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Ms. Marvel Kamala Khan's comic book origins and superpowers explained

Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel in comics and in the MCU
(Image credit: George Marston)

Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, is on her way to the MCU, even if it's taking a little longer than expected. 

Marvel's first Pakistani teen hero was supposed to make her live-action Marvel Cinematic Universe debut played by Iman Vellaniin late 2021, but for reasons not quite nailed down her Disney Plus debut has been moved back to what now seems like late 2022 on her way to joining Brie Larson's Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel and Teyonah Parris' Monica Rambeau on the big screen in February 2023's The Marvels. 

A brief glimpse of footage from the Disney Plus streaming series during the recent Disney Plus Day event shows Kamala in a Carol Danvers-inspired cosplay-type costume and includes a potential look at the manifestation of her powers (they may deviate from the Marvel Comics version of the character) and the likely villains of the show.

For MCU fans without a background in Kamala Khan's comic book adventures, those fleeting glances at the streaming series offer just a small taste of what she's all about. 

But for those who have been keeping up with Kamala since Marvel Comics introduced her to readers in 2013 and 2014, (like all of us here at Newsarama), some of those images in the teaser footage suggest a lot more than might immediately meet the eye. 

And can tell you what that all means as we dig into Kamala Khan's comic book origins as Ms. Marvel, her superpowers, the supervillains she fights, and her place in the Marvel Universe.

Who is Ms. Marvel?

image of Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Kamala Khan is actually the second superhero to take the name Ms. Marvel in Marvel comic books. She's what's colloquially referred to in the comic book community as a "legacy" character.

The moniker was first used by Kamala's mentor and idol, Carol Danvers, who MCU fans know as Captain Marvel. 

In comics, Carol operated as Ms. Marvel when her own mentor, the Kree war hero-Space Fleet officer Mar-Vell (reimagined in the movies as a Kree scientist played by Annette Bening), was still alive and working as the original Captain Marvel. 

While it took decades after his death and a few superhero code names in-between, Carol - who in comics has genetic ties to the Kree - eventually took on the Captain Marvel mantle, and it was soon after that Kamala made her first comic book appearance in Carol's headlining title - 2013's Captain Marvel #14.

Like Carol, Kamala has an ancestral connection to the Kree – though not the same way Carol does. To explain, we have to go back to her origin. 

Born and raised in Jersey City, New Jersey, Kamala is a Pakistani American and a practicing Muslim who, like Marvel's original teen hero Peter Parker/Spider-Man, balances her life as a teenage superhero with her commitments to school and family.

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

For most of her life, Kamala believed she was an ordinary human, though she longed to gain superpowers like her heroes the Avengers (she even wrote herself into Avengers fan fiction before becoming Ms. Marvel!).

During Marvel's Infinity event, in which Thanos tried once again to conquer Earth and the rest of the Universe, the Terrigen Mists of the Inhumans were released across the Earth. Here's where Kamala's connection to the Kree comes in.

Though it's a little complicated, the Inhumans are a race of genetically engineered beings populated on Earth by their creators the Kree. When exposed to the mysterious Terrigen Mists, people with Inhuman DNA develop a unique superpower and sometimes undergo physical mutation.

When the Terrigen Mists swept across the Earth, they awakened superpowers in thousands of people with latent, heretofore unknown Inhuman DNA – including Kamala Khan.

What are Ms. Marvel's powers?

image of Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

After her exposure to the Terrigen Mists, Kamala gained the power to 'embiggen,' her word for changing her size and shape, especially to get bigger and to make her fists larger for punching (those who have played Marvel's Avengers have likely gotten a long tutorial on the applications of these abilities by now).

As an Inhuman, she has a tenuous comic book relationship with the Inhuman Royal Family led by Black Bolt and Medusa, though Kamala has developed a special bond with the Inhumans' dog Lockjaw, who has his own Terrigen Mist-granted power of teleportation. 

Along with her shape-shifting powers, Kamala has undergone extensive training as part of the Avengers and Champions, making her a capable strategist and fighter even beyond her superpowers.

For a while, she sported a special Kree-designed battle uniform while in space that carried its own weapons and abilities - but she's gone back to basics since returning to Earth.

Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel in the Marvel Universe

image of Ms. Marvel/Kamala Khan

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Since she got her powers and took the name Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan has become an integral part of the Marvel Universe, particularly through her relationships with the other teen heroes of her generation.

