It took a long time, like a really long time, for Square Enix to give any information at all on its Marvel game. But at E3 2019, we finally got our first real look at the game now called Marvel’s Avengers. It's a shocking title, I know. Anyway, while folks were excited about the reveal, the actual reception wasn’t so hot. The general reaction hovered somewhere in-between “neat” and “meh.” But in October 2019, Square Enix dropped a new trailer that might be swinging the pendulum towards ”cool,” and that’s all thanks to Ms. Marvel.
If you’re more of a casual Marvel person, you may not be too familiar with Ms. Marvel. Or rather, the current Ms. Marvel. Way back when, Ms. Marvel was actually Carol Danvers, who MCU fans know today as Captain Marvel. The original Captain Marvel was a dude who had similar powers, but he died and passed the torch on to Danvers. Then, Danvers sort of granted her old title to Kamala Khan, a young Muslim girl who has Plastic Man-like shape-shifting powers and is a nerdy fangirl sort who was obsessed with superheroes before she became one. Her solo comics quickly took off, with trade volumes landing on the New York TImes’ bestseller list and trouncing other comics for quite a while.
Thanks to that success, Khan has become a staple of the contemporary Marvel universe, albeit she's mostly stuck in the comics. She has made a couple video game appearances however, most notably in Nintendo’s Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3. Despite not appearing in any blockbuster movies, Ms. Marvel has gained quite a lot of popularity when most women in Marvel struggle to maintain solo comic book momentum. Part of her appeal is her down to Earth, relatable personality and struggles, as well as being a young woman of color. Diversity generally leads to broadening audience appeal–who knew?
Speaking of broadening appeal, a lot of the Marvel’s Avengers reactions were pretty lukewarm after Square Enix’s big E3 2019 trailer. The story seemed sort of intriguing, set after the Avengers suffered a huge loss and disbanded, setting itself apart from other iterations. However, most of the character designs came off as attempting to mimic the MCU designs, but making them just different enough that it had a sort of uncanny valley effect. Square Enix and Crystal Dynamic’s visions of the Avengers just came off as a Walmart knockoff of the “real” thing. Enter Kamala Khan.
In the October 2019 trailer, it’s revealed that Khan is playing a sort of protagonist role. While players will get to play as the whole team, Khan seems to be the driving force behind getting the band back together. Giving her a pivotal role like that is a big deal for a relatively obscure character and opens the door for other heroes we may not have been expecting before. But more importantly, it’s a brand new interpretation of a character we haven’t really seen different takes on before.
In Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, the base character designs are pretty much stock, sticking to what fans know when they think about each hero. Everyone has their classic look, or at least the modern versions that most resemble the classic looks. Wolverine, in particular, has changed quite a bit since the 90s, so his costume is still bright yellow, just more streamlined. Anyway, as we see in the trailers, Khan has a totally new look. She has her signature lightning bolt, but it’s on a t-shirt, over a sweater, and she has a backpack and some other accessories that make her look like a real person. Granted, she probably gets a proper costume as the game’s story progresses, but her street wear nodding to her comics costume is a clever move. It also shows us that while the MCU-adjacent characters probably have to look a certain way, there’s more fun to be had with the others.
When the ball first got rolling, it seemed like Marvel’s Avengers could end up being sort of bland. It cribbed the MCU aesthetic in a way that did nobody any favors, and that only made people look for more possible flaws in the gameplay footage. But after the Ms. Marvel trailer dropped, I noticed an uptick in hype and positivity on the ol’ social media channels. Ms. Marvel is just a normal part of the Marvel Comics brand at this point, but we haven’t seen much of her elsewhere, making this a brand new character for many. She’s something new for a big, AAA Marvel game, and that gives this whole project a more fresh vibe.