‘Ms. Marvel’ 1×01 Review: “Generation Why”

Marvel’s latest cosmic series, Ms. Marvel has a lot to love as seen in “Generation Why”. The premiere episode is here, and it sets the tone for what Marvel fans can expect for the season. The energy Ms. Marvel radiates is everything Marvel fans have come to expect from the MCU, and more. While imperfect, Ms. Marvel sets the stage for an enjoyable, universal, superhero romp. 

Ms. Marvel hits the ground running by leaning into the coming-of-age story it wants to tell. Unlike other web-slinging superheroes, there’s no sense that these are actual popular kids masquerading as the downtrodden of high school halls. The cringe radiates off the screen in the best possible way. Truly, this show is the embodiment of the high school experience on so many levels. This is an improvement from other Marvel high school entries, which read more as a stylized, glamourized version of a time in most people’s lives that was anything but.

Ms. Marvel is also the perfect venue to lean into the Marvel fandom in-universe. Steve Rogers: The Musical walked to Avengers Con could run. The fact that Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has a podcast hyping up his super colleagues is the perfect fan tie-in. Carol Danvers is finally getting the love she deserves and we love to see it. Ms. Marvel manages to be self-referential without being lazy or overdone.

Photo Credit: Disney+

Out of the gate, Iman Vellani is the standout star of this series. In addition to the Canadian representation, she brings such a heart to this role. She’s the superhero we need right now at this moment. With Islamopobia on the rise around the world, it’s hard to overstate the importance of a Muslim teenager from New Jersey stand in her own power, and lead a fandom into the next generation.

Not everything about Ms. Marvel’s cultural commentary works. Many South Asian and Muslim critics have pointed out the flaws that are already evident. Namely, hiring actors with Indian backgrounds to play Pakistani characters is incredibly problematic. It’s part of a larger Hollywood issue of interpreting Middle Eastern characters as simply Indian or Indian-adjacent. The voices from these communities making these critiques, including about the use of language, need to be uplifted.

Photo Credit: Disney+

Another aspect of the premiere episode that I’m conflicted about is the main friendship we’re introduced to. Matt Lintz is a charming enough sidekick as Bruno. I worry that by centering this friendship Marvel is sending a message that a superhero who’s a Person of Color needs a white friend to be taken seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good boy-girl friendship. I’m even fine with the friends-to-romance trope. I’m just not 100% sure that this particular relationship is heading in the right direction.

Ms. Marvel is off to a strong start with a fun, light-hearted superhero outing. While there may be significant deviations from the source material, I for one am willing to stay along for the journey to see how Marvel can make this character unique. Kamala is just getting started.

New episodes of Ms. Marvel air Wednesdays on Disney+.

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