Ms. Marvel: How the MCU Changed Kamala Khan’s Powers (& Why)


Followers of comic book media vying to watch their favorite characters be brought to life on the big (or small) screens await their arrival with a certain unspoken expectancy shared between studio and fanbase. One collective anticipation that is shared across a fandom is that when a franchise makes the decision to introduce new characters into live-action, the creative team honors the roots of how that character came to be. Perhaps it’s not always the incredibly elaborate origin story that has taken over the pages of the comics in ornate, bombastic fashion, though there’s hope for fidelity to the source material.

Marvel Studios has taken particular creative liberty when preparing the introduction of their first Pakistani-American hero for her live-action debut, Kamala “Ms. Marvel” Khan, as Ms. Marvel is set for a Summer 2022 release date on Disney+. The recent trailer offers a generous glimpse at the superhero-obsessed teen and her unexpected embarkment on a hero’s journey of her own. Ms. Marvel appreciates the richness and vibrancy of Pakistani culture as it pays keen attention to Khan’s customs, though Marvel Studios dismisses a key aspect of her story. The brief look at Ms. Marvel shares Kamala’s new powers — which have been changed from the comics for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Here’s how, and why, Ms. Marvel made the respective changes to Kamala Khan’s powers.

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How Did Ms. Marvel Get Her Powers in the Comics?

Marvel Comics

Ms. Marvel may be the first time that most are meeting the character, but she has previously established herself as a beloved newcomer to the pages of Marvel Comics during the events of the 2013 comic run, Infinity, where Thanos loomed over Earth as an unrelenting threat. A determined Thanos continues his multi-planetary search for his son Thane and leaves no species safe. After the Mad Titan vows to destroy Attilan, the home planet of the Inhumans, Black Bolt takes it upon himself to obliterate the planet before Thanos’ ceaseless reign can touch it. His deafening scream shatters Attilan and triggers the response of the Terrigen Bomb. Consequent to his actions, the Mist released from the bomb falls to Earth. The dust awakens the Inhuman gene in those who are vast descendants of Inhumans and have DNA codes that trace back to Inhuman ancestry. The Mist reaches Kamala, and her Inhuman abilities are activated.

As her powers begin to emerge, Kamala undergoes a state of metamorphosis referred to as terrigenesis. The stage of terrigenesis allows Kamala to familiarize herself with the abilities that allow her to manipulate her body. She decides to label herself as a polymorph, as she is able to shape-shift, stretch limbs, shrink, and exaggerate her physical build upon will. Kamala’s comic book abilities allow her acts of heroism to take almost any form that she pleases. The MCU, of course, has other plans in mind for how Kamala’s valiancy will unfold across the series.

How Did Ms. Marvel Get Her Powers in the MCU?

Marvel Studios

Aside from the Terrigen Mist transforming Kamala into Ms. Marvel, the official trailer has most of the origin story’s original elements. Kamala’s new powers are instead sourced from a mystical-looking bracelet that veils her in a purple glow. It is presumed that the bracelet is in some relation to the Nega-Bands used by the Kree as the reimagined origins of Ms. Marvel place a heavier value on cosmic themes. Still, there is an absence of Inhuman heritage featured within the trailer, and instead, indicates that Kamala’s powers are time-orientated. The trailer features time-related imagery that show how her abilities could tie into the manipulation of reality.

The bracelet is a significant family heirloom in the Ms. Marvel comics and traces its history back to the division of India and Pakistan. Since then, it has made its way throughout the Khan family before reaching Kamala, though the comics never explicitly allude to any cosmic ability caused by it. Though the depiction of the bracelet in the trailer shares similar traits to how some artists depicted Terrigen in the comics, the MCU has yet to label anything as such. Instead, Kamala is granted the power of energy manipulation that has similarly been given to others within the MCU. Trailers are guilty of betraying what fans can expect to see within the series without entirely giving themselves away, so the first look at Ms. Marvel in action is likely only an idea of what the series sets out to accomplish, but, hopefully, does not limit what she can do.

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Why the MCU Changed Kamala Khan’s Powers Origin Story

Marvel Studios

A failed Inhumans television series acts an as an excuse for Marvel Studios to distance themselves from the property altogether. Marvel President Kevin Feige has been incredibly reluctant to revisit the team in the MCU as the scrapped cinematic adaptation proves his apprehension towards the franchise. The abandonment of the live-action interpretations was so impactful that it minimized the outpour of Inhumans comics released in circulation. The blatant declination to feature, or merely mention, the Inhumans costs Kamala her comic book-esque origination. If Marvel Studios were to opt to illustrate Ms. Marvel’s true becoming, they would face an issue of continuity in the MCU when incorporating Thanos into the series. The exclusion of two major plot pieces forces Marvel’s hand in moving in a different direction.

Ms. Marvel comic co-creator G. Willow Wilson spoke on her live-action debut and her reaction to Kamala’s groundbreaking inclusion into the MCU. “I think there’re some characters who are very much set up for the big screen, they’re very naturally sort of cinematic,” she said during an interview with Polygon. “But with Ms. Marvel, we really weren’t interested in creating something that had very obvious film potential. I was really leaning – and I know Adrian [Alphona] and Takeshi [Miyazawa] and all of the artists as well – were really leaning into the comic book-ness of this character. She’s got very comic booky powers. 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.” There’s a chance that Marvel Studios agrees that Ms. Marvel’s powers aren’t as aesthetically pleasing as they would hope, or would align with the visual goals for their brand, and reroute the origin story for the sake of cinematography. The studio’s dedication to planning its overarching stories is another contributing factor to the drastic means taken by the creative team. While Ms. Marvel’s powers may not be accurate, they may set her up for something greater.

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