Kamala Khan, otherwise known as Ms. Marvel is relatively speaking one of Marvel Comics' newer major superheroes, and one could even argue one of the faces of the modern Marvel Universe.
Her profile has been 'embiggened' to include featured roles in Marvel animated series and videogames, and in late 2021 she'll cross over to live-action as the star of her own eponymous Disney Plus streaming series Ms. Marvel, which will then lead to her big-screen debut opposite Carol Danvers-Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau-(superhero named to be determined) in 2022's The Marvels.
So why has this character in particular garnered so much attention both on the printed page and on the screen?
Kamala's groundbreaking role as the first Pakistani-American superhero to be featured in her own comic book series has something to do with it, as does her prominent supporting roles in team books like the Avengers and the Champions.
But perhaps even more importantly, Kamala has gained fans by being relatable and down-to-earth while readers followed along with her coming-of-age story, the secret sauce of other fan-favorite superheroes that have come before her like Marvel's own Spider-Man.
While she doesn't have the decades of comic books to choose from like some of her fellow Marvel heroes, she has plenty of engaging tales worth your time in Newsarama's list of the best Ms. Marvel (Kamala Khan) stories of all time.
Kamala Khan's origin story
Every notable superhero usually has a memorable origin story, and Kamala Khan is no exception with the story collected as Ms. Marvel Volume 1 (opens in new tab).
Kamala Khan is a sixteen-year-old girl from Jersey City who is a massive nerd with strict parents. While sneaking out to a party, the Inhumans' Terrigen Mists descend on Jersey City and cause Kamala's polymorphic powers to awaken. Initially, she is unable to control her abilities and unconsciously shapeshifts into the blonde-haired version of Ms. Marvel to try and fit others' expectations of a superhero.
It is only after a talk with her best friend Bruno Carelli and her father Yusef Khan that she decides to be herself. This decision is solidified with Kamala's unique take on the costume that honors both her civilian identity and her cultural heritage with a burkini featuring a lightning bolt, gold bangles, red scarf, and mask.
Almost everyone has a moment in their life when they feel pressured to be someone they are not. Kamala Khan's origins as Ms. Marvel show how these feelings don't go away easily just because you now have superpower powers. Although Kamala Khan is a legacy hero that shares the title of Ms. Marvel with others such as Carol Danvers, Kamala demonstrates that you can use your special abilities to become a better version of yourself.
In Ms. Marvel: Generation Why (opens in new tab), Kamala Khan battles her first supervillian: a human/bird hybrid known as the Inventor. When the inventor's evil plot is revealed to be using teenagers as human batteries because he has deemed them unnecessary to the planet, Kamala Khan must work together with the teenagers and show them that they have worth as the up-and-coming generation.
This arc also reveals that Kamala Khan's powers come from her being descended from the alien race known as the Kree when she is recruited by others who share that in common, the Inhumans.
Generation wars aren't anything new, but this arc puts an interesting spin on them by having the ire against youth be an actual villain. Given that this ire often shows up as condescending words, it is fitting that Kamala's encouraging words appeal to her teenage peers and unite them to defeat the Inventor.
Meanwhile, the reveal of Kamala's Kree origins adds depth to her powers and further establishes her place within the Marvel universe.
In Ms. Marvel's very first team-up (collected in Ms. Marvel Meets The Marvel Universe (opens in new tab)), she finds herself investigating Jersey City's sewers with Wolverine! Both of them fall victim to the Inventor's scheme to trap them in the sewers while they look for a missing teenager.
Due to Wolverine's temporary lack of a healing factor, Kamala ends up doing most of the heavy lifting (in one case, literally carrying Wolverine on her back). As they battle giant alligators and undo The Inventor's electrical booby traps, the two of them have a heart-to-heart about superheroics. In the end, Kamala learns a very important lesson: you can't always avoid being hurt, but you can trust yourself to get through it.
At this point, Kamala Khan is still green as a superhero so it makes sense that she would have an older and more experienced mentor. Having that mentor be Wolverine is not only a ton of fun, but it also gives Kamala a chance to interact with another superhero for the first time. It is also a solid way to introduce Kamala to the larger Marvel universe. By meeting Wolverine, Kamala is also set up to meet the Inhumans at the end of the comic.
Civil War II
Although the Ms. Marvel: Civil War II (opens in new tab) arc of Kamala's series ties into the comic book event of the same name, it still manages to be really grounded as its own story.
Not only does Kamala have a painful falling out with her supehero idol and mentor Captain Marvel, but there is also a tender subplot that reveals the origins of Ms. Marvel's bangles. As it turns out, Kamala got those bangles from her mother Muneeba, who in turn got them from her mother Aisha. Kamala's grandmother Aisha wore those bangles as a wedding gift as she and her family moved to Karachi, Pakistan during the Partition of India. Aisha passes down this story of survival and resilience to her daughter and grandaughter Kamala, who manages to pick herself up at the end of Civil War II (opens in new tab) despite the strife she's experienced.
Despite the strife, Kamala going against Captain Marvel isn't just about superhero ethics. By standing up to Captain Marvel, Kamala stands firmly for what she herself believes to be right. This allows Kamala to grow further as a superhero in her own right, rather than as a legacy hero. Furthermore, the story behind Kamala's bangles cements Kamala's newfound superhero independence by symbolizing how she can start over after experiencing upheaval.
Another tie in that stands on its own, Ms. Marvel: Last Days (opens in new tab) marked the end of Kamala Khan's first year as a superhero as she dealt with the world-ending event Secret Wars (opens in new tab).
Kamala Khan and many of her neighbors hunker down at Cole Academic High School with as much supplies as they can, though not before a few misadventures occur. A major highlight of those misadventures is Kamala Khan teaming up with Captain Marvel to rescue her brother Amir from the clutches of a splinter sect of the Inhumans.
