It's little surprise that the Ms. Marvel reviews have hit the net, as we're right on the edge of the Ms. Marvel release date. The latest Disney Plus show is the second in a row to introduce a Marvel Comics character to the MCU, as newcomer Iman Vellani brings Kamala Khan to life on the small screen.
The good news here is that Ms. Marvel herself seems to be an overwhelming hit with critics (as we expected after early Ms. Marvel reactions), as Vellani's performance and everything to do with her backstory outside of her powers is a hit with critics. It seems like Marvel's tapped into a river of feel good vibes, and that's one we'd sure like to drink from ourselves.
On the downside, though, it seems that those who know Ms. Marvel from the comic books may be let down. No, this isn't entirely about how Ms. Marvel's powers are different here, but from how the show seems to explore topics that the comics addressed.
That said, critics only saw the first two episodes of Ms. Marvel's six-episode season. So there's a ton of room for the show to address some of the issues that critics have with the series.
Ms. Marvel reviews: What the critics love
At The Hollywood Reporter, Angie Han wrote, "More than perhaps any other character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Kamala is the pure embodiment of fangirl wish fulfillment. That it’s all happening to a Pakistani American Muslim teenager who bucks the genre’s white-guy default makes the fantasy all the sweeter."
For Variety, Caroline Framke wrote "the series makes her specific corner of the world feel fleshed out before too long. And as played with infectious charm by Vellani in her first TV role, Kamala is a believably starry-eyed teenager whose bursting creativity and imagination spill over onto the screen — often literally," referring to how the series "cleverly incorporating animation throughout."
Even higher praise from Framke comes when she notes "the closest Marvel comparison point for Ms. Marvel has to be Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse," as she notes that Ms. Marvel's most immediately compelling moments come from brilliant flourishes.
Framke also addresses the MCU-shaped elephant in the room by noting that of Ms. Marvel's best parts (at least for the first two episodes) is that "Before Kamala formally becomes Ms. Marvel and gets subsumed into something greater than herself, she just gets to be herself, and that’s more than enough."
Charles Pulliam-Moore at The Verge agrees, saying that "What makes Ms. Marvel work, though, is how well the show’s able to situate itself squarely within the messy confines of the MCU while letting the foundational elements of Kamala’s hero origin be the story for the most part."
He also praised Iman Vellani's performance (which the first looks had already declared to be star-worthy), writing "Vellani is all youthful verve and irresistible moxie, as believable playing the clumsy nerd slinking unnoticed through high school hallways as she is manifesting the cool, confident super-being Kamala daydreams of becoming."
Ms. Marvel reviews: What the critics don't like
It sounds like Ms. Marvel won't hit with the emotional and critically-minded power that its comic book counterpart did. Charles Pulliam-Moore at The Verge writes that "Ms. Marvel ... essentially gives Kamala a wholly new set of abilities that are only able to approximate the flashy aspects of what was originally a nuanced metaphor in the comics. Ms. Marvel still takes time to address Kamala’s self-esteem issues and some of the deeper reasons why she looks up to someone like Captain Marvel. But the show doesn’t go nearly as far with its hero in terms of using its conceit to explore ideas like internalized racism or the pressures Western (read: white) beauty standards put on people of color."
Alan Sepinwall, at Rolling Stone, is annoyed with this change for a different way. He wrote "These energy powers, in addition to probably being easier to create for multiple episodes on a non-movie budget, also serve as another extension of Kamala’s artistic leanings. But they definitely feel more generic than even the stretchy powers."
Angie Han of THR also pointed out that the first two episodes will make you wonder what the heck is going on, writing "As it is, Kamala has so much to deal with at once that the storytelling can feel a tad messy at times and the pacing a little flaccid — a third of the way into the six-episode season, the series’ overarching plot has yet to really reveal itself."
Outlook: Cautious optimism for Ms. Marvel
Ms. Marvel seems like a show I'll be delighted to wake up to on Wednesday morning, as Vellani sounds like she's experiencing a star-making moment. But, if I'm honest, it also sounds like this show could have been loads better.
I used to want to read the comic book versions of these characters before I saw their Disney Plus shows. Now, it almost seems like the reverse may be a better way to handle it: this way you don't get your expectations too high on the reality that they're going to address.