Warning: The following article contains spoilers from Ms. Marvel episodes one and two.
When Ms. Marvel’s trailer and its first episode debuted, it wasn’t hard to jump to the conclusion that the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) was really and truly done with its least successful characters ever, i.e. the Inhumans. In the Marvel Comics, the young Kamala Khan is an Inhuman, blessed with the power of “embiggening,” where she displays Mister Fantastic-like powers, but so far her live-action adaptation has not exhibited any elastic limbs or shape-shifting abilities. So, bye-bye Inhumans? Well, if only the answer was that simple.
When it comes to the MCU, it is only normal for the on-screen adaptation to tinker with the origin story of the character so that it fits the overarching storyline. But while the live-action Steve Rogers still became Captain America after taking the supersoldier serum and Marc Spector turned into Moon Knight after Khonshu pulled him away from the jaws of certain death, Ms. Marvel has so far skirted around its titular character’s comics-accurate superpowers and significantly altered her origin story.
Ms. Marvel has an evident aversion to the word ‘Inhuman’
For those who don’t know, it was only recently that Marvel Studios managed to reacquire the X-Men and is hopefully making concrete plans for their MCU debut. But years ago, when 20th Century Fox had this nifty bunch of superpowered mutants under its thumb and was busy making the lucrative X-Men films, the Marvel studio decided to bring its own group of mutant-like superheroes, the Inhumans, to compete with them.
Unfortunately, the Inhumans’ status as one of the least popular Marvel characters translated to their on-screen debut as well when the titular show was released on ABC in 2017. The less-than-favorable reviews and low viewership ratings led the network to promptly cancel it just after one season, stomping on Scott Buck’s elaborate three-season plans.
While the future of the likes of Medusa, Crystal, etc. are uncertain at best, Kamala Khan, who appeared in the comic books for the first time in 2014, was singled out by the studio to join the MCU’s glorious Phase Four plans. But while her status as an Inhuman in the comic books was confirmed beyond doubt — after her unexpected exposure to the cosmic Terrigen Mist that awakens her latent superpowers — the Disney Plus series hasn’t concretely seconded the same in its storyline so far.
We are two episodes into the series and while Kamala’s superpowers have already made themselves known, their trigger isn’t the powerful mist. Anyone who has boarded the train of Kamala’s (mis)adventures already knows that her latent powers have received the necessary kickstart from an ancient-looking bracelet, which belonged to her great-grandmother, Aisha. Along with the catalyst of her powers, their “presentation” has been changed as well — instead of displaying shape-shifting prowess, the on-screen Kamala gets enveloped in a purplish-hue and produces a crystal-like hard light. While there are obvious vibes that Kamala’s great-grandmother was a superhuman, the possibility that she was (is?) an Inhuman is so not explicitly in the details … yet.
Yes, there was a bracelet in the comics as well but it was not the root of Kamala’s powers, which were definitely not that embroiled in a mysterious family drama as shown in the series. So, has the studio completely switched Kamala’s story? Well, there are multiple factors that contribute to the possibility, starting with the fact that ever since the failed Inhumans TV series, the studio has pretty much abandoned this tight circle of superheroes — something which has become even more evident ever since they got the X-Men back.
There is also the recent appearance of Anson Mount as an alternate universe’s Black Bolt in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. His messy death at the hands of an enraged Wanda quickly quashed any hopes fans had of the revival of Inhumans. Seconding this bleak future is a recent interview of Kevin Feige with Empire, where the Marvel boss hinted that while they decided to add Kamala to MCU’s current rooster of superheroes, the origin story of her powers doesn’t exactly match the present arc of its cinematic universe and thus it has been significantly altered so that she would fit in.
“We adapt the comics; it’s not an exact translation. [Kamala] came about in a very specific time within the comic-book continuity. She is now coming into a very specific time within the MCU continuity. And those two things didn’t match. What we will learn about where those powers come from, and how they come about, is specific to the MCU. You will see great comic splash panels in some of our action sequences. If you want big, giant hands and arms, well they’re here in spirit, if not in stretchy, plastic-type ways.”
