Terry Pratchett

On March 12, 2015, Sir Terence David John “Terry” Pratchett passed away after a years-long battle with Alzheimers.

terry pratchett

If I had to single out an author as my all-time favorite, it would be Terry Pratchett.

It’s fitting that my first exposure to Pratchett’s work was through a video game. In 1995 the now-defunct publisher Psygnosis released a beautiful point and click adventure game called Discworld, based on Pratchett’s incredibly successful and already long-running series of fantasy novels.

discworld gameThe game had some bright visuals, lovely animations, fantastic voice acting (Eric Idle as Rincewind!) and was completely hard as balls – like many adventure games of the era. Still, I absolutely fell in love with the uniquely satirical world full of that lovingly dry British wit that Pratchett exuded.

It was probably a good year or two before I realized this quirky game was based on a successful series of novels – one quick glance at a bookshelf revealed whole shelves of Discworld novels just waiting to be devoured.

And devour them I did.

By the time I started reading there were about twenty Discworld novels. To my great shame I did not go through and read them all, but picked and chose based on the main characters. I read everything starring Rincewind the bumbling wizard, and eventually enjoyed the books starring Death, the City Watch and the random one-offs that eschewed various parts of our culture and society. To my fellow Discworld fans this means I read everything except the Witches novels, up until The Wee Free Men, making my total Discworld collection about 2/3 complete.

Rincewind, Death, Lord Vetinari and Cohen the Barbarian drew me into Discworld but it was Samuel Vimes and the Ankh-Morpork City Watch that kept me enthralled. By the time I entered High School in the late 90s I was buying Discworld novels as they released fairly regularly, and the novels starring the hilarious City Watch had become my favorites. Since most of the novels took place in the London stand-in of Ankh-Morpork, many of the Watch’s characters showed up in novels even when they weren’t the stars, a brilliant concept that would continue throughout the series.

I continued to keep up with the Discworld novels in my college years, as Pratchett’s world entered the Industrial Revolution. Many novels took on specific aspects of modern industry such as film, journalism, shipping and banking and eventually tied together with new protagonist Moist Von Lipwig. Thankfully my beloved City Watch continued to star in just about every other release, and Sam Vimes went through an especially satisfying and rewarding arc.

discworld
The Discworld has inspired many artists, though when it comes to actual maps Terry Pratchett famously said, “You can’t map a sense of humor.”

Sadly it was at this time that Pratchett was diagnosed with a rare form of Alzeheimer’s. Ever the cheery optimist he continued to write and published several more novels over the following years. I regret to say I haven’t read them yet. Chronologically, the last official Discworld book I read was Making Money, released in 2007. You can bet I plan on rectifying this soon.

The most recent Prachett novel I read was The Wee Free Men, a Young Adult novel that I randomly found while working in a warehouse for Scholastic. At that point I never knew he’d written a YA series of novels that took place in Discworld, let alone that there were three of them (I guess they were always stocked in a YA section rather than with the Discworld books).

I absolutely adored the character of Tiffany Aching and felt incredibly vindicated that my favorite author could not only write one of the best YA novels I’ve ever read, but also create one of the very best young heroines. As soon as I finished it I vowed that it would be one of the first real novels I would read to my then-infant, now-toddler daughter when she is a bit older. I also still need to read the rest of them!

To date I own over twenty Terry Pratchett novels, as well as a gigantic hardcover of The Wit & Wisdom of Discworld. This pride and joy is an elegant collection (compiled by frequent collaborator Stephen Briggs) of over two decades worth of Pratchett-isms, organized by novel. It’s a great reminder of his immensely clever, thoughtful, and always humorous writing.

A glimpse at my Discworld collection
A glimpse at my Discworld collection

Sir Terry Pratchett was honestly the first author I ever really got into, and possibly the last. I’ve enjoyed and subsequently fallen off of many great authors, but Pratchett’s work was astonishingly consistent and always amazing. His novels were the ultimate comfort food; I can’t recall a single one that I was disappointed with. He will be sorely missed but never forgotten. Thank you for bringing me and countless others so much joy and thoughtfulness over an incredibly prolific career.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – New Avengers (2005), Vol. 6

With the death of Captain America and the passing of the Superhero Registration Act, the New Avengers are still reeling in the aftermath of the Civil War.

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!

New Avengers Vol. 6Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artists: Leinil Francis Yu, Alex Maleev (#26)

Issues: New Avengers (2005) #26-31

With the death of Captain America and the passing of the Superhero Registration Act, the New Avengers are still reeling in the aftermath of the Civil War. During the time period known as The Initiative (most of 2007) many Marvel books had tie-ins that followed the fallout from the Superhero Civil War and how the registration act affected other heroes.

