Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, has come a long way. An excitable teen fangirl from a Pakistani American family, she becomes a stalwart superhero after gaining mysterious powers one misty Jersey City night. As Ms. Marvel, she saves the world, makes new friends, defends the powerless, and discovers a courage she didn’t know she had. She even becomes an Avenger — until she eventually finds the courage to quit the Avengers, that is. Kamala is a leader, a geek, a hero, a sister, and so much more — and now she’s the star of her very own Disney+ series, “Ms. Marvel.”
No TV series could cover all that ground in a single season, of course, but “Ms. Marvel” gives fans everything they want — and then some. Some prospective viewers might want a bit more grounding in Kamala’s ink-and-paper adventures before they say hello to her on the small screen, however. For those eager aficionados, we present this list of comics you should read before watching “Ms. Marvel” on Disney+. From her silliest mistakes to her most Earth-shaking trials, these stories will have you cheering on Jersey City’s finest superhero in no time.
Ms. Marvel’s origin story
If you want to catch up on Kamala’s comics before watching the TV show, there’s no better place to start than the first arc of the 2014 “Ms. Marvel” series, “No Normal,” which encompasses “Ms. Marvel” #1 through #5. Kamala wants to be just like Captain Marvel, but she gets more than she bargained for when the mysterious Terrigen Mist awakens her polymorphic powers. Like her idol, she must use this gift to protect the weak and confront the sinister. Juggling friends, family, school, and superheroes’ work turn out to be a pretty tall order, however.
From the very first page, this storyline dazzles. Kamala is a wonderfully multifaceted character, as shaped by her nerdy hobbies as she is by her Muslim faith. This complexity proves to be an excellent source of tension: Her desire to be a normal teenager who goes to parties and writes fanfiction about the Avengers on Planet Unicorn might not be reconcilable with her deep urge to make the world a better place. Moreover, Kamala must learn that she doesn’t need to be Carol Danvers to be a hero. What results is a fabulous debut arc that establishes Kamala as an offbeat superhero with a strong moral compass.
Kamala attempts to be in three places at once
Sometimes Ms. Marvel deals with world-jeopardizing threats, and sometimes she has to worry about everyday problems. The latter takes center stage in “Army of One,” an arc that spans 2016’s “Ms. Marvel” #4 through #6. With homework, Avengers missions, and her brother’s wedding to contend with, Kamala knows something’s gotta give … unless she can be in three places at once. Thus, Kamala talks her best friend Bruno into manufacturing some bizarre, dopey golems who can stand in for her as needed. She’s certain nobody will notice the difference, even though each construct is only capable of saying a single catchphrase. Naturally, things get carried away, and Jersey City is quickly overrun with Kamala golems.
Aside from being loads of fun, this story arc also gives readers a great overview of Kamala’s family and friends. It particularly highlights her brother Aamir and his fiancée Tyesha, who face about as many hurdles as Kamala does on the way to their wedding. Seeing two very different families brought together by such a major event proves to be affecting and hilarious. It only becomes more so when Kamala’s golems get in the way.
Ms. Marvel joins the Avengers
After being hurled into the sun by Nova, a wrathful Chitauri named Warbringer comes to Earth bent on revenge. He begins searching for Chitauri artifacts that will allow him to wipe out humanity. To make things even worse, the old Avengers have broken up. The first three issues of 2015’s “All-New, All-Different Avengers” sees a new team band together to stop the vengeful alien, comprised of Tony Stark, Sam Wilson, Miles Morales, the Vision, Jane Foster, Nova, and the one and only Kamala Khan. When she’s offered the opportunity to become an Avenger, she doesn’t need to be asked twice — in fact, she starts raising her hand before Tony Stark can even finish his sentence.
