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: Aaron Lopresti, Robert De La Torre (#11-12)
Issues: Ms. Marvel (2006) #11-24
Around the time of the Superhero Civil War in 2006, Carol Danvers was enjoying a successful revival. She had her own solo series (not exactly common for any female superhero at the time) and in 2007 was hand-picked by Tony Stark to lead the new Mighty Avengers team.
The first 10 issues (Volumes 1-2) of Ms. Marvel were a mixed bag as the series struggled to find its footing while dealing with the Civil War event. In volumes three and four we get a more proactive Carol as she puts together her own strike force to hunt down bad guys, and the series hits its stride thanks to a fun supporting cast, numerous action-movie set-pieces and the wonderful art of Aaron Lopresti.
Most of Volume Three includes the subtitling of The Initiative – referring to the period directly following the Civil War. Tony Stark wants Carol Danvers to lead his new official Avengers team. Carol agrees on one condition: that she be given her own special SHIELD taskforce. Carol’s a natural born leader but she’s also full of self-doubt and constantly pushing herself to be better, creating an interesting dynamic between her dialogue and her inner monologue.
Ms. Marvel’s desire to hunt bad guys before they become a threat stems from the first two issues, which revives old Avengers, AIM-baddie Doomsday Man. It mostly involves a lot of straightforward fighting, including against a bunch of zombified agents as well as the giant mech-body of Doomsday Man, and it’s fun as hell. Unfortunately Ms. Marvel’s spunky teenage sidekick that we met back during the Civil War issues in Volume Two (Araña) loses her fight and gets her carapace brutally torn off. Carol vows to hunt down villains before they can become major threats.
Her first task is actually a selfish one, but it does tie up the loose end that is Arachne (Julia Carpenter), the superhero Spider-Woman that she apprehended during her Civil War tie-ins. Julia agrees to register and is released from the Negative Zone prison, and Carol helps her find her daughter. It’s fairly boring and unnecessary – I had enough of Arachne’s woes in the previous volume, but the side plot involving AIM and a DNA bomb nicely sets up the next exciting arc, and the first real test of Operation Lightning Storm.
In “Ready, A.I.M., Fire!” (#15-17) Ms. Marvel and her crew of SHIELD agents (and her frequent ally and co-star, the incredibly lame Wonder Man) go after a leader-less AIM group. Some of them are trying to protect and restore a dying MODOK, while others want to bring AIM into a new era. We’re introduced to some interesting inner workings of AIM and MODOK is always a fun, old-school mustache-twirling villain, but the real antagonist comes in the surprise form of MODOK’s son, the usurper of AIM.
Ms. Marvel is able to defeat MODOK though she’s blasted with the DNA bomb, and once again we see her turn blue and miraculously heal, just as she did did while fighting zombies in the earlier story. She begins to suspect that something fishy may have happened in her encounter with the powerful blue alien named Cru in the very first volume. Brian Reed has a knack for rewarding his readers, weaving in numerous previous plot threads, characters, and events.
Volume Four, “Monster Smash,” includes two action-packed and fun stories that effectively showcase Ms. Marvel’s team and their globe-trotting agenda. “Puppets” (#18-20) trots out a very old Fantastic Four villain, Puppet Master.
He’s currently living out his retirement in a South American country doing what he does best – enslaving people using his clay voodoo statues. Though it’s not explicitly explained, it’s heavily implied that he’s keeping an inordinate amount of enslaved women for human trafficking. This doesn’t sit too well with Ms. Marvel, and she lets loose with an awesome fury, though first she has to battle through a few of Puppet Master’s enslaved superheroines.
The real treat is the introduction to Ms. Marvel’s new team additions. Since her run-in with AIM put one of her field agents in the hospital (and she’s still not comfortable with Araña joining her), she’s requested some super-powered help and receives the snarky android Machine Man and alien Sleepwalker. Sleepwalker is an alien host that lives in the dreams of Rick Sheridan (meaning he can only come out when Rick’s asleep or passed out) while Machine Man is basically Bender from Futurama. They’re both fantastic and entertaining and along with Agent Sum, Araña, and even Wonder Man create quite the motley crew.
In a dark twist, Ms. Marvel defeats Puppet Master by actually letting him commit suicide via explosion (Dear villains: You can’t kill Ms. Marvel with explosions, she absorbs energy). She’s incredibly angry about what he did to those women and she ends up lying about what went down in her report. It’s a fascinating moment that makes her character all the more human, and I can’t help but continue to root for her every step of the way.
Her blue healing powers finally get explained in the incredibly action-packed second arc, “Monster and Marvel” (#21-24). The blue alien Cru from way back in her first issue had been partially absorbed, and she (it’s a she apparently) spends a lot of time inside Carol’s mind. She shows her destruction of her homeworld by the Brood and Ms. Marvel is taken to Monster Island where the two team-up to defeat the Brood that have made a nest there.
Once again Ms. Marvel is separated from her team, as she and Cru do a bunch of mind-melding stuff while they hunt the Brood Queen while the rest of the team plays catch-up only to fight a swarm of Brood. Brian Reed does his best Aliens impression with the Brood Queen, and Cru unlocks Carol’s cosmic-level powers, temporarily turning her into her goddess-like Binary persona.
The action is satisfyingly large-scale and epic, and a wonderful finale to Ms. Marvel’s Operation Lighting Storm adventures (assuming they come to an end – the next volume are her Secret Invasion tie-ins). I generally enjoyed Reed’s story-telling and characterization of Carol Danvers. She’s a very public and powerful hero but she’s also extremely relatable and grounded. Her strike force helps give her something to do rather than just fall into a random series of adventures and I liked the large variety in locations and villains.
It also helps that I adore Aaron Lopresti’s art, who seems particularly well-suited to drawing aliens like the Brood (I loved his work on Planet Hulk). The same can’t be said of Greg Horn’s sexy Barbie-doll cover art, however. Thankfully it’s just the cover art but it also gives off the wrong impression both to the comic’s style and tone. If you enjoy Avengers-style action and want to see more of Ms. Marvel at her highest and lowest points, her solo series has proven more than satisfactory.