Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan, was a surprise success for Marvel. She is Marvel’s first Muslim superhero to headline her own book, and arguably, is one of the few heroes where her family is as important as her heroics. Her creation is credited to editors Sana Amanat and Stephen Wacker. The “Ms. Marvel” series is written by G. Willow Wilson and drawn by Adrian Alphona. Her creators never expected her to be as overwhelmingly popular as she is. It can be argued that her popularity is a direct function of the heart, depth and reality injected into the comic.
People feel connected to Kamala in a very personal way that transcends her super-powered identity. The strong connection readers have to the Ms. Marvel series elicits all kinds of emotions. Here are 15 of the most emotionally potent events from her series in order of increasing emotional impact.
WARNING: The following list contains spoilers for Volumes 3 and 4 of “Ms. Marvel” by Marvel Comics.
15. KAMALA GOES TO PAKISTAN
Kamala goes to where her family came from in order to find out who she is. She visits her extended family in Pakistan, and especially her super-cute grandparents. After the brutal events of “Civil War” and the loss of a childhood friendship (more on that later), she needs a break from her regular life in a safe place. The warmth and love her family shows her is just what she needs.
Of course, a problem arises, so she jumps head first into danger to solve it. She is surprised when the local hero, The Red Dagger, chastises her for interfering without understanding the situation’s dynamics. Her involvement saved the day, but had collateral consequences. She realizes that she belongs in Jersey City. Jersey City is her world. Rather than discouraging her, the talk with Red Dagger inspires her. Kamala and the reader are ready for her to return to Jersey City to be Ms. Marvel again.
14. MS. MARVEL WINS BY GETTING OUT THE VOTE
Hydra has infiltrated Kamala’s Jersey neighborhood and is attempting to influence local politics. They use the trickiest of all tools at the bureaucrat’s disposal: gerrymandering. Hydra is trying to put one of their loyal in the mayor’s seat, but they know they can’t win with the traditional voting map. The solution for them is to change the voting map, and it works.
There is no punching that will solve this problem. Kamala has to go with a non-superhero approach. Ms. Marvel and friends canvas their neighborhood going door to door to get out the vote. There is a lot of fun on the pages as they combat apathy and angst. In the end, Kamala and her friends are successful. It is a great moment seeing Kamala enjoy the fruits of her labor. The reader shares her pride as the news reports a 90% voter turnout and a win for the third-party candidate they stumped for.
13. HER ROMANTIC INTEREST IS AN INHUMAN
The metaphor of the Inhuman and the mutant representing the emotional pain of being an outsider pales in comparison to the more realistic isolation portrayed in Ms. Marvel. Kamala may be an Inhuman, but she spends more time struggling with the otherness of a Muslim Pakistani-American in a traditional Muslim family. Her feeling of isolation is a huge part of her character.
Kamala’s opportunity for love comes in the form of a family friend of from Pakistan. His name is Kamran and he also comes from a traditional Muslim family. Her excitement in finding someone who can understand her situation practically oozes out of the pages. When she finds out that he is also an Inhuman, her elation is overwhelming. The reader can’t help but smile at her excitement. Her scenes of revelation with Kamran is immediately relatable. We all would love the feeling of finding someone who could absolutely understand us.
12. AAMIR IS GETTING MARRIED
Kamala’s brother, Aamir, and his love interest, Tyesha, nervously tell Aamir’s parents they wish to marry. As wonderful and supportive as Kamala’s parents are, they are still knocked off guard by the news. Tyesha is not ideal in their eyes. They would prefer a more traditional engagement with a Pakistani girl from a traditional home with the aid of a matchmaker. Instead of being somber, Kamala’s presence elevates the scene with comedy. The whole time, Kamala is in the background with a huge smile and witty quips.
The scene has one more surprise near the end which serves to switch the tables on Kamala. Just when the parent’s objections are starting to gain momentum, Aamir’s bride-to-be announces that they intend to live with Aamir’s parents until Aamir can support them. The parents are instantly excited and supportive. Kamala’s sudden shock and hilarious facial expressions would draw a guffaw from even the most cynical reader.
11. ZOE DECIDES TO GO VEGAN
Zoe’s character has one of the more interesting arcs in the Ms. Marvel run. She starts the series as a cruel and spoiled brat who enjoys teasing Kamala and her friends. The possible end of everything during the 2015-2016’s “Secret Wars” event changes her. She promises to be a different person. When the Ms. Marvel storyline picks up several months after the end of the universe collapsing event, Zoe has held to her promise. She has thrown off her old identity and is now a member of Kamala’s circle of friends.