The highlight of this story arc is the chemistry between Nova and Ms. Marvel. Nova tries — and fails — to flirt with Kamala, often using cheesy pick-up lines. She isn’t interested, not least of all because Nova doesn’t seem to care about the Jersey City civilians (and laundromats) caught in the crossfire of battle. Their awkward interactions are made all the more amusing by the fact that we’re privy to their internal monologues. Like all self-conscious teenagers, they silently regret the dumb things coming out of their mouths.
Ms. Marvel vs. gentrification
“Super Famous,” an arc spanning the first three issues of the 2015 “Ms. Marvel” series, pits Kamala against the forces of gentrification. Amidst serious turmoil in her social life, Kamala discovers Ms. Marvel’s face has been plastered all over Jersey City’s billboards, entirely without her permission. These gigantic advertisements are linked to Hope Yards, a sleek new development. But Hope Yards isn’t all it appears to be: The folks behind it are cooking up a scheme involving insectoid security drones, devious crowd-dispersal devices, and just a hint of mind-controlling nanotechnology.
This thrilling storyline also introduces some new characters who become major players in future issues of “Ms. Marvel.” Prominent among them is Mike, Bruno’s new girlfriend, whom Kamala has some very complicated feelings about. Meanwhile, Aamir asks Kamala to chaperone him on dates with Tyesha, an extremely cool young woman (who turns out to be a huge fan of Frank Herbert’s “Dune” series). Needless to say, both of these scenarios are quite awkward for Kamala and very entertaining for us.
The Khan family goes to space
When writer G. Willow Wilson passed the “Ms. Marvel” torch to Saladin Ahmed, things got pretty weird, pretty fast. In the first five issues of 2019’s “Magnificent Ms. Marvel,” Kamala’s parents are kidnapped and replaced by genetic copies that melt into gloop. As if that weren’t startling enough, Kamala and her parents — her actual parents, that is — are sent halfway across the galaxy to the mysterious planet Saffa. Aesthetically, this new series is a bit of a departure from previous “Ms. Marvel” comics, but Ahmed preserves Kamala’s personality quirks nicely. For instance, when Kamala is shown to her Saffan chambers, she is delighted to report it smells like gingerbread and hugs.
This storyline sees Kamala’s parents become involved in her adventures in an entirely new way. They tag along with her as she helps defend Saffa from invaders, and warn bare-chested alien hunk Cheb Hura to stop flirting with their daughter. Best of all, Ms. Marvel gets a sleek new super-suit in this arc. This one is made with Kree nanotech that can respond to her thoughts and even collapses into a convenient handbag.
Ms. Marvel clashes with Captain Marvel
2016’s “Civil War II” sent shockwaves across Marvel Comics. At the story’s center are Iron Man and Captain Marvel, who clash over whether or not to use a precognitive Inhuman’s abilities to punish people before they even commit their crimes. The effects of this conflict soon reach Jersey City, as Carol Danvers leaves Kamala in charge of arresting anyone prophesied to break the law. But soon enough, Kamala begins to doubt Carol’s orders. She must make difficult decisions about where her loyalties lie — and how she feels about her longtime idol.
This arc, captured in 2016’s “Ms. Marvel” #7 through “Ms. Marvel” #11, captures the intensity and moral ambiguity at the heart of “Civil War II,” with a heaping helping of the Ms. Marvel quirks we know and love. Case in point: The first fight sequence involves a Canadian ninja driving a tank through downtown Jersey City. Perhaps the most significant element of this arc, however, is that it captures the first time Ms. Marvel recognizes her idol is far from perfect. Kamala needs to find the courage to stand up to Carol, even if it means losing her respect forever. What’s more, the events of “Civil War II” drive a wedge between Kamala and Bruno. These must-read comics mark a huge turning point in Kamala’s life.
