Remember when Marvel was gung ho on the Inhumans?
Before the X-Men film rights were available to Marvel Studios, they saw a substitute in the Inhumans; a movie was set for November 2019. But with the Inhumans now less crucial to Marvel’s portfolio than ever, Ms. Marvel’s imminent MCU debut is all but ditching Kamala Khan’s Inhuman identity.
Maybe it’s for the better, but with Black Bolt’s recent cameo in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, one has to wonder what Marvel is planning for the House of Agon.
What Happened? — In a new interview with Empire, Marvel’s Kevin Feige talked about Ms. Marvel, who will soon debut in her own Disney+ streaming series starring Iman Vellani. Kamala has undergone some changes ranging from her superpowers to even her identity.
“We adapt the comics; it’s not an exact translation,” Feige told Empire. “[Kamala] came about in a very specific time within the comic-book continuity. She is now coming into a very specific time within the MCU continuity. And those two things didn’t match.”
Feige further explains the distance of the MCU’s Kamala from her comic book counterpart. “What we will learn about where those powers come from, and how they come about, is specific to the MCU,” Feige said. “You will see great comic splash panels in some of our action sequences. If you want big, giant hands and arms, well they’re here in spirit, if not in stretchy, plastic-type ways.”
More Inhuman Than Human — To decode what Kevin Feige said, and what he actually means, there’s some unpacking that needs to be done.
In Marvel’s comics, Kamala obtains her powers through the Terrigen Mist, a cosmic gas that, when inhaled, awakens ancient Inhuman DNA in specific people, which manifests as superpowers. Kamala snuck off to a party at night and inhaled the mist of a Terrigen bomb that went off across the Hudson in New York City.
Because Kamala’s Pakistani-Muslim family also descends from Inhumans, the Terrigen Mist triggered her unique polymorphing superpowers. It’s unknown why Kamala Khan was conceived as Inhuman in the first place, but it was key to her story.
That story has enough on its plate with Kamala dealing with teenage growing pains and being raised in a Muslim family in modern America. Being involved with the Inhumans and their alien squabbles has always felt tacked on to her mythology.
But Kamala being Inhuman was important to Marvel when she debuted in comics in 2014; just a few months after Ms. Marvel #1 hit shelves, Feige announced Inhumans for theatrical release. (The project devolved into a low budget TV show that was canceled after one season.) This is alluded to in Feige’s interview, where he described Kamala’s comic debut happening “in a very specific time” that’s different from Marvel today.
Since Marvel isn’t forcing Kamala Khan’s Inhuman heritage on her in the MCU, this appears to have given Marvel some leeway to reimagine her stretchy polymorphing powers as cosmic projection. This still means Kamala can punch bad guys with giant fists, but that the fists will look a little different.
Identity Crisis — While it’s unfortunate that Kamala won’t have such an awkward powerset — which speaks to her personality as an awkward and messy character — creator G. Willow Wilson is apparently fine with the changes.
In 2019, Wilson told Polygon that Kamala and her powers were uniquely designed for comics, and that a TV version would have to make alterations. “[W]ith Ms. Marvel, we really weren’t interested in creating something that had very obvious film potential,” Wilson told Polygon. “She’s got very comic booky powers. God bless them trying to bring that to live action; I don’t know how that’s going to work out in a way that doesn’t look really creepy.”
While Marvel isn’t as committed to the Inhumans as it once was, that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten them. Anson Mount’s Black Bolt recently resurfaced in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and while it’s an alternate variant of the character, it still means the Inhumans have a presence somewhere in Marvel’s vast multiverse.
Feige himself told Empire that Kamala’s powers still connect to Kamala’s heritage. “It taps into the future of her story as it connects to her other friends that she will meet in the upcoming film The Marvels,” Feige said. “It goes to her own past and her heritage and lineage.”
Could this mean Kamala’s powers are rooted in her Pakistani-Muslim heritage — see those bangles she wears? — or something else? It seems we’ll have to just watch to find out.
Ms. Marvel will premiere on Disney+ on June 8.