Her newfound approach to life yields several amusing moments, and one heart-wrenching arc which will appear later in this list. One of her more amusing twists is her declaration of becoming a vegan in recognition of the risk that cow farts pose to the environment. She isn’t wrong, but crude humor isn’t regular for this title. Ms. Marvel’s humor is usually situational and character-driven. The inclusion of a fart joke is more impactful here because it is so out of character for the book.
10. THE MARRIAGE COSTUME SURPRISE
All weddings, from the smallest to the largest, carry huge amounts of emotional and spiritual baggage. Aamir’s wedding to Tyesha is no different. Their marriage bears the extra burden of bringing two very disparate cultures together. Tyesha’s and Aamir’s families come from very different backgrounds. Tyesha may be a convert to Islam, but her family is African-American and comes from an Evangelical Christian background. Aamir’s family expects him to be marrying a Muslim Pakistani from a good family with the benefit of a matchmaker.
Aamir and Tyesha put in extra effort to make each other feel comfortable. In a truly heartwarming moment that would make even a supervillain get giddy, Aamir and Tyesha surprise each other by wearing the traditional garb of each other’s culture. In two warm and expertly drawn panels, we can see the joy and surprise in their eyes when they notice each other. Just like the wedding guests, the reader can’t help but go “aaaah.”
9. END OF THE WORLD DANCE PARTY
The aforementioned “Secret Wars” event resulted in the death of the Marvel multiverse. Can anyone be prepared for the end of everything? Death is scary enough, but how does one react to the knowledge that everything will end all at the same time? If you are in Jersey City, surrounded by Kamala Khan’s world, you have a dance party. It’s a perfect cap of joy and togetherness in a hopeless situation, robbing the disaster of much of its impact.
There are so many feels in this issue (“Ms. Marvel” vol. 3 #19) that it’s hard to narrow it down to a few, with the exception of one event farther down the list (stay tuned). Zoe apologizes to Kamala for her past behavior. Kamala and her best friend, Nakia, reconcile after Kamala apologized for being a poor friend. Kamala and her other best friend since childhood, Bruno, finally discuss their feelings for each other. Finally, everything ends in a ball of light. This giant emotional moment is best summed up in the perfection that is the “End of the World” dance party.
8. KAMRAN BETRAYS HER
The trope in popular media of finding the person who a character believes to be their soulmate is a defining moment for every character. Kamala’s joy at finding Kamran leaps off the page right into the heart of the reader. Any student of popular culture will tell you that these moments never end well. Once Kamala has given herself to the possibility of loving Kamran, and almost being her first kiss, he betrays her.
Kamran tries to convince Kamala that she does not have to accept the world’s morality since she is an Inhuman. He sees no value in protecting ordinary people. His beliefs stand in direct contradiction to Ms. Marvel’s moral code. After they fight, she turns to leave, and he uses his power to knock her unconscious. To make matters even worse, he will eventually kidnap Aamir and expose him to the Terrigen Mist. By the time that happens, the reader hates Kamran almost as much as Kamala does.
7. BRUNO’S UNREQUITED LOVE
Unrequited love is another common trope that the Ms. Marvel series uses to excellent effect. Bruno, Kamala’s childhood friend, has been in love with Kamala since they were kids. The 19 issues of Volume 3 of Ms. Marvel are rife with will-they-or-won’t-they moments. The tension does finally pay off at the last possible moment with a simultaneously heartbreaking and heartwarming moment.
As the world is ending because of “Secret Wars,” Bruno finally admits his love to Kamala. Surprisingly, she confesses to returning his love and declaring how much she needs him. Then Kamala lets him go. Her focus is on being Ms. Marvel. Being Ms. Marvel is going to take all that she has and she needs to see it through. She wants Bruno to be happy, even if that means without her. This admission is a sucker punch to the gut of everyone – Kamala, Bruno and the reader. Then the universe ends with them staring lovingly at each other.
6. KAMALA CLONES
One Kamala Khan is excellent, so would several Kamala Khans be even better? The answer is a resounding “No.” Kamala is struggling to keep up her commitments to the Avengers, to her friends, to school and to her family. In an incredibly short-sighted decision, Bruno and Kamala clone her. Fortunately for the reader, the clones provide pages upon pages of entertainment. The clones begin multiplying, and Kamala clones overrun the city. The clone situation goes from bad to worse when clones start merging and the city is ravaged by a giant grinning Kamala Khan.
A particularly amusing incident happens when Tyesha’s family is visiting the Khan’s to discuss the impending marriage. The clone is sitting at the edge of the couch smiling until it suddenly deflates like a balloon. The horrified families run out of the house not sure what they have seen. The real Kamala arrives in time to both calm the families down and receives an earful from her father.
