It is in the field of series that the place of the superhero in the collective imagination is defined today. On the big screen, the Marvel-DC Comics duopoly (respectively subsidiaries of the multinationals Disney and Warner Bros. Discovery) never strays far from the rules that have made the success of feature films with protagonists in leotards since the beginning of the century.
On the platforms, the genre is undergoing astonishing mutations. While The Boys (on Amazon Prime Video) continues, season after season, its systematic demolition of the very idea of superheroes, Marvel uses the episodic form as a laboratory. And never has the Avengers studio experimented with such boldness as in Ms Marvel, whose sixth and final episode of the first season went live on July 13. To give an idea of these audacity, it will of course be necessary to reveal some details of the tribulations of this new superheroine.
Six weeks ago, we met Kamala Khan (Iman Vellani), a high school student from New Jersey, the daughter of Pakistani immigrants, an assiduous faithful, but turbulent of the Friday sermons at the mosque in her neighborhood and a fan of comics – the The plot trigger is his burning desire to attend an Avengers convention despite his parents forbidding him. Throughout the season, the young girl discovers both supernatural powers and a family history closely linked to that of her parents’ country.
The narrative flows between Jersey City and Karachi, the direction shifting from teenage comedy to South Asian melodrama. From this overflow of seemingly contradictory imaginations emerges the figure of a heroine whose power stems as much from the rules of the genre (mutation, intervention of extraterrestrial powers) as from her membership in a community.
Among the many paradoxes that set Miss Marvel apart from the flow of Marvel production is one that puts at the center of a series aimed at teenagers, the first and last episodes of which were made in a colorful pop style. by the duo Adil El Arbi
This one, like the previous one, located today in Karachi (whose role, apart from a few panoramic shots, is here held by Bangkok), was directed by the Pakistani documentary filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. This is the filmmaker’s first foray into fiction (among other things, she has undertaken to compile an oral history of the score by collecting testimonies from survivors). This explains why we briefly see newsreels from 1947 giving an idea of the extent and violence of the population movements born of the division into two countries of the former British colony. The rest of this segment of the story, which establishes the complicated genealogy of Kamala Khan, whose mother comes from a matrilineal line of jinns, is therefore treated as a melodrama, performed by Pakistani actors.
In the country of her parents, the young girl must confront both her jinn ancestors – who have the disadvantage of being immortal and want to drag her into their vendetta against mankind – while in the United States she must escape. to bureaucrats determined to keep control over superheroes, a situation familiar to regulars of the Marvel universe, but which takes on a completely different resonance here.
Reverse the relationship between superheroes and mortals
The irruption of agents in black suits into a mosque at prayer time does not necessarily look like an assault on a hangar. But whatever the seriousness of the situation, Kamala Khan remains, by the somewhat awkward grace of her interpreter, whose physique does not correspond in any way to Hollywood canons (nor Bollywood), a teenager who struggles in the throes of adolescent mutations .
In the productions of the studio directed by Kevin Feige, the final confrontation often undoes what preceded, it was the case in WandaVision. Here, she gives the creator of the series, the British Bisha K. Ali (who has worked from the comic published since 2014), the opportunity to reverse the relationship between the superhero and the common man. It is the latter who come to the aid of Kamala, where Black Panther defends the country of which he is the sovereign.
It’s unlikely that Ms. Marvel will ever be anything more than an exception to the rule that governs the representation of superheroes. But its mere existence opens up a space in which this type of narrative is stripped of the ideology that the higher essence of some beings, whether due to their extraterrestrial origin or to the bite of a radioactive spider, compels the rest of the species to place its fate in their hands.