicating the most iconic moves of a stretchy superhero, just without all the gross stretching flesh.
The question of how Ms. Marvel would bring stretching powers to live action and how it would keep them from being unavoidably weird to watch has been an open one during the show’s production. “She’s got very comic booky powers,” Ms. Marvel comic writer and Kamala co-creator G. Willow Wilson told Polygon in 2019, shortly after the show was announced. “God bless them trying to bring that to live action; I don’t know how that’s going to work out in a way that doesn’t look really creepy.”
This week, Polygon spoke to another co-creator of Kamala Khan, the Marvel Comics editor and Ms. Marvel TV series producer Sana Amanat, about the changes to Ms. Marvel’s powers.
“We want to make sure that we still retain the essence [of the character],” Amanat said, “but still evolve, and make it relevant to the stories that we’re telling in the MCU at that moment in time. […] It’s also something that we feel is able to look interesting visually as well. Because not only can she create embiggened fists, she can also jump on platforms, and it feels very Spider-Man-esque in the sense that she can kind of throw a platform, jump over it, punch her fist — it feels a bit more fluid in a fun way. And it also still has the essence of how her fight choreography was in the comics too.”
At this point in the series, the audience is learning just as much about Kamala’s powers as she is. Maybe by the end of the show she’ll be slinging giant fists around just like her comic book counterpart — or maybe she’ll be making more complicated shapes, like Green Lantern. We’ll have to wait and find out what the Marvel Cinematic Universe has in store for its Ms. Marvel.