The Initiative affected the New Avengers more than anyone. Though Steve Rogers surrendered, many of his allies went underground and continued to oppose the Registration Act. Previous New Avengers members Spider-man, Wolverine, Luke Cage and Spider-woman are joined by Iron Fist, Dr. Strange and a different Ronin ninja who’s eventually revealed to be Hawkeye in a nifty bit of flashbacking.

Issue #26 drops in with the newly resurrected Hawkeye – last seen sacrificing himself at the end of Avengers “Disassembled” in 2004 and brought back by Scarlet Witch during the House of M event in 2005. Hawkeye goes to Dr. Strange looking for answers, then hunts down Wanda Maximoff – whom at the end of House of M we saw had magically lobotomized herself to forget her powers and who she was. Clint ends up in a romantic fling with her, and decides revenge for House of M is no longer an appropriate course of action.

New Avengers #26I really dug Alex Maleev’s art style in this one-off issue. The whole comic is drawn as if carefully constructed by water color painting, and the panels are frequently light on dialogue and heavy on intense human emotion. It works quite well given there’s very little action in the issue, and the style really carries the brief but interesting story along.

The full story of “Revolution” begins in #27, though it almost feels like a one-off as well. The previous mysterious ninja known as Ronin, Maya Lopez, was given the mission to stay in Japan and monitor the Hand while everyone else was fighting the Civil War. She gets herself captured and tortured by current Hand-leader Elektra, and it’s up to the rest of the team to save her. Eventually.

First the New Avengers have to deal directly with their underground status as rebels, and the newly christened, officially government-sanctioned team the Mighty Avengers (Final Thoughts coming soon) actively hunt them throughout the volume. The New Avengers hide out thanks to Dr. Strange’s magic, and there’s some tense moments as his magic masks them even while Iron Man and company are exploring the house they’re hiding in.

At one point the Mighty Avengers manage to draw them out using Steve’s fake body as bait (“That was dirty pool, man” – Spider-Man), and they’re able to escape thanks again to Dr. Strange’s incredibly useful and always ill-defined magic powers. The big battle they tease between the two super-teams never does happen, though to be fair we kind of got our fill of that during the whole Civil War event. The rebels quickly realize they’re no longer safe in the US, and flee to Japan where they rescue Maya and battle lots of Hand ninjas – essentially rehashing the battles of New Avengers Volume 3.

new avengers #29

While I respect that writer Brian Michael Bendis weaves the backstory of the New Avengers struggling against the Mighty Avengers with their ninja battles, it does get quite muddled and confusing to read from panel to panel. Yu’s art style is also quite unique and somewhat distracting. It’s extremely heavy on the pencils and shading. Normally I’d dig it but the characters themselves are drawn with a somewhat cartoonish and exaggerated look that I don’t quite mesh with. I like that the art is different enough to make the title really stand out from the rest (especially the bright and very traditional Mighty Avengers) but I still haven’t quite decided if I actually enjoy it or not.

Although the art is dark and the stories somewhat bleak, the dialogue is still snappy – almost jarringly so. Spider-Man, Wolverine and Luke Cage compete for biggest wise-ass as they constantly fire off comments and one-liners during every scene. It fits their personality and nicely balances the series and the team members – though I wonder what the hell Spider-Man and Wolverine are still doing on this hunted team.

At the end of the bland ninja fighting story, Maya rebels against her brainwashing and stabs Elektra. As she dies she suddenly reverts to her true form of a skrull! Dun Dun Dunnnn! Knowing what I know of Marvel continuity this must be an early and nifty tease of the next big crossover event Secret Invasion in 2008, and it’s definitely shocking and satisfying.

Even more enjoyable was the neat little twist about Hawkeye joining the team as the new Ronin. I guess training with a bow carries over to sword skills? Either way it’s cool for Clint Barton to have a nifty new role, and be an Avenger again. Even more poignant that he would choose to join the rebels after he was directly offered the role of being the new Captain America by Iron Man himself.

new avengers #30

I find it fascinating that Marvel kept the New Avengers team together and the series ongoing during The Initiative time period and beyond, even as multiple Avengers-focused series were being launched. New Avengers succeeds with its own distinct art style and fun team dynamic that is far, far more like-able and interesting than the Mighty Avengers’ ensemble. And who doesn’t love rooting for the rebels?

New Article – Starbound Preview

Starbound is one of the most famous of these upcoming sandbox games. It’s available on Steam in an Early Access version. However, recent updates to the game have made it a title that families should definitely keep their eyes on.