Does that mean that despite the obvious hints that Kamala is the descendant of a superhuman, her being an Inhuman is out of the question?
While Feige’s words seemingly carry a tone of finality, it is the MCU we are talking about. Just when one thinks that they have it all figured out, it throws a curve ball that reaffirms the fact that nothing is impossible in the ever-expanding world of Marvel.
There is still hope for the Inhumans
Yes, for the time being, even though Ms. Marvel seems to have ditched the roots of its titular character’s superpowers, they are there in the spirit. In the first episode, when Kamala tries to save her classmate, she accidentally shoots forward hard light that takes the form of a giant hand, which resembled her big, rubber-like mega fist (courtesy of her shape-shifting powers) in the comic books.
There is also the epic moment where Kamala wears the bracelet for the first time during the AvengersCon and finds herself briefly sinking in a mysterious alternate reality draped in a rich purple hue and full of faceless people who stand with white glowing eyes while holding what appears to be weapons of some sort.
Comic book readers are already aware that whenever Kamala used her powers, she “borrowed” mass from her alternate selves across the many realities. It is very much possible that this impromptu cosmic trip was a glimpse of her alternate selves or perhaps … wait for it … a peek at her Inhuman ancestors? While it may sound a bit far-fetched, it does seemingly drop hints that Kamala’s great-grandmother’s history isn’t the only one influencing our young superhero’s present.
So far these scenes don’t really scream “Inhumans!” But the next two examples definitely tip the scales a bit in its favor. Let’s start with the bracelet Kamala wears and the possibility that it behaves a lot like the Diviner that was seen in Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. A Diviner is an artifact containing the condensed form of the Terrigen Mist, which unlocks the dormant powers of an Inhuman via the process of Terrigenesis once activated.
While the MCU hasn’t exactly embraced Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a part of its rich tapestry, a particular scene in the second episode of Ms. Marvel amps up the likelihood that the Disney Plus series could have decided to imitate the past show’s unique innovation.
When Kamala’s best friend Bruno is training her to harness her newfound powers, he discovers that their earlier assumption that the bracelet was the source of her abilities was wrong — it had merely unlocked the “superhuman part” of Kamala as her powers are “coming from within [her].”
There is also the part where Kamala’s mother, disappointed in her daughter’s unbendable will when it comes to “fantasizing,” comments how it is her “fault” as she comes “from a long line of fantasizing, unrealistic daydreamers.” Is it a subtle hint that while the ancestral line of superhumans (read: Inhumans) has obviously skipped Kamala’s mom and grandmother, there are more names in her family tree who were born with their own set of unique gifts and were equally misunderstood by their families?
There is also a recent theory pitched by New Rockstars’ Erik Voss in his latest video where he theorizes (based on some pretty solid evidence) that Kamala will eventually display comic book-accurate powers in the Disney Plus series. In his video, Voss reveals that he had a chat with Ms. Marvel directors Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, who revealed that Kamala’s powers will first “evolve” before viewers get to see “the real deal.”
Their comments led Voss to claim that Kamala’s hard-light energy powers at the moment are more like an adaptation of the Terrigen Mist supposedly hidden in the bracelet. As per the theory, the Mist will eventually be depleted as Kamala continues to use her powers, because it will be slowly strengthening her Inhuman abilities and honing them in a way that in the final stage will resemble her Mr. Fantastic-like powers in the comic books.
These examples also shed a positive light on Black Bolt’s unexpected death in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. While his exploding head does seem to reinforce Marvel Studios’ unwillingness to give the Inhumans their designated space in its universe, it also acknowledges their presence, thus confirming that in the wide expanses of the MCU, the Inhumans definitely exist.
Thus, even though there is not a speck of Terrigen Mist in sight, it does not completely dispel the possibility of the Inhumans re-entering the MCU. This is especially true now with the entry of Kamran’s mysterious mother, Najma, who has been contacting Kamala via her bracelet and bombarding her with out-of-the-blue visions. This only serves to prove that we are not talking about a single superhuman here, i.e. Kamala’s great-grandmother — there are many in the picture, and given Kamala’s history in the comic books, one answer really trumps every other possibility when it comes to solving what these individuals could be.