Image of Iman Vellani as Kamala Khan in 'The Marvels.' She is a brown Pakistani teenage girl with long, dark hair wearing a red and blue flannel shirt over a graphic tee depicting Avengers comics covers. She's sitting in a chair in her living room with a hopeful look on her face.

‘The Marvels’ Might Not Be Setting Up the Superhero Team You Think

The Marvels was a joyful romp of a movie, thanks in large part to a certain geeky Pakistani teenager from New Jersey. Iman Vellani’s Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, was the exuberant beating heart of the film, and by the end, she takes an interesting step toward the future of the MCU.

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But there’s a chance it might not be the future you’re expecting.

**SPOILERS below for The Marvels**

Image of Hailee Steinfeld as Kate Bishop in Disney+'s 'Hawkeye.' She is a white young woman with her long dark hair in a ponytail as shorter strands hang in her face. She's wearing a black gingham coat and holding a bow as she stands in a subway station looking over her shoulder.
(Disney+)

In the last scene of The Marvels, Kate Bishop (Hailee Steinfeld) enters her apartment in her Hawkeye garb to find Kamala Khan waiting for her in the dark. Kamala says that she’s starting a team of young superheroes and wants to recruit Kate. Kate protests at first, clarifying that she’s 23 and an actual adult who can drink and everything, but then Kamala hits her with the most endearing “Please?” you’ve ever heard, and Kate can’t help but smile warmly. It seems she’s receptive to Ms. Marvel’s invitation.

Damn near the entire internet, including TMS’ own Rachel Leishman and Julia Glassman, has interpreted this scene as a natural segue into an eventual Young Avengers movie. This makes a lot of sense. After all, Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye was a member of the Young Avengers in the Marvel comics.

However, Ms. Marvel isn’t, nor has she ever been a member of the Young Avengers in the comics. She was a full-fledged Avenger for a hot minute, but that was before she started a team of young superheroes along with Miles Morales’ Spider-Man and Samuel Alexander’s Nova.

That team became known as The Champions.

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Who are The Champions?

Cropped image from the cover of the Marvel comic 'Champions' Issue 1. The illustration depicts young Cyclops, Brawn, Ms. Marvel, Nova, and Viv Vision walking together down the platform at the 34th Street subway station in New York City.
(Marvel Comics)

Marvel writer Mark Waid and artist Humberto Ramos created The Champions in 2016 in the aftermath of the second superhuman Civil War. Kamala and several of her young friends were disillusioned by the actions their elders took during that fight and noticed that the general public had become equally disillusioned with heroes in general. She wanted to create a group of young heroes who’d actually live up to superhero ideals and operate ethically.

Champions 2016 (not to be confused with the less successful 1975 Marvel superhero team of the same name) was an ongoing title at Marvel Comics from 2016-2021, providing a ray of light in a comics landscape that desperately needed one. In addition to Ms. Marvel, Spider-Man, and Nova, the team included such members as Riri Williams (Iron Heart), Amadeus Cho (Brawn, formerly the Totally Awesome Hulk), Vivian “Viv” Vision, and Nadia van Dyne’s Wasp. And yes, that is a time-displaced young Cyclops in the cover image above.

Champions was canceled in 2021 after 47 issues, and while it wasn’t a juggernaut sales-wise, it was generally reviewed positively and had a devoted fanbase during its run. I was among them!

This is why, when I saw that final scene in The Marvels, my first thought wasn’t “Ooh! This is the beginning of the Young Avengers in the MCU!” My first thought was, “Oh, sh*t! Are they bringing the Champions to the MCU?” The thought of Kate Bishop’s Hawkeye being Kamala’s first recruit totally made me squee. I knew she’d never been a Champion, but I also knew that Kamala had never been a Young Avenger, either, so my brain went with the team that Kamala actually started in the comics.

What’s in a team name?

A full-page image from an issue of the Marvel comic 'Champions.' The illustration depicts 14 members of the Champions team crowded together cheering. In the center of the page is a starburst speech bubble exclaiming "WE DID IT!"

Does it actually matter to me? In many ways, it doesn’t. I’m a sucker for young superhero teams in general, so whether we’re talking about the Young Avengers, or the Runaways, or the Champions, I’m into it no matter what! But Champions was the product of a certain time and place, both within the Marvel Comics universe and in the real world.

I don’t know if you remember what was going on in the world in 2016, but Champions Issue #1 came out just as a certain toupee-d Cheeto was running for President of the United States, and the division between red and blue voters felt wider than it had in a long time. Champions continued to run through the subsequent Cheeto Presidency, a global pandemic (which inevitably slowed its production), and growing civil unrest, thanks to the one-two punch of a racial reckoning and a growing anti-capitalist sentiment.

In the world of Marvel Comics, the young people who started the Champions were specifically responding to the ethically questionable actions of the adult superheroes, the growing division between extreme positions, and a greater prioritization of social justice among a general public that stopped believing that superheroes could be anything other than lackeys for The Man.

That moment of public sentiment leaning toward social justice in the face of encroaching fascism is ongoing. I know that “Young Avengers” has more name recognition, but The Champions and what they stand for would be a meaningful MCU response to the current political climate, and as much as Kamala geeked out about and dreamed of joining the Avengers, even she saw that what she really needed to do was to start her own thing, with its own name. Something that wasn’t just “the young version” of the group that had disillusioned her.

“Champions” was the name chosen for the group by the general public on social media, and it stuck. It’s a name created by the people for a team that’s for the people. I’m likely wrong. The MCU is probably going to bank on name recognition and give us Young Avengers. But a big part of me hopes that Marvel Studios takes this opportunity to give fans something truly new and give Iman Vellani’s Ms. Marvel the chance to shine without being tied down by the legacy of the Avengers.

(featured image: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures)


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Author
Teresa Jusino
Teresa Jusino (she/her) is a native New Yorker and a proud Puerto Rican, Jewish, bisexual woman with ADHD. She's been writing professionally since 2010 and was a former TMS assistant editor from 2015-18. Now, she's back as a contributing writer. When not writing about pop culture, she's writing screenplays and is the creator of your future favorite genre show. Teresa lives in L.A. with her brilliant wife. Her other great loves include: Star Trek, The Last of Us, anything by Brian K. Vaughan, and her Level 5 android Paladin named Lal.