Eric_Watson-Starbound_dreadwingMinecraft‘s runaway indie success has nearly single-handedly spawned an entire genre of games—commonly called “sandbox.” They’re all light on structure and story, instead emphasizing open-ended gameplay such as exploration, crafting, surviving, and building with friends.

Starbound is one of the most famous of these upcoming sandbox games. It’s available on Steam in an Early Access version. However, recent updates to the game have made it a title that families should definitely keep their eyes on.

 
Real the full article at Pixelkin >>

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Deadpool & Cable Ultimate Collection, Book 3

While the previous collected volume had its ups and downs trying to give our unlikely duo things to do, the final Ultimate Collection almost solely focuses on Deadpool’s wacky adventures, to the great benefit of the series.

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!

Deadpool & Cable ultimate collection book 3Writer: Fabian Nicieza

Artist: Reilly Brown

Issues: Cable & Deadpool #36-50, Deadpool/GLI Summer Spectacular #1

It’s the Cable & Deadpool show! Starring Nathan Summers and Wade Wilson, but mostly everyone’s favorite fourth-wall breaking, pop culture referencing, Merc With a Mouth Deadpool! While the previous collected volume had its ups and downs trying to give our unlikely duo things to do, events to crossover with and guest stars to battle, the final Ultimate Collection almost solely focuses on Deadpool’s wacky adventures, to the great benefit of the series.

Although the series retained its Cable & Deadpool titling (which then gets changed to Deadpool & Cable for these Ultimate Collections – I like to think that was Deadpool’s doing), Cable only actually appears in three total issues among the final 15 issues. Cable has a major role to play in the adjective-less X-Men series as he joins Rogue’s team in the Supernovas volume of stories.

Cable’s “Fractured” story in Cable & Deadpool (#40-42) act as a bit of an epilogue to those adventures, as well as writing him out of his own series in preparation for the mega X-Men crossover Messiah Complex. His island of Providence is attacked and he’s forced to sacrifice himself to keep Gambit and Sunfire (see “Blood of Apocalypse“) from learning any of Apocalypse’s secrets. It leads to some exciting moments, and its fun to see Cable flashing back (or is that forward?) to his past life in the future as a soldier and commander making the tough decisions.

cable & deadpool #41

That just leaves Deadpool, whom Nicieza excels at writing and definitely feels most comfortable with. Deadpool’s solo adventures first have their seeds properly planted in the first few issues of Book 3. In “Unfinished Business,” (#36-39) Deadpool is steel reeling from the physical and emotional ass-kicking he got from Civil War, and ends up grappling with Taskmaster and then the Rhino. In the latter fight he’s shrunk down with Pym particles, which leads to another few issues of tiny Deadpool hilariously taking on an entire Hydra base and holding a Hydra agent hostage with a plastic card.

That Hydra agent would go on to become Deadpool’s new sidekick Bob in one of the more brilliant and hilarious characters I’ve ever seen. Together they rescue Agent X, a previous guest-star and regular Deadpool supporting cast-member whom has been hit with an obesity ray and is now an overweight cream-puff. Deadpool gets hired on by X’s company Agency X after Cable’s ordeal, and his first mission is to rescue his previous sidekick Weasel from the Hydra base where he accidentally left him.

cable & deadpool #47

In these final eight issues Deadpool and Bob (and later Weasel) get paired with a different Marvel character every issue – literally on the cover Cable’s name is crossed out and replaced with Wolverine, Dr. Strange, the Fantastic Four, etc. Rescuing Weasel sends Deadpool and Bob hurtling through time due to Weasel’s new teleporting suit, and they team up with Captain America and Bucky in the 40s before getting into an appropriately confusing and messy time-travel plot with the Fantastic Four.

Upon returning to their proper time, Dr. Strange enlists the help of Agency X to help with some mystical mumbo jumbo, leading to more excitingly random battles, including battling Brother Voodoo’s Zombies in Louisiana. Bob’s strategy of Run and Hide nearly steals the show from Deadpool’s own wise-cracking and violent antics and I was pretty much grinning throughout the entire arc.

cable & Deadpool #50It all ends with a trip to the Savage Land. In a neat tie-in to his former compatriot, Deadpool goes to the dino-infested jungles to get a power source for Cable’s former liberated country of Rumekistan and ends up battling Brainchild and some random mutate villains. The fun part comes at the end as they attempt to teleport an army of dinosaurs away. Deadpool picks Genosha as the destination, forgetting that Genosha was destroyed about five years ago. The dinosaurs thus get dropped into the Genoshan embassy in Manhattan, crash into the Mighty Avengers and unleash the Venom symbiote – leading to an epic final issue where Deadpool joins forces with the Avengers to defeat a bunch of dinosaur symbiote monsters rampaging New York!

