“Superheroes don’t need chaperones,” Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) huffs in the finale episode of Ms. Marvel.
Her older brother Aamir (Saagar Shaikh) has arrived on the scene at the final standoff against the Department of Damage Control to watch out for Kamala and her friends, at the request of their mother. It’s a line that serves its purpose in the scene, but also reminds the audience that despite her newfound cosmic powers and sleek superhero outfit, Kamala is still just a teenager. But it’s her authentic and unapologetic teendom that makes her who she is. Vellani’s effortless performance paints Kamala as a real teenager — one who many can recognize once in themselves, their friends and their family.
It’s in those interactions with her friends that Kamala truly embodies authentic teendom, as she maintains her awkward charm even in the direst of situations. She dances around her kitchen after the new boy at school asks for her number. She feels trapped under the thumb of her parents’ strict rules, struggling to balance her identity at home with the one she’s cultivated for herself out in the world. She dreams of larger-than-life adventures, but doesn’t know the first thing about what she truly wants for her future.
As a teenager — even one who has mysteriously acquired supernatural powers — the most important thing in the world is being close to your friends. When Kamala’s best friend Bruno (Matt Lintz) learns he might be going away to Caltech, he and Kamala both fear what that could mean for the future. They don’t want to grow up — not yet.
“Do I have to figure out my whole future before lunch, or just like…?” Kamala trails off in a meeting with her high school counselor in the show’s first episode. It’s an uncertainty that goes unspoken throughout much of the series — as Kamala grapples with becoming Ms. Marvel, the weight of her other responsibilities remains at the forefront of her mind.
In addition to Kamala’s relatable struggles in friendship, family and dating, modern music choices and a realistic take on social media allow Ms. Marvel to stand firmly in its roots as a coming-of-age story, one well-suited to the Gen-Z era that its characters live in. Having a writer’s room full of adults who remember what the world was like before the dawn of the iPhone can sometimes result in a depiction of the teenage experience that feels outdated. Plagued with an excess of emojis and social media, along with a fervent urgency for digital connection, Hollywood doesn’t always rightly capture what it’s really like to grow up in 2022, or how the teenage relationship with social media continues to evolve.
But in Ms. Marvel, social media simply exists. Texts are sent back and forth, parents are able to track their kids on “Find My iPhone,” Alexa-like technology is set up in the living room, and the concept of being “social media famous” is more casual than one would think — a closer reflection of how Gen-Z interacts with technology today. That’s largely due to the fact that the Ms. Marvel writers room did incorporate younger voices into the mix, in order to really nail down how they talk, think and interact with each other both on and off their phones.
Head writer Bisha K. Ali told Marvel that because her own “teenage experience wasn’t dominated by social media,” it was important for them to “[have] writers who could speak to a modern and contemporary teenage experience.” In fact, one of Kamala’s classmates Zoe Zimmer (Laurel Marsden) is written as a social media influencer — a fact about her that’s more of an afterthought for Kamala, Bruno and Nakia (Yasmeen Fletcher). While Zoe is racking up followers and filming TikToks, Kamala cares more about the fact that Zoe used to be her friend — her mom used to carpool the girls to school together — but has since changed, no longer giving Kamala the time of day since acquiring “popular girl” status.
Additionally, In the bond between Bruno, Kamala and Nakia, the friendship feels real — there’s history there, written between the lines of the dialogue. They’ve spent cultural holidays together, their families know each other, and they sometimes fight, like so many do, with their childhood friends. It’s a foundation that will play well into Kamala’s future in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, as audiences become more and more invested in not only her fate as a hero, but also in her journey as a character.
Along with headlining her own show, Kamala Khan is also the most recent addition in the growing list of prospective Young Avengers in the MCU.
As Marvel gears up to bring more superhero teams into the fray, such as the X-Men and the Fantastic Four, they also seem to be setting the scene for a set of younger Avengers, many of whom have close ties to the original group.
Off the bat, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) from Hawkeye seems to be leading the way, as one of the oldest members of the prospective group. The appearance of Elijah Bradley (Elijah Richardson) in The Falcon and Winter Soldier was also an important Easter egg that some may have missed. He’s the grandson of Isaiah Bradley, one of the earliest men to be experimented on by Super Soldier serum, and he ultimately goes on to become one of the leaders of the Young Avengers team in the comics.
Additionally, Billy (Julian Hilliard) and Tommy (Jett Klyne), known in the comics by their superhero aliases Wiccan and Speed, are another obvious addition, having already cultivated strong powers in Wandavision. As the offspring of Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) and Vision (Paul Bettany), the twins are poised to continue the family legacy in the Avengers — Billy with warlock powers much like his mother and Tommy with super-speed like his uncle Pietro. Although they don’t exactly exist on Earth-616, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness confirmed that they are out there. Where exactly they will re-enter the MCU from in the multiverse is still to be seen.
The Doctor Strange sequel also introduced a key player in multiverse traveler America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez), who audiences last saw training in sorcery at the Kamar-Taj. And although we’ve known her since the 2015 debut of Ant-Man, Cassie Lang (Kathryn Newton) is another Young Avenger that has flown seemingly under the radar thus far in the MCU. In the comics, she notably takes up the Ant-Man mantle, and is expected to take on a bigger role in the upcoming film Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania.
Somewhere amidst all this, Ms. Marvel enters the mix, leaving off at the end of her series seemingly switching places with her superhero idol, Carol Danvers aka Captain Marvel (Brie Larson), revealed in the finale’s post-credit scene. While we don’t yet know how Kamala will join the Young Avengers, it’s a great start that she will return in the upcoming 2023 film The Marvels, alongside Danvers.