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: Patrick Olliffe, Sana Takeda, Sergio Ariño, Philippe Briones, Mike McKone
Issues: Ms. Marvel (2006) #35-50
Ms. Marvel‘s 2006-2010 run represents one of the few series I’ve read every issue of (so far), and only the second one to reach 50 issues (the first being Cable & Deadpool). Not really knowing anything about Carol Danvers, I certainly didn’t plan on reading them all when I started. Brian Reed’s classic comic style kept me engaged, while his relatable and excellent portrayal of Carol continued through all 50 issues.
As the former leader of the Mighty Avengers, Carol Danvers was a prime target for recruitment by Norman Osborn when he took over during Dark Reign. Ms. Marvel would have none of it, of course, and suddenly found herself on the wrong side of the law – ironic since she was hunting down heroes during the Civil War.
“The Death of Ms. Marvel” (#35-37), is a shaky start to Volume 7. It acts as a sequel to the events in the last volume, where we were treated to a flashback to pre-superpowered Carol being captured by terrorists. Kudos to Brian Reed for crafting an intriguing plot and cast then, but now it just feels tacked on and unnecessary. Carol fights her now super-powered captor briefly, and it ends with her supposed death as her own powers get out of control.
With the convenient end of Carol, Osborn is free to “replace” her with Karla Soffen, aka Moonstone from his Thunderbolts team. He uses Moonstone as his Ms. Marvel for the Dark Avengers team, and the first issue or two of “Dark Reign” (#38-41) focus solely on Karla as a person. Having read Thunderbolts I know she’s a pretty awful person – selfish, vain, bitchy, and cruel. We learn here that she murdered her own mother when she was younger, as well. Not a nice person, but she ends up as a great villain and anti-Carol for our heroine.
Karla finds that a company is genetically engineering their own versions of the Storyteller – another previous plot thread in Ms. Marvel, and one that I only vaguely remembered. Look, I love classic world ending comic stories as much as the next dork, but a person that can alter reality to his whim is a bit much. You already did your House of M, Marvel!
Eventually we find out these Storyteller fetuses (yep) split Ms. Marvel up into two lives, a regular woman and the energy-based hero. First though a few New Avengers (mainly Spider-Man and Wolverine) guest star to help bring the various colored energy Marvels back together. It’s pretty weird and confusing, though Deadpool shows up for some fun moments in one issue.
Just when the series threatens to go completely off the rails, it swiftly comes together in a really satisfying way in the next Volume. “War of the Marvels” (#42-45) explores the interesting dichotomy between Carol wanting to be a normal person (with a writing job and a cat – love it), and an incredibly powerful superhero. This volume heavily stars the Dark Avengers, and Moonstone shares just as much of the screentime.
Eventually Osborn and Moonstone try killing Catherine Donovan (the unpowered Carol persona) and we learn about the Storytellers’ involvement. Ms. Marvel is finally reborn and takes the fight back to Moonstone, eventually ripping her moonstone artifact from her body. She doesn’t kill her though, and I liked the bit where she forces her to go to her mother’s grave and repent (not sure if that actually works but hey).
There are two major fight scenes between Ms. Marvel and Moonstone throughout the Volume, and they’re both fantastic superpowered battles that makes the end of Man of Steel look like a simple boxing match.
Normally when a series changes artists at the alarming rate that Ms. Marvel does the results are predictably terrible and inconsistent. I actually enjoyed most of the artists’ styles and interpretations in this case, though the quick change in variety – often in back-to-back issues – is certainly jarring.
I really wish the series had ended with Ms. Marvel’s triumphant return and defeat of Moonstone, but we’re treated to one final Volume. “Best You Can Be” (#47-50) starts with an incredibly stupid date between her and Spider-Man, and eventually brings Mystique in as a random villain. I get that her and Carol have some history (when Rogue stole her powers – which is why the Rogue in the old X-Men cartoon can fly and has super strength). Tacking on Mystique for a few ultimately pointless issues makes for a whimpering end.
The last three volumes of Ms. Marvel (2006) are a mixed bag with inconsistent art and some confusing callbacks to earlier events. It also contains the best Dark Reign tie-in story I’ve read yet, and the Dark Avengers (particularly Osborn and Moonstone) are really well utilized. Reed gets a bit wrapped up in his own series when it comes to Ascension and the Storyteller, but Dark Reign provides a great backdrop for Ms. Marvel to operate in. Bonus points for somehow using half a dozen artists but keeping the art generally pretty awesome and heroic.
Carol Danvers remains a great character that’s both incredibly powerful while also very human. It would be another two years before Carol would get her own series again, and I can’t wait to read the very well-received Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick.