Who is Red Dagger? Meet Ms. Marvel's first real sidekick (and first kiss)
The Red Dagger has entered the MCU. But how will it complicate Kamala’s personal life?
Phase Four of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has slowly introduced a new generation of superheroes, and Ms. Marvel is only adding to the roster. In Episode 4, “Seeing Red,” Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani) crosses paths with a new masked vigilante who prowls the streets of Karachi. His name is Kareem and he hides his face behind the scarf of the Red Dagger.
Introduced in 2016, Kareem/Red Dagger doesn’t yet have a prolific history in the Marvel Universe. In fact, the MCU expands his story in ways his brief presence in G. Willow Wilson’s Ms. Marvel comics never did. But there are things about Kareem that may be very interesting for MCU fans to learn, and which may indicate where Kamala’s story winds up in the future.
Warning: Minor spoilers for Ms. Marvel Episode 4 ahead.
In Ms. Marvel’s Episode 4, Kamala travels to Karachi to meet her grandmother (Samina Ahmad), who not only gave Kamala her magical bangles but also knows about their family’s secret heritage. She also knows about Kamala’s visions of a train — the last one to Karachi, which her family took to escape to Pakistan during Partition.
Throughout the episode, Kamala’s journey in Karachi puts her face to face with a masked stranger: Kareem, played by Aramis Knight (who previously showed off his action hero chops in the AMC series Into the Badlands). Behind a red mask and armed with throwing knives, Kareem poses a formidable equal to Kamala, who is still getting used to her bangle’s powers.
Eventually, the two call it a truce and Kareem brings Kamala to a Chinese restaurant, which houses a secret base for an order of stealthy warriors called the Red Daggers. The Red Daggers are led by Waleed (Farhan Akhtar), who shares with Kamala more knowledge about the Clandestines as beings who originate in a parallel dimension. It appears as if the MCU has its own “Upside Down.”
Kareem is part of the Red Daggers, whose mission is “simple,” in the words of Waleed: “To protect our people from threats of the unseen.” So it would make sense the Red Daggers know a bit about the Djinn, the Clandestines, and even Kamala’s bangles, which in the hands of the Clandestine would be a weapon to wipe out Earth in favor of the Clandestine’s home.
The MCU introduces a lot of complex, worldbuilding lore behind the Red Dagger, whose history in Marvel’s comics is a lot more simple by comparison. They’re also juicy, at least in complicating Kamala’s personal life.
Who was the Red Dagger in the comics?
Introduced in Ms. Marvel #12, Kareem was simply a masked vigilante who prowled the streets of Karachi fighting evildoers. No secret orders, nothing to do with Djinn, not even a concrete origin to the name “Red Dagger.” He was simply a crime-fighter.
The twist for Red Dagger in the original Ms. Marvel comics was that he provided Kamala a sort of mirror to her own activities as a superhero in Jersey City. At the time, Kamala’s friendship with Bruno was on the fritz, with Kamala feeling lovesick toward her lifelong BFF.
Much like the TV series, Kamala travels to Karachi in the comics to visit her grandmother and escape her chaotic drama at home. When she meets Kareem/Red Dagger, she’s thankful to meet someone who can understand her superhero life better than her own friends.
A few issues later, Kareem becomes a foreign exchange student in America and stays with Kamala’s family in Jersey City. As the two learned each other’s secret identities, they briefly united as a dynamic duo, with the press describing Red Dagger as Ms. Marvel’s sidekick. (To the chagrin of Kamala, Kareem took impossibly good candid photos.)
Naturally, two teenagers fighting crime together can and will generate sparks, and Kamala’s first kiss was with Kareem (in Ms. Marvel #29). But this only complicated matters, as Kamala realized she was actually in love with Bruno and found herself torn between him and Kareem.
What happened to Red Dagger?
Not much! In Ms. Marvel #30, Kareem/Red Dagger abruptly went home, though he left on good terms with Kamala.
The two reunited in the 2021 special comic Marvel’s Voices: Identity, an anthology comic highlighting the Marvel Universe’s biggest heroes of Asian descent. Though in Ms. Marvel’s story, which was coincidentally also titled “Seeing Red,” Kareem said something insulting to Kamala that compelled her to walk away from the Red Dagger, maybe for the last time.
As for the TV series, Ms. Marvel is quickly approaching its final sixth episode, and it’s unknown if the series will continue with a second season. (It could, but nothing has been announced yet.)
Kamala will return in the Captain Marvel sequel The Marvels, where it’s unlikely Kamala will have any time to devote to her boy crushes. She’s got bigger things to worry about.
Ms. Marvel airs new episodes Wednesdays on Disney+.