This run of Cable & Deadpool marks the first time I’ve ever read a series to completion. All fifty issues, four years worth of comics, in a few months. Having the same writer and generally consistent, satisfyingly action-packed art style throughout helps immensely in rewarding loyal readers. Cable’s semi-frequent tie-ins to other ongoing Marvel events created some problems, but the series treated them amiably and mostly succeeded on Deadpool’s everlasting charisma and unique charm that makes him more lovable than irritating.

The latter half of Book 3 creates a worthy finale full of exciting scenarios and awesome guest-stars, but it never loses the funny. I was always fan of future-soldier and all-around badass Cable, but Cable & Deadpool definitely made me a huge fan of Deadpool. I look forward to exploring both characters’ solo series next.

cable & deadpool #48

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Iron Man: Director of SHIELD

The new era of the Initiative stems from the world-changing results of the superhero Civil War: namely that Tony Stark is the new Director of SHIELD and pushing forward with his grand plans of a government sanctioned superhero squad in all fifty states.

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!

iron man director of shield #15 coverWriters: Charlie Knauf, Daniel Knauf

Artist: Robert De La Torre

Issues: Iron Man: Director of Shield #15-18

The primary solo Iron Man series at the time of the mid to late 2000s was a wee bit confusing, changing names from The Invincible Iron Man to Iron Man, then Iron Man: Director of SHIELD until War Machine takes over to end the run and begin a new one. Thus although the volume is titled Iron Man: Director of SHIELD, it uses the same numbering that first started with the excellent Iron Man: Extremis back in late 2004.

I don’t usually write my Final Thoughts after a single short story arc, but seeing as the next two Iron Man issues are World War Hulk tie-ins, I’d better tackle these now. The new era of the Initiative stems from the world-changing results of the superhero Civil War: namely that Tony Stark is the new Director of SHIELD and pushing forward with his grand plans of a government sanctioned superhero squad in all fifty states.

While various Avengers titles have cropped up or changed to suit the still split superhero community at the time, Iron Man’s solo series focuses solely on his dealings with SHIELD, and works as a great continuation of his previous storylines. I actually skipped the story arc after Extremis, then dropped back in for his Civil War tie-ins – which were pretty meh (like most of them). Director of Shield brings back genetic researcher Maya Henson as Stark’s former colleague and ex-lover, and co-creator of the Extremis formula (which now runs through Tony, allowing him to shed and gather his suit at will).

iron man director of shield #16Maya and Tony are concerned about the increased level of attack and sophistication level of various random terrorist cells, just the thing that SHIELD deals with on a fairly constant basis. Former SHIELD director Dugan has concerns about Stark’s ability to run SHIELD, accusing him of running it like a company and micromanaging at every level. Indeed Stark feels the need to jump in and save the day as Iron Man in just about every situation they find themselves in.

Eventually their research and investigation leads to one of Iron Man’s oldest foes – the Mandarin. The Mandarin strikes at Tony and SHIELD by cleverly planting an organic bomb in the body of their lead, and when the dead terrorist is brought up to the helicarrier for autopsy, it explodes in a suitably creepy Alien-style moment, attacking and infecting everyone on board. Meanwhile Iron Man is down at the prison facility fighting off waves of cyber-modified zombie creatures and has to race up the helicarrier to save the day again.

All of issue 18 is one big battle, and it’s pretty damn fun. The tentacled organic thing is an exciting and creepy foe that results in the death of a semi-major character in Tony’s life, his aging hippie friend Sal. There’s a neat moment where Tony briefly flashes to the other recent deaths in his life, namely his bodyguard and friend Happy and of course Steve Rogers. Stark is only able to defeat the creature by learning that Maya’s Extremis virus (which he forbade her from researching further) would be able to cure it. He sheds his suit, gives his best Come at Me Bro line, and lets it infect him.

