Ms. Marvel has some of the most game-changing powers in comics--but how do they actually work? When she was created in 2013, Ms. Marvel was envisioned as the next "everyman" hero. In a world of Marvel's famous gods, monsters, super-soldiers, and time travelers, Kamala Khan is just an ordinary girl, who learns she's secretly an Inhuman when exposed to the Terrigen Mists. Her body mutates in response, granting her superpowers overnight.
At the time, Kamala was something of a superhero fangirl, with a low-key obsession over Captain Marvel. With her character and heroism obvious from the first page, there was never any doubt about the course Kamala would choose for her life, becoming one of Marvel's most important teenage heroes. Marvel Studios is also bringing her into the MCU with a Ms. Marvel Disney+ TV series and plans for a film mentioned in the future. But even her co-creator G. Willow Wilson is a little unsure about how Ms. Marvel's powers will work on film.
As Wilson has put it, "we really weren't interested in creating something that had very obvious film potential." She also admits Kamala's powers could be rather creepy in live-action--and she has a point. The abilities do lean towards body-horror, with Kamala stretching, growing, and shrinking at will. But just what is Kamala Khan's true powerset?
Ms. Marvel's Basic Superpowers
Ms. Marvel is typically portrayed as a polymorph of some kind, with the ability to change her shape. This usually manifests as size-changing, with Kamala increasing or decreasing in size at will. She can become a veritable giant or as small as an ant, making her something of a nightmare to tackle in a fight. What's more, Ms. Marvel can choose to grow--or "embiggen," as she famously calls it--just a single part of her body at a time. That means she can morph gigantic fists, or stretch out her legs to take gigantic steps. Interestingly, Kamala's strength and speed appear to change as she embiggens parts of her body; her enhanced fists punch with superhuman strength, while she runs at enhanced speed when her legs are larger. Kamala still has a normal human level of stamina, meaning she can get tired easily. For that reason, she eats more than usual humans (with the excess calories presumably acting as a sort of fuel).
As time has passed Kamala has experimented with her powers. She discovered that she can rearrange her molecules in a form of shapeshifting, becoming the perfect likeness of another person. An ability Kamala once used to trick Tony Stark into believing she was really his friend James Rhodes. An alternate-dimension Kamala Khan seen in Marvel's 2015 "Secret Wars" event had mastered this ability, using it to become one of the best spies of the Inhuman city of Attilan. Kamala's latest experiments involve manipulating her atoms in a far more creative fashion, morphing hands into hammers or becoming a human parachute to help people survive a fall. There's also some evidence she can alter her actual molecular density, as well. In time her skin may become as resilient as steel, or her embiggened foot can feel like it weighs a ton.
Kamala Khan Is A Time Traveler (Of A Kind)
It comes as no surprise that Marvel eventually sought to offer a pseudo-scientific explanation for Kamala's powers. Matter cannot be created or destroyed, so her shrinking and growing seems to defy the laws of physics. But Marvel explained it away by revealing that Kamala has access to a sort of temporal vortex, borrowing and lending her very atoms across time. When Kamala shrinks, she transports some of her molecules into the vortex; when she grows, she summons additional molecules from it. This makes Kamala Khan unexpectedly vulnerable to temporal disturbances. In one adventure, a malfunctioning Einstein-Rosen bridge caused Kamala's powers to malfunction.
There have been some hints that Kamala's personal vortex exists outside of Marvel's famous Multiverse. If that's the case, then every alternate-reality version of Kamala has access to the same vortex. In theory, there are an unlimited number of parallel timelines, meaning that there's no actual limit to the amount of matter Kamala can access. In practice, though, Kamala burns up energy when she uses her powers.
Kamala Khan's Healing Factor Rivals Wolverine's
There's one final aspect to Kamala Khan's powerset fans need to know, and it's her phenomenal healing factor, allowing her to take the kind of damage only Wolverine could heal from. Strangely, Kamala's healing factor seems to operate independently from her other abilities. If Ms. Marvel is badly wounded, she needs to revert to her base form in order to heal (and can't use any other power while she recovers from the injury). Kamala herself is unimpressed with this limitation, referring to it as 'nerfing a good build.' The healing factor is the side of Kamala's powerset that writers tend to overlook, but writer G. Willow Wilson has stressed that it could be her most important ability. This, after all, is the basic power that means Kamala Khan can keep on getting back on her feet, no matter what kind of damage she's absorbed. It is possible to overtax Kamala's healing factor, and at that point she slips into a recuperative coma, losing all consistency. Essentially... turning to goo.
Kamala Khan's powerset is a seriously impressive one, but G. Willow Wilson is right: it will be difficult to translate it into the MCU. Ms. Marvel was designed for comics, and is perfectly suited to a loose, kinetic artistic style that is difficult to reproduce in a live-action TV series. At the same time, even the comics themselves are gradually embracing the body horror of her fiction. Kamala Khan has been facing increasingly gross enemies, building on the visual themes of bodies gone wrong. And that could offer a side to Marvel's Universe that no other show or movie will tackle.