Ms. Marvel faces an internet troll
Kamala is a huge fan of the online multiplayer game “World of Battlecraft.” But in 2017’s “Damage Per Second” arc, which spans “Ms. Marvel” #14 through #17, Kamala’s hobby becomes her worst nightmare. In this clever look at internet culture, Kamala crosses swords with a virus called Doc. X, which initially takes the guise of a literal Battlecraft troll. This terrifying baddie uses the modern world’s interconnected systems to learn that Kamala is Ms. Marvel, and threatens to reveal her secret to everyone unless she does what it wants. When that fails, Doc. X target Kamala’s friend Zoe instead. Zoe is a lesbian, but not everyone knows this yet. She’s also in love with her friend Nakia and has been composing love letters on her phone. If Kamala doesn’t give in, Doc. X will send those letters to the entire school.
What results is one of the most poignant scenes in the entire “Ms. Marvel” series. Ground down by all this negativity and hate, Kamala and her friends comfort Zoe in the school hallway. This action shows they support her, no matter what trolls (real-life or otherwise) might come along. Doc. X is one of the most formidable enemies Ms. Marvel ever fights: Kamala herself admits he’s the supervillain that terrifies her the most. This makes her defiance of his negativity all the more inspiring.
Kamala quits the Avengers
The fallout from “Civil War II” convinces Kamala that the older Avengers don’t fully consider how their battles impact civilians. Disgusted with the mess they leave in their wake, she quits, then joins forces with her fellow teenage superheroes to form the Champions in 2016’s “Champions” #1.
As she generally adores the Avengers, this is a pretty significant transformation for Kamala and a testament to her increasing maturity. The tone of this comic is equally mature and perfect for fans who like their “Ms. Marvel” a tiny bit edgier. Instead of Kamala’s usual adventures with trolls and bird-headed inventors, the Champions tackle more realistic challenges, such as human trafficking and mining accidents. This also marks the first time Ms. Marvel leads her team of superheroes, which boasts Miles Morales, Vision’s daughter Viv, and Amadeus Cho as members. The Champions kick-start a movement, Gen Z style: They give a big speech and circulate it on the Internet.
Ms. Marvel becomes a fugitive
In 2020’s “Champions” #1 through #5, burgeoning tensions escalate into an all-out war. After an attempt to protect youth activist Ailana Kabua spirals out of control, the public decides the Champions are to blame. Convinced that teenage superheroes are a danger to others and themselves, the government establishes C.R.A.D.L.E., an organization that cracks down on underage vigilantes. To make matters worse, one of the Champions’ own is leaking information to C.R.A.D.L.E.
At the center of it all is Ms. Marvel, so dedicated to the cause that she even gives orders to her fellow Champions from a hospital bed. Pretty soon, Kamala is on the run from C.R.A.D.L.E. with Miles Morales, Sam Alexander, and Riri Williams. This is thrilling, but as time goes by, she starts to wonder if she’s even doing the right thing. This arc is an epic installment of Ms. Marvel’s story that you should read before watching the Disney+ series. It exposes Kamala to all-new conflicts, tensions, and characters, which change her heroic trajectory forever. It’s not all doom and gloom, though: Kamala’s still the kind of teen who asks if there’s any breakfast left before the Champions go charging into battle.
Ms. Marvel and Captain Marvel take on the apocalypse
No “Ms. Marvel” collection would be complete without “Last Days,” an arc that covers 2015’s “Ms. Marvel” #16 through #18. If you think “Civil War” makes a huge dent in a bunch of Marvel stories, that’s nothing compared to “Secret Wars.” This sweeping crossover event touches every Marvel series in some form or fashion, but the way it intersects with Kamala’s story is especially impressive.
While other superheroes zoom around trying to prevent the apocalypse, Kamala mostly tries to keep her neighborhood from falling apart. When things get out of control, however, help arrives — in the form of Carol Danvers. Kamala finally gets to meet her idol face-to-face, and even manages to hold her own as they travel across Jersey City. Movingly, Carol leaves her with a special GPS pendant, combining both their symbols. That’s not where the emotional moments end, either: Faced with the end of the world, Bruno and Kamala must finally face their feelings for each other. It’s such a perfect ending, we’re almost disappointed that Ms. Marvel went on to have plenty more awesome adventures. Almost.