About a third of the helicarrier is destroyed and Stark and SHIELD have been built a huge blow, but Stark’s plan works and the dangerous creature melts off of him. He correctly surmises that the attack was a simple diversion as they never did find Mandarin, nor I believe even learn of his involvement in the plot. Dr. Maya Henson is shown at the end going to a previously offered research facility so she can further her work – away from Stark – and it’s run by Mandarin! Dun Dun DUNNNN!

iron man director of shield #18

Despite Stark coming off like a complete asshole from Civil War, I really enjoyed his first outing as SHIELD Director. The father and son writers effectively layer in the politics and implication of how SHIELD’s run in this new era under Stark while also providing a fun and decidedly comic book-y villain and climax. The heavily shaded artwork is quite a bit darker than artist Torre’s other work on Ms. Marvel; I really dug the very Earth-y tones of brown and red, interestingly making Iron Man blend in rather than stand out and giving the sci-fi plot and elements a very dark feel. Director of SHIELD isn’t quite yet required reading for what’s going on during the Initiative time frame (aka the year between Civil War and Secret Invasion), but so far it’s a fun romp starring a very driven and conflicted Tony Stark.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America

The death of a major character isn’t exactly treading new water. It’s happened countless times and become a bit of a running joke. Still, Captain America is just about the highest-profile character that Marvel had targeted in some time, and his death is treated with all the emotional gravitas and status-quo altering implications you would expect.

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!

fallen son coverWriter: Jeph Loeb

Artists: John Cassaday, David Finch, Ed McGuinness, John Romita, Leinil Francis Yu

Issues: Fallen Son: The Death of Captain America #1-5

Captain America’s famous death at the end of the superhero Civil War presents a bit of a tricky problem in the way I organize my Final Thoughts. I typically read a collected Volume (or several) or omnibus of a single series, then write about it.

The problem is that Cap doesn’t actually die at the end of Civil War he’s arrested after he willingly surrenders to prevent more devastation. A few months go by in Early 2007 before his trial in Captain America #25, and it’s there that he’s gunned down by a combination of Crossbone’s sniper rifle and a brainwashed Sharon Carter. That crucial issue is part of a massive collected omnibus (also titled The Death of Captain America) that begins with issue #22 (Cap’s Civil War tie-ins) all the way to #42, which covers nearly two years.

Thus I would either have to break up that omnibus into multiple Final Thoughts, or wait and talk about Cap’s important death far into the future. Neither are great options. Thankfully the solution presents itself quite nicely in the form of this lovely limited series.

Fallen Son was written as a tribute to Steve Rogers’ legacy, allowing some of the biggest heroes in Marvel to reflect and deal with his tragic death in their own ways. Each of the five issues includes a different artist, showcasing a myriad of styles (from fantastic to okay). Each issue was cleverly written to represent the classic five stages of grief: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Fallen son #2“Denial” stars Wolverine (perfect!) who just can’t believe Cap is really dead. With the help of Dr. Strange’s magic, he and Daredevil infiltrate the SHIELD helicarrier, interrogating Crossbones and finally seeing Cap’s body for themselves. The reeling New Avengers and newly formed, government-sanctioned Mighty Avengers crossover in the interesting “Anger” issue. Most of the issue is constructed with the two very different stories going on side-by-side, as each group supposedly works through their emotions. Iron Man’s team fights off Tiger Shark and a bunch of sea monsters, while the New Avengers tackle a less action-packed but far more intriguing poker game that nearly comes to blows between the arguing heroes.

Spider-man leaves the group in a huff, segueing nicely into the fourth issue where he visits a graveyard; all his personal losses come bubbling up in a fantastic rain-soaked cemetery. The only one that really fell flat for me was the third issue, “Bargaining,” which stars a recently resurrected Hawkeye as Iron Man offers him the job of wearing the shield and uniform of Captain America. It crosses over with some of the super lame Young Avengers and the art is the worst of the bunch.

The final issue pays off in the form of Captain America’s funeral, an impressive set-piece in Washington D.C. filled with most of the winning side of the war. Falcon, Cap’s longtime partner, gives a stirring speech that lasts nearly the length of the issue, cutting away nicely to various famous scenes of Captain America, both old and new. Tony Stark meanwhile continues to look like a complete and utter asshole, event when he’s supposed to be remorseful and guilt-stricken.

fallen son #5

The death of a major character isn’t exactly treading new water. It’s happened countless times and become a bit of a running joke. Still, Captain America is just about the highest-profile character that Marvel had targeted in some time, and his death is treated with all the emotional gravitas and status-quo altering implications you would expect. It flows out naturally from Civil War and helps set the state of the fear-mongering, government-controlled era in the Marvelverse that would persist for the next three years (Cap himself comes back in two, still an impressively long time for any hero).

Civil War is about as required reading as you can get, and Fallen Son acts as both a wonderfully somber epilogue to those events, as well as a fitting tribute to one of Marvel’s greatest all time heroes. Rest in Peace, Cap.

Marvel Comics Final Thoughts – Ms. Marvel (2006), Vol. 1-2

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!


Ms. Marvel #1Writer:
Brian Reed

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.

ms marvel #3

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.

ms marvel #8

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).

ms marvel #10These 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.