With Marvel’s popular and successful foray into films with the Marvel Cinematic Universe, I’ve finally decided to get back into comics. I grew up a big fan of X-Men and other superheroes but haven’t really kept up since the 90s. Thus begins my grand catching-up of the last ten years of Marvel comics, events and stories.
Thanks in large part to trade paperbacks and the digital convenience of Marvel Unlimited I can make relatively quick progress, and I’ll write down my Final Thoughts for each collection here on my blog. Like my gaming Final Thoughts, this will be full of spoilers. You’ve been warned!
Artists: Robert de la Torre, Mike Wieringo
Issues: Ms. Marvel (2006) #1-10, Giant-Size Ms. Marvel #1, Ms. Marvel Special #1
Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, aka Captain Marvel, aka Warbird, aka Binary, has had a fairly complicated and confusing history, most of which I know absolutely nothing about. Thankfully her solo series, launched in 2006, doesn’t bother with all the hand-wringing and complex backstory, and instead focuses on the confident woman that earnestly strives to be the best damn superhero she can be.
As an Air Force pilot, Danvers was given her powers from a Kree DNA-altering blast with Captain Marvel in the 70s, and her buxom blonde looks and can-do, all-American attitude definitely reflect that Silver Age of comics she was born into.
My only real knowledge of Ms. Marvel came from Rogue’s famous encounter, where she permanently stole her powers of flight and super strength – leaving Carol Danvers in a coma, and creating the Rogue character most recognizable in the 80s/90s and the animated series. At some point Professor X restores Ms. Marvel’s mind and she ends up gaining cosmic-level powers and becoming Binary, then joining the Avengers in the late 90s as Warbird.
Carol’s had a rocky road but with a new Marvel movie coming out in a few years I wanted to know more about her. Thankfully this solo series (her first since the 70s) was launched a few months after House of M. “Best of the Best” introduces us to the stalwart superhero who’s just come off the high of that alternate world. She was the world’s most popular and beloved superhero, and that’s given her motivation to actually try and achieve that goal. She turns down Captain America’s official offer when recruiting for the New Avengers and strikes out on her own, though her numerous Avengers contacts certainly help.
Her first adventure has her responding to a crashed alien ship full of Brood that have unleashed hell on a small town. She battles them off in spectacularly cool fashion, and we quickly learn that Ms. Marvel is easily powerful enough to take on most foes by herself. A new player to the field, weird blue alien Cru arrives and steals a crystal from a military base, which also gets destroyed – Ms. Marvel is a day light and a dollar short throughout this story.
She ends up absorbing the crystal blast and sends him reeling into space, and it’s all over in three quick issues. The next two deal with a returning villain – the Traveler (apparently UK’s answer to Dr. Strange) a mystic wielding time-traveling sorcerer. He’s a bit more interesting, and his previous run in with Ms. Marvel is pretty funny (she threw a cat at him, sending them hurling across space and time). They spend the two issues hopping through alternate dimensions and getting help from Dr. Strange, and it’s mostly a confusing mess.
Things get back to normal in the second collected Volume, which includes her Civil War tie-ins. Ms. Marvel famously sides with Tony Stark and the pro-Registration team as she strongly desires to set an example to other superheroes. She’s even hired a professional publicist to help her with her image, not exactly an endearing quality. “Battle Lines” is one of the weaker Civil War tie-ins and a pretty easy throw away story. Carol and Simon (the incredibly boring Wonder Man) team up to bring in unregistered heroes, and set their sights on Arachne and her boyfriend Shroud.
There’s some solid action scenes, including a high speed chase with doors being ripped open and people being flung out, and the art stays consistently solid and high quality throughout. Eventually Carol is forced to arrest Julia Carpenter before she can flee with her daughter to the Canadian border, and attempt to reconcile the horror of separating a mom from her daughter. From my experience with Civil War and beyond into Mighty Avengers and The Initiative, it’s easy to hate on Ms. Marvel as she’s such a strong believer in the Superhero Registration Act. These events do help paint her as more of a human being with remorse and uncertainty for the things she’s had to do to uphold the law.
The last two issues of the second volume were my favorite, involving a confrontation with Rogue and an alternate universe-hopping version of Ms. Marvel (as Warbird). Inthat universe she felt sorry for herself, drinking constantly and letting her world be destroyed while she moped and didn’t answer the call from the Avengers. She ends up spinning through various Earths, always hunting down and killing Rogue for revenge, and later reveals that she’s had to kill the alternate Ms. Marvel each time as well, for forgiving Rogue.
Granted it’s a pretty ham-fisted way to represent Ms. Marvel’s fears and repressed demons so literally but it makes for some great dialogue and action-scenes, as the two Carols blast energy at each other and fling each other into various destructible objects. Both Rogue and Beast are fun and effective guest-stars. I can’t say the same for the art however, as guest artist Mike Wieringo’s style is a bit goofier than I would have liked (and his Beast is straight-up terrible).
These first two volumes of Ms. Marvel end up as a pretty mixed bag. They also include the Giant-Size Ms. Marvel issue which acts as the launching point of the series and includes the first Traveler attack, as well as an interesting one-shot Ms. Marvel Special, including a clever way of retelling her Binary/Cosmic adventures through a mutant (or something) that can manifest stories.
I appreciated how Brian Reed grounds Carol Danvers as a real person with hopes, desires and flaws. She gets a date with the cute owner of a restaurant she wrecks! She’s best buds with Jessica Drew, New Avengers‘ Spider-Woman (well until Civil War I guess). Robert de la Torre’s art is also really fantastic, evoking a modernized look of a Silver Age heroine. I’m definitely hoping for some steady improvement in Carol’s solo adventures, as the series would go on to last an impressive 50 issues and four years.