Ms. Marvel Features The First Muslim Southeast Asian Superhero, And We Love To See It

Famous female superheroes have appeared at the outskirts of the Marvel Universe. Even if you’ve avoided the hype of the Marvel blockbuster hits, you probably know about Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers), Black Widow (Natasha Romanoff), Scarlet Witch (Wanda Maximoff), and even Jessica Jones, Storm (Ororo Monroe), and Jean Grey. But there’s a new level of diversity and inclusion in the very latest female superheroes, and I’m loving it.

The Ms. Marvel streaming TV series premiered on Disney+ last month and it’s already getting attention. It’s not just that Kamala Khan (Ms. Marvel) is the first Muslim Southeast Asian superhero (or one of the first, if you count Dust, who fought with the X-Men in 2002, and Kismet in 1944) across the comic book universes. Ms. Marvel first appeared in 2014; now, she has her own TV miniseries, joining the Avengers in their epic battles to save the universe.

What Makes Kamala Great? What Makes Her a Superhero?


It’s a coming-of-age story, capturing the experience of a young Muslim girl. Kamala (Ms. Marvel) is a 16-year old Pakistani who is dealing with all the challenges of parental involvement and school that you’d probably expect. She’s already struggling to figure out who she is, what she wants, and how she fits in. It’s all the typical teen angst, with her artistic flair to further frustrate her parents.  

Kamala says, “Maybe they’re right. I spend too much time in fantasyland. It’s not really the brown girls from Jersey City that save the world. That’s a fantasy too.” Then, you get that scene where Kamala makes her half-whisper statement: “I’m a superhero,” as if she still can’t quite believe it herself, before she runs off. 

As the first Muslim superhero, Ms. Marvel opens up a whole range of possibilities for what and who a hero really is and the type of character they can become. When she gets her superpowers, she’s a shapeshifter, able to control her identity and shape, which ironically makes her even more of an outsider than before. 

A Question of Culture

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Ms. Marvel immediately draws us all into Kamala’s life and adventures, but it’s not a life that’s typical of a Marvel superhero. Her parents are both alive, but Kamala is also immersed in a rich culture and heritage that informs who she is and what’s important to her. It’s an essential question of representation. At the same time, the new diverse expansions in the Marvel universe are lending a voice to those who have long been ignored in Hollywood. 

In an interview, Mohan Kapur (who plays Yusuf, Kamala’s dad) says: “Whether it’s the mosque scene, or whether it’s a wedding ritual, or whether it’s a festival celebration, it’s just so beautiful. So that’s not wanting to shout from the rooftops, they just say, ‘Here’s a part of it.’ You know, here’s a slice of life from their life.”

What Happens Next? 

Critics have been making noise for months about whether Ms. Marvel will be a hit or a flop. They compare it with the epic flop, Inhumans; but they fail to see how different and unique the Ms. Marvel superhero is. And, this is just the first stop on the planned Marvel trajectory, picking up a few more superheroes along the way, and culminating in the (projected) release of The Marvels next year. 

Although we can only really guess what’s in store when Captain Marvel (Brie Larson as Carol Danvers) joins Ms. Marvel and Monica Rambeau (played by Teyonah Parris), you can already see the sparks flying. In the trailer voiceover, it sounds like Captain Marvel saying: “They say the time of heroes is over, that if you’re different, you’re dangerous, but I know the truth. The world will always need heroes.”

Why Do We Need Ms. Marvel? 

Kamala (Ms. Marvel) is a young, resourceful, and compassionate girl. She’s also embracing a sense of female and cultural empowerment, which is helping to change stereotypes for Middle Eastern Muslims and Southeastern Asians. She’s not evil, but she’s also part of a growing trend to embrace diversity with Shang-Chi, Layla, Riri Williams, Echo, and beyond. 

Yes, it’s a start, and it’s been a LONG time coming. I’m excited to see more amazing characters and storylines emerge as the Marvel crew continues to tear down the barriers to inclusivity and diversity in the Marvel universes.


Have you seen Ms. Marvel yet? What are your thoughts on the new MCU superhero? Let us know in the comments below!

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