Disney Plus’ Ms. Marvel series has already spent its six-episode run completely reinventing her origin story and refreshing her powers for the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With its final episode it’s lobbed one more big twist into the mix. And according to the cast, it was a last-minute addition to the script that blew all of their minds.
[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for the final episode of Ms. Marvel.]
Just before the credits roll on the final episode of Ms. Marvel, Kamala has one more fateful chat with Bruno. He tells her that he took another look at her genetic makeup, because her brother Aamir wouldn’t stop pestering him with questions — if Kamala has superpowers because their great-grandmother was a visitor from another dimension, shouldn’t he have them too?
“When I compared you to the rest of your family, something still... seemed off.” He tells her that there’s “something different” in her genes. “Like... like a mutation.” When Bruno says the word, an electric guitar in the soundtrack flicks through the first seven notes of the infamous theme song from 1992’s X-Men: The Animated Series — which also underscored the appearance of Professor X in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness.
Matt Lintz, who plays Bruno, says that filming the scene came with some unique difficulties, namely that Iman Vellani, who plays Kamala, couldn’t stop laughing.
“It was hilarious,” he told Marvel.com, “because she just was like, ‘This is so cool.’ She couldn’t believe that I was saying this to her. Obviously, it’s so big for her character. We were going through the scene and she kept laughing. It was making me laugh. [...] I remember… you could just hear in the background [the crew] all screaming and the excitement and joy that they had was really, really funny. It’s a very big moment. I was just blessed and lucky enough to be able to share that with Iman and everybody else.”
But however the cast and crew took it, in the show, Kamala shrugs it off. “Whatever it is,” she says, “it’s just gonna be another label.”
A label like... mutant?
Is Ms. Marvel a mutant in the comics?
Absolutely not, which is what makes this mind-blowing for fans of Marvel Comics. In fact, Kamala is kind of the opposite of a mutant. She’s a newly awoken Inhuman who owes her existence, in part, to a mid-2010s editorial push to minimize the presence of the X-Men in Marvel Comics in favor of pushing the Inhumans to the fore — all to make Marvel Comics look more like the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now, with Ms. Marvel and Kamala’s new origin story, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is burying the Inhumans and using Kamala to bring the X-Men to the fore. And Vellani, at least, knew how consequential this was.
“They sent me, and only me, the draft [of the final episode],” she told Marvel.com, “and I immediately freaked out. I emailed Kevin Feige in all caps. I was like, are you doing this like for real? Are you sure? I’m so honored! I was like yelling at him through an email.”
According to Ms. Marvel’s cast and crew, the addition of Kamala’s mutant status was not in the cards from the beginning of production, but it did slot right into a puzzle that head writer Bisha K. Ali was trying to solve. “‘If any of [Kamala’s family] put the bangle on, would they have powers?’ The answer was always no, from a character perspective, no.”
And with the final episode, the show was able to provide a reason.
In the comics, Aamir did once briefly get superpowers, and he kind of hated it.
Nobody else in Kamala’s Marvel Comics family has superpowers — even though they’re all descended from ancient Inhuman DNA mingling with human DNA — because Kamala is the only one of them who was exposed to Terrigen Mist, the substance that awakens an Inhuman’s powers.
Will Ms. Marvel become a mutant in the comics?
That’s the $64,000 question! At this point, there’s no way of knowing. But it would be pretty interesting, given the nature of modern X-Men continuity.
“They’re a mutant” used to be a pretty consequence-free way of explaining a character’s inexplicable powers. Not all mutants are a member of the X-Men or ever have to be, after all. That began to change when the Marvel Cinematic Universe made its meteoric rise and became a legitimate rival to 20th Century Fox’s already established X-Men film franchise. The companies’ licensing agreements meant that mutant-associated characters couldn’t appear in MCU movies, and non-mutant associated characters couldn’t appear in X-Men movies.
Characters like Wanda and Pietro Maximoff (aka the Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver) and Molly Hayes of the Runaways were originally mutant characters whose origins were revamped for the Marvel Cinematic Universe debuts. And at Marvel Comics, mutant status started to be an editorial planning point of nonzero significance, as it could very directly determine how available the character would be for broader use by the rest of Marvel Entertainment and the Walt Disney Company.
Wanda and Pietro made their first significant MCU appearances in 2014, and in 2015, the Wanda and Pietro of the comics just happened to discover that they had never been mutants at all. That same year, one of the publisher’s rising stars, Squirrel Girl, was cheekily retconned out of the mutant status we’d been told she had for years.
With Disney’s acquisition of 20th Century Fox, the licensing of X-Men characters is no longer a hurdle. But ironically there have never been more consequences to revealing that a non-mutant character is a mutant in Marvel Comics, due to the current status quo of the X-Men. Right now, in Marvel Comics, every mutant on Earth has protection under international law as a citizen of the living island of Krakoa, access to Krakoa’s global network of teleportation gates, and to mutant resurrection, a kind of de facto immortality. Oh, and also mutants control Mars.
If Kamala does get retconned into a mutant in Marvel Comics rather than an Inhuman, it could represent a big status shift for her, even though her Inhuman heritage has never really been a huge deal in her stories.
When will we find out more about mutants in the Marvel Cinematic Universe?
We can’t say for certain. But we can say when we’ll see Kamala Khan next: That will be in The Marvels — a sequel to 2019’s Captain Marvel — which hits theaters on July. 28, 2023.
Marvel Studios has yet to announce any concrete plans for the X-Men in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But some major opportunities for the company to do so are swiftly approaching. Next week, Marvel will return to San Diego Comic-Con for a traditional Hall H panel, where the studio has promised that “Kevin Feige and special guests” will “provide an inside look at the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe.” And seven weeks after that, Disney will feature a multiple-hour-long panel at the company’s D23 event, entirely focused on Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm projects.
And with this last-minute reveal of Kamala’s mutant status, Marvel’s announcement of a long-awaited X-Men movie for the Marvel Cinematic Universe seems closer than it ever has.