When Kamala Khan burst onto screens in the vibrant premiere of the Disney+ series Ms. Marvel, audiences felt they were seeing something totally new. And with good reason. The superhero star of the latest Marvel Cinematic Universe show debuted in comics less than ten years ago. But since then, she’s become one of Marvel’s most popular new characters, quickly joining the pantheon of superheroes from the company’s founding in the late-60s.
Created by editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker, writer G. Willow Wilson, and artists Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie, Kamala first appeared in 2013’s Captain Marvel #14, as a fan of the titular hero. A few months later, her superpowers manifested in her own series, Ms. Marvel, which launched its first issue in 2014.
After being exposed to Terrigen Mists created by the Inhumans (you might remember the Inhumans king Black Bolt from his head-popping cameo in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness), Kamala—an otherwise nondescript Muslim teen from Jersey City—gets strange new powers. She can change the shape of her body, usually making her fists and feet “embiggen” to knock away baddies.
Producer Bisha K. Ali and directors Adil & Bilall (Bad Boys For Life) have slightly changed Kamala’s origin and power set for the show. But new star Iman Vellani brings all the infectious energy that made Ms. Marvel a hit in the comics. If the series has you hungry for more of Kamala’s off-beat adventures, here are some great Ms. Marvel stories to check out.
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“Crushed” (Ms. Marvel #12 -15, 2015)
In most cases, I would recommend that people start with the first issue of a series, especially with a relatively new character like Kamala Khan. But because the TV series repeats so many beats from the comic, while radically altering her origin and power set (for the better), the first five issues of Ms. Marvel may be more confusing than entertaining.
Instead, start with the third arc from her comic, which highlights Kamala’s enthusiasm, even as she’s thrust into a strange new world. In “Crushed,” the new Ms. Marvel faces the usual supervillains and adventures one would expect from a superhero. As a teenager, she must also deal with mean girls, a fractured friend group, and prom. Those two worlds collide when her prom date is revealed to be Loki, God of Mischief and Thor’s evil brother.
“Ms. Marvel Meets the Marvel Universe” (Ms. Marvel #6-9, Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur #10, 2015)
As you might expect from the title, “Ms. Marvel Meets the Marvel Universe” follows the hero’s stories as her world widens from Jersey City to New York and beyond. Here, she encounters many heroes, most notably Captain Marvel herself, Carol Danvers. Unlike her MCU counterpart, the Captain Marvel of the comics has gone by several different monikers throughout her career, including Ms. Marvel. The meeting between the two helps Kamala understand the legacy she carries, and how she can better be herself.
In addition to Captain Marvel, Kamala gets to team up with Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, another young hero with off-beat powers, and the original teen hero himself, Spider-Man. A collaboration between several different artists and writers, Meets the Marvel Universe shows how Ms. Marvel fits into the larger comic universe while also retaining her own unique position.
“Last Days” (Ms. Marvel #16 – 19, 2015)
Only a few short months after becoming a superhero, Ms. Marvel must not only face the end of her career but of the world itself. Released in conjunction with Marvel’s company-wide “Secret Wars” storyline, which saw the universe get destroyed, only to be rebuilt first by Doctor Doom and then by Reed Richards of the Fantastic Four, “Last Days” looks at Armageddon through the eyes of a hopeful teenage girl.
Although not the character’s sole creator, writer G. Willow Wilson has done the most notable work on Kamala, establishing her voice and personality. In “Last Days,” Wilson takes the opportunity to imagine what it would be like to be cut down in your prime. But she also establishes Ms. Marvel as a true hero, someone who never stops doing good, even when the world itself is about to end.
“Game Over” (Ms. Marvel #13 – 24, 2016)
Picking up after Secret Wars and the creation of a new Marvel Universe, “Game Over” returns Kamala back to her familiar Jersey City milieu. While this smaller scale may seem like a downgrade after the reality-altering stakes of previous stories, Wilson uses the opportunity to explore Kamala’s human side.
Working with artists such as Mirka Andolfo, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Francesco Gaston, “Game Over” is a quiet, introspective story that helps ground the character once again. Over the course of eleven issues, Wilson and her collaborators give us a glimpse at frivolous topics, such as Kamala’s love of video games, to larger issues, including the friction between her super-heroics and her Muslim faith.
