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Ms. Marvel’s Red Dagger is Marvel Comics’ foremost Pakistani superhero


[Ed. note: This piece contains spoilers for Ms. Marvel episode 4.]

As Kamala Khan will tell you in her very own comic series, Jersey City, New Jersey, isn’t exactly chockablock with superheroes. If she wants to find one to team up with, she usually has to go someplace else.

Which is exactly what the Ms. Marvel TV series did and found in this week’s episode.

In Captain Marvel cosplay, Ms. Marvel holds out her hand, which is covered in glowing light.

Image: Marvel Studios

On a trip to Karachi to discover the secrets of her great-grandmother’s superpower-endowing bangle, Kamala meets the secret society of the Red Daggers, and the Red Dagger himself, Kareem. As the older society member, Waleed, explains, for hundreds of years, different people have served as the Red Dagger “to protect our people from threats of the unseen.”

Kareem and Waleed know all about the interdimensional travelers, or Clandestines, who are hunting Kamala, and offer her quite a bit of help — at least until the close of the episode, when she appears to be transported to India in 1947 on the night her great-grandmother, great-grandfather, and toddler grandmother fled India for Pakistan.

Who is the Red Dagger in Marvel Comics?

“Laal Khanjeer!” Ms. Marvel calls the Red Dagger by his name in Urdu, “What are you doing in New Jersey?” He is a young Pakistani man wearing a belt strung with half a dozen daggers, with a long red scarf tied across his face, covering his nose, mouth, and neck. From Ms. Marvel #23 (2017).

Image: G. Willow Wilson, Diego Olortegui/Marvel Comics

In Marvel Comics, Ms. Marvel also met the Red Dagger (real name Kareem, with no last name given) on a trip to her family’s home in Karachi — she wasn’t there to discover the origin of her powers, just to get a much-needed break from the drama that being a superhero had injected into her life in Jersey City.

But it’s hard for any superhero to stay out of costume when they see people in need, and Kamala met Karachi’s resident protector, the Red Dagger, when she put a stop to a group of bandits who were destroying city hydrants to drive up the price of their own hoards of water. Later, she ran into him again in New Jersey and never even found out that he was Kareem, the cute guy her age who lived in her family’s Karachi apartment building and whose mother was secondary school friends with her aunt (which totally makes them… friends-in-law).

But in the comics, Kareem definitely isn’t a member of a secret society. When Kamala complimented his parkour skills on top of a New Jersey train, he admitted that he was an entirely self-taught vigilante, saying, “I learned most of my best moves by watching YouTube videos.” Sparks flew between Ms. Marvel and the Red Dagger on his trip to New Jersey, and he wound up being the first boy Kamala ever kissed, but shortly after, Kamala realized that she had a lot to sort out in her home life, particularly with her best friend and always-sorta-crush Bruno, and the Red Dagger graciously took a bow.

If nothing else, Ms. Marvel the TV series is pulling a lot of different aspects of Ms. Marvel the comic series — from Kamala’s school friends, her family tree, and characters like the young Clandestine Kamran (in the comics, an Inhuman boy who attempts a couple villainous plots against her). But it’s taking those pieces and building something new with them in ways that comic book readers will recognize, but find tantalizingly difficult to predict.

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