Ms. Marvel: the comic book origin and powers of Kamala Khan

Kamala Khan Ms. Marvel in the MCU
(Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The Marvels is now playing in cinemas worldwide. As well as bringing Captain Marvel and Monica Rambeau back to the big screen, it marks the first theatrical appearance of Ms. Marvel, AKA teenage superhero Kamala Khan. 

Ms. Marvel is already the star of a brilliant six-episode Disney Plus streaming series, but the new film will mark the first time that a lot of people meet the character. So who is she and what are her powers? That's actually a slightly more complicated question that it might first appear...

So join us now as we look back at Kamala Khan's ground-breaking comic origins, discover the truth behind her headline-grabbing death and rebirth earlier this year, and look at the place that she holds in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. 

There's full spoilers here for the TV show and comics, but if you've not yet seen The Marvels then don't worry, we've kept those secrets for now.

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 2021 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.

The death and rebirth of Ms. Marvel

Artgerm variant cover of Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant

(Image credit: Marvel Comics)

Headlines were written and eyebrows raised earlier this year when a mysterious leak suggested that Ms. Marvel would be killed off in the coming weeks.

And so it came to pass in Amazing Spider-Man #26, with Kamala bravely giving her life to help Mary Jane Watson escape from the villainous Rabin. A few weeks later a special issue, Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel was published to mourn the beloved character's passing.

Of course, very few truly believed that she would stay dead for long - a 'post-credit' scene from Fallen Friend even hinted as much. This quickly led to a fan theory that Kamala would be brought back using mutant resurrection technology on Krakoa, and that is indeed exactly what happened. 

Less than two months after her death, Marvel announced a new miniseries, Ms. Marvel: The New Mutant, co-written by Iman Vellani, that saw Kamala Khan revived thanks to her dormant X-Gene. Now a mutant/Inhuman hybrid and a member of the X-Men she's currently working to take down the anti-mutant hate group, Orchis.

Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel in the MCU

Ms. Marvel trailer

Ms. Marvel trailer image (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

The Ms. Marvel TV show debuted on Disney Plus in June 2022. Created by comedian and screenwriter Bisha K. Ali, and starring Iman Vellani in the title role, it quickly became one of the MCU’s most critically-acclaimed projects. 

In the show Kamala Khan is 16-years-old, and longing to go to AvengerCon. Her family ties, however, mean that she's restricted in the things that she can do - that is until she discovers a mysterious bangle that unlocks latent powers within her.

Overall the show is pretty faithful to the tone of the comics. The season finale, however, throws some pretty serious twists in the adaptation of Kamala Khan's origins and powers from comics to the MCU.

Earlier in Ms. Marvel season one, we learned that Kamala Khan's maternal family has a secret heritage - her great grandmother was an other-dimensional being known as a ClanDestine.

Ms. Marvel trailer

Ms. Marvel trailer image (Image credit: Marvel Studios)

And though that's the key to Kamala and her family's connection the 'Noor', the name the streaming series gives to the cosmic energy of the ClanDestine's home dimension, and though the bangle that belonged to Kamala's great grandmother is what activates her powers, as it turns out, the reason Kamala gets powers and the rest of her family doesn't is because Kamala has a little thing called the X-Gene - as in  the X-Men.

Well, she has a specific genetic mutation that hasn't been named as such, but it's now confirmed that Kamala is the MCU proper's first confirmed mutant.

How's that for a big twist? Suddenly her recent changes in the comic make a lot more sense. 

We'll have to wait to see exactly what that all means long term, but for now, we can enjoy Kamala's appearance in The Marvels.

For more on The Marvels, check out the rest of our coverage:

George Marston

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)

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