Features and Columns · TV

‘Ms. Marvel’ Plays Damage Control

We dig into Ms. Marvel Episode 1 and consider how the show veers away from its comic book origins and how Damage Control could ruin it all.
Ms Marvel Episode
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on June 14th, 2022

Marvel Explained is our ongoing series where we delve into the latest Marvel shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry explores Ms. Marvel Episode 1 and digs into those super-suit haters called Damage Control. Yes, prepare for SPOILERS.

With a few exceptions, the Marvel Studios shows on Disney+ have tried to maintain a safe border around themselves, away from the greater Marvel Cinematic Universe. Their latest venture, Ms. Marvel, doesn’t have that luxury. Its hero, Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), is deeply invested in the comings and goings of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes…or Earth’s Mightiest Hero. Captain Marvel is Kamala’s obsession. As a result, Ms. Marvel goes all-in with its own fandom, giving its audience an excuse to do so too. Let’s geek out, friends.

Counting the number of references in the first episode will leave you feeling dizzy. Ant-Man’s got a podcast?! Captain Marvel has apparently been taking in sights around Tokyo as well as flying the friendly New Jersey skies. Camp Lehigh, Captain America’s super-soldier birthplace and the first site of S.H.I.E.L.D. operations, is now home to Avengers Con. When do tickets go on sale for us?

Yet, that’s not what folks want to talk about. Incredible attention has focused on how the series alters Kamala Khan’s power set. Also, the source of that power. In the comics, she develops abilities after the Inhuman Black Bolt accidentally detonates a Terrigan bomb during the Infinity storyline. What the hell does that mean? Uh, it’s complicated and ultimately doesn’t mean much for those just watching the show. Basically, the explosion pumped a mutagenic vapor across New Jersey, awakening dormant Inhuman powers in certain people, like Kamala Khan.

New Powers, Inhuman No More

In Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, Marvel Studios didn’t mind poking fun at the Inhuman television series’ failure, but they sure as heck were not going to tie those ABC mangled characters into their new pride and joy. They’re cooking up something fresh with Ms. Marvel, and Episode 1 is not ready to reveal exactly what or how they’re shifting Kamala’s origin. It’s certainly tied to the bangle recently shipped her way by her grandmother.

At Avengers Con, an energy field envelops Kamala’s body when she attaches the bracelet to her wrist. Once on stage for the Captain Marvel cosplay contest, as the cameras are flashing, she emits a hard energy from her fists. This creates a Rube Goldberg catastrophe climaxing with an oversized Mjolnir knocking wannabe influencer Zoe (Laurel Marsden) into the air. Kamala saves her by extending a long, hard-light arm to catch her, somewhat mimicking her comic book counterpart’s embiggening skills.

We can infer a few things about Kamala Khan’s powers based on what we see in Episode 1. Whatever the bangle is, it has unlocked something within Kamala. Just like in the comic, her powers are already a part of her. It’s just an object that unlocks them and not the Terrigen mist.

Considering that the bracelet arrived in the mail via a grandmother’s care package, we can also assume that there is a lot more going on regarding Kamala’s family saga. If she’s not an Inhuman, what is she? Her family definitely has history, and it’s still probably tied to the Marvel Universe.

Is ClanDestine on its way?

Based on the trailer, we’ve already speculated that the magic-enhanced superteam known as ClanDestine will appear at some point in Ms. Marvel. During the Third Crusade, the group’s leader, Adam Destine, rescued a Djinn from imprisonment. As a reward, she made him immortal, and the two bore many, many children. Each one, of course, sporting their own unique gifts.

Could Kamala Khan’s family stem from this ancient union? Could the bracelet merely have triggered the powers locked in her DNA?

If the Inhumans are an obscure superhero gang from the comics, then ClanDestine are nearly non-existent. Created by writer/artist Alan Davis and first appearing in Marvel Comics Presents #158, ClanDestine are a goofy-looking lot. But no goofier than the Guardians of the Galaxy, and Marvel loves to take nearly forgotten corners of their realm and transform them into billion-dollar franchises.

ClandDestine, like Moon Knight, could never make a solo title last longer than a year or two. Mostly, these reluctant superheroes are relegated to guest appearances in more popular titles. And even those are few and far between. Nothing would make this geek happier than Ms. Marvel adapting these weirdos, transforming them into a top-tier property.

Ms. Marvel Unleashes Damage Control

Ms. Marvel Episode 1 nearly concludes with no obvious enemy in sight. Then the mid-credit stinger hits, and we get a familiar face. Agent P. Cleary (Arian Moayed) gets word of what went down at Avengers Con. Just as we’ve never seen Kamala Khan’s power set before, neither has he, and it gets his blood pumping.

The last time we saw Cleary, he was pestering Peter Parker in SpiderMan: No Way Home after Mysterio outed the webhead’s secret identity. As a Damage Control lackey, Cleary is tasked with monitoring all superhuman activities within the United States. The organization first formed after the Chitauri invasion, and they’re the suits who stopped Michael Keaton’s Adrian Toomes from collecting sci-fi scrap metal in SpiderMan: Homecoming.

Kamala Khan’s powers manifesting on stage at Avengers Con have already disadvantaged her tremendously. While she’ll probably spend the next few episodes figuring out exactly what she can do and who she is, she’ll also have to protect herself from coming under the Damage Control spotlight. Cleary doesn’t strike me as an out-and-out villain, more of a pain in the ass. So, we must look elsewhere for the series’ big bad.

War on the Homefront

We spot an Edison’s Electric sign on the rooftops where Kamala Khan and her BFF Bruno (Matt Lintz) like to hang. I would love to believe that this means she’ll battle it out with the Thomas Eddison cockatiel clone, the Inventor, as Kamala Khan did in her first comic book storyline, but that oddity is probably too odd. Ah, that can’t be the case. Rocket Raccoon, baby. But Marvel Studios generally likes to pair their origin stories with villains who speak directly to their hero’s emotional journey. Or, at least, the best stories do, and Ms. Marvel feels like one of their best stories already. That means, the Inventor doesn’t fit that bill.

Heroism and antagonism will most likely stay within the family. Damage Control will be an annoyance, but uncovering Kamala’s origin will lead into confrontation with her mother (Zenobia Shroff), who quickly dismissed the bracelet as junk after it arrived in the mail. The tensions between them are already high. When forced to accept the magic in their blood, conversations avoided for decades will occur. Expect a disagreement that will make the Avengers Con dispute look like a non-event.

Ms. Marvel Episode 1 is now streaming on Disney+.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)