Ms. Marvel’s bangle may be the MCU’s answer to the Quantum Bands – The Verge
Though Kamala Khan’s powers were significantly reworked for the MCU, the latest episode of Disney Plus’ Ms. Marvel series might be setting up a reveal that connects its hero and her abilities to the original Captain Marvel of Marvel’s comic books.
Kamala doesn’t initially think all that much of the vintage bangle she receives in a gift package from her grandmother Sana (Samina Ahmad) in Ms. Marvel’s first episode. But when she actually puts it on, she immediately realizes that there’s much more to the heirloom than meets the eye. In addition to transporting Kamala (at least mentally) to another plane bathed in neon light, the bangle unlocks her power to generate glowing constructs made out of an unidentified energy that comes from within her.
In the short time since Kamala got her hands on the bangle, she’s mainly been focused on figuring out what she can do with it and why her seemingly average grandmother would send her such a strange — and perhaps otherworldly — object that no one in their family has ever mentioned before. Because Kamala’s busy with her brother Aamir’s (Saagar Shaikh) wedding in Ms. Marvel’s third and newest episode, “Destined,” she doesn’t exactly find answers to all of her questions. But “Destined” does establish some interesting details about the Khan family’s history that feel very much like Ms. Marvel’s way of tethering Kamala’s fate to the legacy of the comic book heroes whose mantle she bears.
Before “Destined” fixes its focus on Kamala’s life, it first opens on a pivotal moment in 1942 when her great-grandmother Aisha (Mehwish Hayat) and a group of fellow explorers at long last located the bangle in a temple somewhere in British-occupied India. It isn’t revealed how the bangle got there, but what Aisha, her companion Najma (Nimra Bucha), and everyone else present could plainly see was that the corpse it was attached to was a conspicuous shade of blue very much like some of the Kree aliens seen in Captain Marvel. With the temple under siege, Aisha and others knew that they didn’t have time to thoroughly check if both of the bangles were hidden there, and as the building came down, the explorers are all separated and unsure of what became of the golden treasure.
While Ms. Marvel shows you all of this in a flashback, Kamala hears it from Najma directly in the present day — just moments after the pair manage to evade capture by the Department of Damage Control. Up until this point, Kamala’s had no reason to suspect that Najma was anything more than her crush Kamran’s (Rish Shah) mother, but because of all the strange things happening to her personally, it doesn’t exactly shock Kamala to learn that Najma’s not exactly human. Rather, Kamran, Najma, and all of Aisha’s other traveling friends identify themselves as Clan Destines — a subset of long-lived, djinn-like beings cast out of their home in another dimension.
In Marvel’s comics, the Clan Destines are a family of humans whose different magical powers all stem from one of their English ancestors being granted a wish for immortality by a green-skinned djinn, who he eventually married. In Ms. Marvel, Najma speaks of the Clan Destines as a family and implies that, while Aisha might not have been one of them, they considered her an ally committed to helping them return to their home using the power of the bangles.
Again, most of “Destined” focuses on Aamir’s wedding and Kamala working to keep her secret life as a vigilante in the making hidden from her biological family. But the emphasis this episode puts on Kamala’s bangle and the idea of people using them to open portals to other dimensions makes it feel like Ms. Marvel’s introducing the MCU’s version of either the Quantum Bands or the Nega-Bands, powerful objects that are a significant part of Kree history in Marvel’s comics universe.
Before Kamala Khan became the newest Ms. Marvel, the title initially belonged to Carol Danvers until she gave it up to become the latest Captain Marvel, a codename first adopted by the Kree soldier Mar-Vell after hearing humans mispronounce his name. Though Mar-Vell’s Kree heritage grants him a variety of advantages over humans by default, he doesn’t come into the Captain Marvel powers he’s best known for until writer Archie Goodwin and artist Don Heck’s Captain Marvel #16 from 1969. After Mar-Vell proves himself to be a truly fearsome warrior and almost sacrifices his life, the Kree’s Supreme Intelligence rewards him by enhancing his powers and giving him a new red and black costume accented by a pair of golden bracelets, known as the Nega-Bands.
In addition to making it possible for Mar-Vell to manipulate different forms of energy, the Nega-Bands also created a problem for the hero, as their connection to the Negative Zone (of Fantastic Four fame) led Mar-Vell himself to be transported and trapped there. It wasn’t until Rick Jones, a longtime human friend of the Avengers, happened upon and donned another set of Nega-Bands that Mar-Vell was freed temporarily from the Negative Zone. For a while, Mar-Vell and Jones settled into a strange double life where they would periodically use their Nega-Bands to switch places on Earth and in the Negative Zone for a few hours at a time, making it possible for both of them to operate as superheroes.
Despite a gender-swapped version of Mar-Vell having existed in the MCU and appearing in Captain Marvel, neither she nor the Nega-Bands are specifically called out in “Destined.” But the way the bangle seems to transport those who touch it to another place — a place not on Earth — reads very much like a nod to the Nega-Bands’ teleportation abilities and the psychic connection they forged between Mar-Vell and Jones. Interestingly, the Nega-Bands aren’t the only important piece of Captain Marvel-related jewelry from the comics that Ms. Marvel may be reworking for its first live-action appearance.
In Captain Marvel #29 by Jim Starlin, Mar-Vell’s heroics and already substantial power levels are part of what pushes Eon — an anthropomorphized embodiment of time — to choose him as the latest in a long line of designated Protectors of the Universe. Being a Protector of the Universe has since become synonymous with being in possession of Eon’s Quantum Bands, the pair of energy-channeling bracelets that the more modern Nega-Bands of Kree design are modeled after. But because comic book lore tends to change and be written out of order by different creative teams, the Quantum Bands have become much more closely associated with the multiple cosmic heroes who’ve gone by Quasar over the years, like former SHIELD agent Wendell Vaughn.
Much as it’s seemed like Ms. Marvel had to come up with a completely new way for its hero to hold her own in battle, in Mark Gruenwald, Paul Ryan, and Paul Benton’s Quasar #1, an untrained Vaughn more or less uses the Quantum Bands to make fist-shaped constructs the same way Kamala has. Ms. Marvel’s made clear that whatever Kamala’s powers are specifically, she’s generating all of that energy on her own steam, meaning that her bangle isn’t a direct analogue to either the Nega-Bands or the Quantum Bands. But given how solid a job Ms. Marvel’s done so far of cleverly working in bits and pieces of all the different stories that laid the groundwork for Kamala to become a hero, it wouldn’t be surprising if her bangle plays a key role in whatever’s coming next in the MCU.