Change the World (The Champions #1 -6, 2017
Because Marvel knows that popular heroes sell more comic books, the company regularly puts its breakout stars in its flagship Avengers books, even if the character doesn’t make sense for the team. So while Ms. Marvel does boast a stint among Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, her most important team-ups happen in The Champions. Marvel’s version of DC’s Young Justice, the Champions are a team of teenage heroes, including Spider-Man Miles Morales, the Vision’s synthezoid daughter Viv, young Amadeus Cho as the Totally Awesome Hulk, Nova, and a time-displaced teenage version of the X-Men’s Cyclops (it’s comics, don’t ask).
Written by the decidedly not teenaged Mark Waid and featuring the kinetic pencils of Humberto Ramos, The Champions ran the risk of being horribly outdated and terminally uncool. But Waid and Ramos somehow avoid all of those pitfalls, crafting an engaging and humane story about idealistic young people who still believe they can make the world a better place.
“Damage Per Second” (Ms. Marvel #13 – 18, 2017)
Not long after Secret Wars, Ms. Marvel found herself recruited by her mentor Captain Marvel to participate in Civil War II. Few people would consider Civil War II one of Marvel’s best stories, one that found Captain Marvel acting wildly out of character and premised on nonsense plot beats. But in “Damage Per Second,” Wilson and Miyazawa draw interesting tensions from the otherwise forgettable crossover.
Set after the resolution of Civil War II, “Damage Per Second” finds Kamala alienated from her friends and family. What she initially interprets as abandonment soon becomes an important teaching moment for Kamala. As she continues to fight on her own, Ms. Marvel discovers why her support system was so important and realizes that she must take responsibility for harmful actions, even if they came from good intentions.
“Teenage Wasteland” (Ms. Marvel, #25 – 30)
Set shortly after “Damage Per Second,” the “Teenage Wasteland” arc looks at the themes of the previous tale from a different perspective. When Kamala disappears, several new teens take up the Ms. Marvel mantle. This includes Red Dagger, a Jersey City superhero with a special relationship with Kamala, who will certainly make an appearance in the show.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of “Teenage Wasteland” is how it approaches the legacy of Ms. Marvel. In the same way that Kamala took the name from Carol Danvers and made it her own, others do the same after Kamala. Wilson, along with artists Nico Leon and Jan Herring, shows us what Kamala means to others, how she’s inspired the next generation of superheroes, and the lessons she has yet to learn.
“Outlawed” (Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13 – 18, 2020)
As a popular character, Kamala has participated in most of the major company crossovers since her creation in 2013. But with 2020’s “Outlawed,” Ms. Marvel takes the center stage. When a mission with the Champions goes terribly wrong, Kamala is horribly injured. Because no one knows her secret identity, Kamala becomes the unwilling poster child for a movement against teenage superheroes, leading to the ratification of the so-called “Kamala’s Law,” a law that makes Ms. Marvel herself illegal.
Written by Saladin Ahmed and illustrated by Minkyu Jung, “Outlawed” poses an unresolvable conflict for Kamala. Determined to do the right thing and continue her super-heroic adventures as Ms. Marvel, Kamala becomes an enemy of the state that insists it’s doing everything it can to keep her safe.
“Stormranger” (Magnificent Ms. Marvel #13 – 18, 2020)
While Ms. Marvel has had a good run since her first title launched in 2014, she currently has no ongoing series. This shouldn’t be taken as a sign that Marvel has lost confidence in the character. Rather, the break allows the company to spotlight Kamala in a set of miniseries, preparing for a relaunch that’s sure to come in the wake of the Disney+ series.
One of the last storylines before the end of the Ms. Marvel ongoing, “Stormranger” encapsulates everything wonderful about the character. Ahmed teams with artist Joey Vazquez for a manic story that pits Kamala against a zombie horde. But beyond its wacky adventure, the story also reminds us of the book’s strong supporting cast and compelling teen drama.
Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit (2021- 2022)
Multiverses have a long history in superhero storytelling, but they’ve become the new big thing in superhero movies. Loki, Spider-Man: No Way Home, and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness all deal with heroes meeting different versions of themselves, some better and some much worse. While the Ms. Marvel show on Disney+ seems pretty grounded at first, it would be no surprise if Kamala winds up crossing the multiverse in a show such as What If… or in next year’s movie The Marvels.
Fans get an idea of what such an adventure would look like with the limited series Ms. Marvel: Beyond the Limit. Written by New York Times bestselling author Samira Ahmed and drawn by Andres Genolet, Beyond the Limit teams up Kamala with an alternate version of herself, who may or may not mirror her heroic ways. Ahmed and Genolet take full advantage of not only the playful part of multiverse stories but also the character exploration the trope affords.
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