We brought up the Avengers and the Champions, two super-teams Kamala has been a part of. Living up to her dreams, Kamala became an Avenger after meeting Carol Danvers and helping the team on a limited basis, after which she and two other teen heroes, Miles Morales/Spider-Man and Sam Alexander/Nova (themselves also inheritors of the legacies of classic older heroes) were all granted Avengers membership.

Kamala, Sam, and Miles's time on the team was short-lived, however, as the three became disillusioned with adult superheroes during their adventures with the Avengers and departed to form their own team, based around their own ideals about building a better world.

Recruiting other teen heroes from around the Marvel Universe, Kamala, Sam, and Miles became the core of the Champions, a team that has had its share of recent ups and downs, including a recent stint as enemies of the state during the 'Outlawed' story. 

In 'Outlawed,' the US government passes a law titled 'Kamala's Law' to curb teen vigilante heroes after Kamala Khan seemingly disappears during a fight between the Champions and a giant monster - though she's actually just hiding in her secret identity of Ms. Marvel.

This leads to the creation of an organization called CRADLE which monitors teen heroes, causing Kamala and her allies in the Champions to temporarily operate as fugitives. However, Kamala's law was eventually repealed, and Ms. Marvel and the Champions are once again free to be teen heroes.

Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel in the MCU

still from Ms. Marvel teaser

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

As mentioned early, Kamala Khan will make her MCU debut in her own Ms. Marvel Disney Plus streaming series, likely in late 2022. But the video teaser, brief as it is, seems to hint at some changes to Kamala's origins and even her powers.

For one thing, it seems like something of a stretch to envision Marvel Studios tying Kamala's origins to the Inhumans, as they're essentially persona non grata at this point due to the widely panned and financially unsuccessful Inhumans TV show, which ran for just one truncated season on ABC amid terrible reception from critics and fans alike.

It's also unclear if The Inhumans is even considered MCU canon, similar to the nebulous state of Agents of SHIELD which may occupy its own vaguely MCU adjacent side continuity - all of which adds up to the distinct likelihood that Kamala Khan's powers will manifest a different way, without the Terrigen Mists.

There are plenty of possible theories as to how her powers may come to be, tied to everything from the Celestials as introduced in 2021's Eternals film and the cosmic energy involved in the Emergence as part of that film's planet-altering third act, to the possibility that Kamala's MCU powers may have a connection to the Infinity Stones.

still from Ms. Marvel teaser

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

That last possibility is particularly intriguing, considering evidence from the teaser and alleged leaked promo material for the show appears to show changes to Kamala's powers themselves. In comic books, Kamala has physical shapeshifting powers, which she usually employs to change size and to make her fists massive for super-punching people.

But the albeit inconclusive evidence we've seen so far appears to suggest that her powers will instead manifest as a kind of purple energy around her body, empowering her fists and possibly allowing her to create stepping discs to fly.

That could be interesting, considering the purple energy signature of Kamala's powers somewhat resembles the purple energy of the Power Stone. Remember, Kamala will appear in the film The Marvels alongside Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel, whose powers are derived from the Space Stone, and Monica Rambeau, whose origin scene in WandaVision in which she passes through a red mist could be interpreted as similar to the Aether/Reality Stone.

Could Marvel Studios be setting up The Marvels as a place to explore the fates of the Infinity Stones and the power they represent following their destruction by Thanos in Avengers: Endgame? They haven't been seen since, but the possible connection between the Power Stone's energy signature and Kamala's apparent MCU powers is something to keep an eye on.

still from Ms. Marvel teaser

(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

As for Kamala's enemies in the show, the teaser gives just a glimpse at who is likely them, but they may be versions of characters including Kamala's comic book villains Kamran and Kaboom, teenage Inhumans working for a villain named Lineage who wishes to overthrow the Inhuman royal family. 

This seems to imply that there could be more people who gain powers when Kamala's abilities manifest, meaning a larger explanation similar to the Inhuman Terrigen Mists - or possibly even a totally new, revamped version of the Mists themselves - could be in order for the show.

Time will tell, but what's for certain is that when Kamala Khan's Ms. Marvel show debuts in 2022, there will likely be some adjustments to her backstory and powers.

Get to know Kamala Khan even better before her show releases with the best Ms. Marvel comic book stories of all time.

I've been Newsarama's resident Marvel Comics expert and general comic book historian since 2011. I've also been the on-site reporter at most major comic conventions such as Comic-Con International: San Diego, New York Comic Con, and C2E2. Outside of comic journalism, I am the artist of many weird pictures, and the guitarist of many heavy riffs. (They/Them)