Kamala also resolves some friendship, family, and unspoken romantic feelings with her loved ones, with one memorable conversation being with her mother as she reveals she is Ms. Marvel. All in all, it is a satisfying end to Kamala Khan's first comic book run that showed how far she has come as a superhero and person while setting her up for more adventures.
Sometimes, world-ending events can be very personal and this story demonstrates that tenfold. Everything Kamala Khan has learned is being tested as she tries her best to ensure the safety of her family and friends. With some guidance from Captain Marvel, Kamala Khan learns that although you can't prevent the end of the world, you can decide how you are going to face it. This also gives Kamala newfound gratitude for her family, friends, and her experiences.
Kamala Khan's second comic book run kicks off with a bang as she finds herself becoming a public figure in Ms. Marvel: Super Famous (opens in new tab).
A new company called Hope Yards Development and Relocation Association is buying up property in Jersey City while using Ms. Marvel's image without permission to endorse their business. This causes Jersey City's citizens to turn against Ms. Marvel as Kamala's neighborhood undergo some unwanted changes.
There are also some surprising changes to Kamala's personal life as her best friend Bruno has a new girlfriend named Mike and her brother Amir becomes engaged to Tyesha Hillman. In the aftermath, things aren't neatly resolved and the lingering unrest plants the seeds for more "villians" who are everyday citizens.
In addition to tackling gentrification, this particular storyline shows how changes have impacted Kamala's work-life balance. Now that Ms. Marvel has become a public figure, Kamala has to deal with how her superheroics are viewed by those she desires to protect. Kamala also starts to realize that the more time she devotes to being Ms. Marvel, the more she misses out on as Kamala Khan.
Damage Per Second
While playing a session of her favorite online game World of Battlecraft, Kamala discovers that one of her guild members knows her real identity and where she lives in Ms. Marvel: Damage Per Second (opens in new tab). Upon investigating further, she discovers the culprit is Doc.x, a sentient computer virus that is fueled by negativity on the internet. Doc.x then blackmails Kamala to upload them into S.H.I.E.L.D's computers or risk them outing Zoe as gay and telling the world Ms. Marvel's secret identity.
Doc.x is a fascinating antagonist due to being a major threat to Kamala and the fact that they represent how blurry the lines are between our public and private selves. They would later make a return, demonstrating just how hard it is for Kamala to completely defeat them.
There are some problems even superheroes can't punch their way out of, especially when these problems are fueled by regular human emotions. This storyline has some interesting superhero antics, but it is the actions that Kamala Khan takes in her civilian form that stands out the most. Since Kamala now knows what it is like to have her private life threatened, she is able to help classmates experiencing similar issues.
The Road To War
This post-Civil War II single issue storyline (collected in Ms. Marvel: Civil War II (opens in new tab)) has Kamala going to visit her relatives in Karachi, Pakistan for some much-needed rest and relaxation.
Not only do we get to see more of her extended family, but Kamala also takes her superheroics to Karachi as well. When she discovers that the local water wells are being destroyed by a group of individuals, Kamala dons a cool improvised version of her costume to investigate.
However, this leads to her meeting Karachi's local hero Red Dagger (who is actually Kareem, a friend of Kamala's family). Red Dagger advises her to take care of herself on her home turf because sometimes what you're looking for is right where you already are. With this, Kamala is ready to return home and pick up the pieces of her life.
This single-issue storyline marks the first time we get to see Kamala return to her family roots. By doing so, Kamala sees her family and cultural heritage in a whole new light. Through Red Dagger, Kamala realizes how much she is needed in America. Red Dagger also provides an exciting take on international superheroes and sets the character up for more adventures with Kamala.
When Ms. Marvel vanishes, Kamala's loved ones take up the mantle of Ms. Marvel in Ms. Marvel: Teenage Wasteland (opens in new tab).
Kamala's friends Zoe Zimmer, Nakia Bahadir, and Mike Miller, along with Kamala's brother-in-law Gabe Hillman, all impersonate Ms. Marvel in order to look into an old enemy: The Inventor. Even with some assistance from Red Dagger, Ms. Marvel's boots prove hard to fill and the teens are soon forced to call in Captain Marvel for backup.
Yet this makes Kamala's return all the more satisfying by showing how much Ms. Marvel is needed and appreciated as a hero and how much Kamala is cared for as a person. This storyline also hints at the fact that Kamala's friends already know that she is Ms. Marvel.
Almost every superhero wants to know that they are appreciated. For Kamala's friends and loved ones to become Ms. Marvel shows just how much an impression she has made on them. It also demonstrates how everyday people can be heroic even without superpowers. Once Captain Marvel enters the picture, she and Kamala's friends help Kamala reconcile with some things and give Kamala the chance to start anew.
One Night Only
This leisurely single issue story in Ms.Marvel #31 (opens in new tab) involves Kamala attempting to have a sleepover with Zoe, Nakia, and Mike Miller but ends up going back and forth in hilarious crime-fighting scenarios.
From saving a cat from a planet of dogs to helping Miles Morales' Spider-Man with some cybersecurity issues, Kamala soon finds herself growing very tired of having to live a double life and keeping secrets from her friends. This leads to her finally telling the others that she is Ms. Marvel, who in turn tells her that they already knew. After some much-needed girl-talk, all of them reaffirm their friendship with each other in a sweet group hug.
Although every issue up to this point has Kamala doing normal teenaged stuff as well as superheroics, none of them asked whether she wanted to keep this up. As the superhero scenarios get more outrageous, Kamala is forced to consider if keeping parts of herself hidden is worth it. This storyline also takes things in a fun new direction, as Kamala being open about Ms. Marvel allows them to participate more in her adventures.