5. BRUNO AND MICHAELA
Seeing the person you love being in love with someone else is a universal pain that everyone goes through at some point. Much of the charm of the Ms. Marvel series comes from watching Kamala go through life moments like this that everyone can understand. Within the first few pages of Volume 4 #1 of “Ms. Marvel,” we learn that Bruno is in a serious relationship with Michaela.
Eight months have passed since the universe ended and was reborn. Ms. Marvel has been so busy saving the Jersey City area and the world at large that she hasn’t noticed Bruno moving on. The writers cleverly start Vol. #4 with the time jump so the reader can be just as surprised as Kamala is at the state of her life. Instead of starting right after the Marvel universe reforming, and watching Bruno slowly fall in love, it hits the reader in the face just like it does Kamala.
4. BRUNO LEAVING
“Civil War II” had grave consequences through the entirety of the Marvel universe. Jersey City is no different. In an attempt to protest Captain Marvel’s predictive justice squad, Bruno tries to break into their holding facility. Unfortunately, something goes wrong and he is almost killed. Bruno being on death’s door is tragic and Kamala is devastated. Eventually, Bruno recovers and wakes up.
Kamala is overjoyed to see him and rushes in to be with him. Bruno does not want to see her. He has lost the use of his dominant hand. He has no more college prospects, and with the damage to his hand, he can’t build anymore. He is angry Ms. Marvel didn’t listen when he asked for her help and asked her to stand with him against predictive justice. The scene ends with Bruno telling Kamala he is leaving for Wakanda and he never wants to see Kamala again. Kamala rushes out crying, and it’s a safe wager that almost every reader can feel her heartbreak.
3. STANDING UP TO CAPTAIN MARVEL
A profoundly painful part of growing up is realizing that our idols aren’t perfect. We get to witness this life-changing event for Kamala. She stands up to Captain Marvel by rebelling against the superhero’s crusade of predictive justice. Kamala even calls in Iron Man to back her up, knowing that she isn’t enough by herself to push Captain Marvel out of Jersey City. Kamala tells Captain Marvel that what she is doing is wrong and refuses to follow her.
Kamala has based her entire career on her vision of Captain Marvel. Kamala’s first introduction was as a cameo in “Captain Marvel” Vol. 4 issue #14 watching Captain Marvel save the day. That moment is what would inspire her to take the Ms. Marvel name when she awakens from the Terrigen Mist. Despite all this, Kamala does what she needs to do and does irreparable damage to her relationship with Captain Marvel. The moment when Captain Marvel rejects Kamala and Kamala’s use of the name is agony for Ms. Marvel.
2. KAMALA’S MOM’S ACCEPTANCE
A parent’s acceptance is always profound to a child, regardless of that child’s age. Kamala has the opportunity, right before the universe ends, to tell her mother that she is Ms. Marvel. Kamala confesses and hopes for the best. She fully accepts that her mother will be shocked and angry. Instead, she lets Kamala know she already knew.
Kamala is overcome with emotion. Her mom continues saying that she has known for a while. Like all parents, she worried that Kamala would find drugs or bad friends. She understands why Kamala has had to sneak around. She lets Kamala know she is grateful that she has raised a righteous child. Finally, she utters the words every child wants to hear from their parents, “I’m proud of you.” The scene is so raw and honest that it continues to be profound even after several reads. It’s impossible not to be moved when her mom voice her pride.
1. NAKIA AND ZOE
One of G. Willow Wilson’s greatest accomplishments in writing Ms. Marvel has been Zoe’s arc. Zoe does more than grow from spoiled jerk to friend; she also comes to a revelation about herself. Zoe is in love with Nakia. Nakia is a devout Muslim, so Zoe has been hesitant to tell her. Also, loving a woman is new to Zoe. The whole situation is confusing for her.
The latest storyline has a computer intelligence go on a rampage against Ms. Marvel. It tries to blackmail Ms. Marvel into compromising S.H.I.E.L.D. security by threatening to reveal Zoe’s unsent confessions of her love for Nakia to the whole school. That could be a disastrous embarrassment for both Zoe and Nakia. In a series of panels that deserve to go down in comic book history, Zoe confesses her love to Nakia. Nakia’s response is to hold her friend. Nakia tells Zoe that she wishes she could return the feelings, but no matter what, they are friends and they will overcome everything together. At this point, everyone is crying: Zoe, Nakia and the reader.
What are your favorite Ms. Marvel moments? What has Kamala Khan done to make you laugh or cry? Tell us your favorites in the comments below.