Collects Ms Marvel vol. 2 # 31-34, Annual, and Ms. Marvel Special: Storyteller
Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Marcos Marz, Paulo Sigueira, Amilton Santos, Adriana Melo, Mariah Benes, Greg Horn, Mark Robinson, Mark Irwin, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Lorenzo Ruggiero

The collection starts with a more intimate issue. Carol’s brother has sent her a message telling her that their father is gravely ill, so Carol returns to her family. Unfortunately, she doesn’t have any feelings for them because Rogue took them away along with her memories of her family. Professor X helped her to recover most of her early memories but her feelings haven’t returned and that’s a tough situation to everyone. Carol’s mother doesn’t understand at all.

Then we got a three part story which dwells into Carol’s past as a secret agent. I’m very interested in this part of her past so I mostly enjoyed the story. Carol reminisces about her last mission as a pilot, before she became an agent for USA AF Special Operations. She test pilots one of Tony’s planes which is supposed to be invisible for radar. Unfortunately, she’s noticed and shot down in Afghanistan. She ends up in the hands of Ghazi Rashid who tortures her for information which she doesn’t have. Even with a broken leg and arm and several fingernails torn from her fingers, she’s able to escape and she meets Michael Rossi, her lover-to-be. However, during her escape she managed to get information from Rashid’s computers and knows that Rashid is working with the CIA, so she doesn’t know whom to trust. Carol in this story is younger and doesn’t yet have her powers. But she’s a kick-ass character, the competent woman I’ve been hoping for. The torture scenes were quite gruesome for a super hero comic, though. I’m grateful that she wasn’t raped.

Carol and two of her long-time acquaintances realize that the weapon Rashid was looking for back then is now being used by the bad guys and they want to stop it so we get secret agent stuff in the present, too. Unfortunately, the connection between past and present felt a little disjointed. I also wasn’t clear on why Carol couldn’t use her powers in issue 34 and had to seek help from Spider-Man. Apparently, she’s on the run from the Avengers because Norman Osborn leads them now and Carol doesn’t want to work for him. I think that was covered in one of the main Avengers comics, but not here. The story continues in the next collection.

In the Annual, Carol and Spider-Man join forces to defeat robots. First though, Ms. Marvel is chasing Spider-Man because he isn’t registered even though he’s an Avenger. In the middle of their fight, they notice that a group of robots are scaring people and they break off their fight to punch the robots. Things are a bit more complicated than that, though, and the story line continues in the spy issues. A fun bit of team up.

In Storyteller the boy Gavin, who was introduced in the first Ms. Marvel issue, returns. He was created by AIM as a way to duplicate the Scarlet Witch’s reality altering powers. Gavin can tell a story and it changes into reality. He’s also a young boy and wants to have fun. He seems to have had a pretty miserable life, so I can’t blame him. However, he essentially kidnaps his only friend which is bad, of course. The poor boy is terrified and misses his parents but Gavin doesn’t even notice until Carol points it out.

Artwise, the collection is a mixed bag. I like the art in the regular issues but the artists in the Annual and Special use a noticeably different styles, more sketchy.

This is very much a start of a storyline which continues in the next collection. The stories also require knowledge of Carol’s past, which I quite enjoyed but it’s not a good place to start the series.

The fourth book in the Barsoom series

Publication year: 1916
Format: print and an ebook from project Gutenberg
Page count: 152 + a glossary
Publisher: Del Ray

The fourth book in the Barsoom series follows the same basic formula as the previous books: a fighting man following his kidnapped lady love all over Mars and encountering wicked villains, steadfast friends, and strange places and people. Do you need to know more? :)

This time the main character is Carthoris, John’s and Dejah’s son, and the tale is told in third person. The titular Thuvia is also a point-of-view character but she has far less screen time than Carthoris. She was introduced in the previous book, just like Carthoris. She helped John escape from the land of the dead by commanding the fierce Barsoomian lions, the baths. She’s also the princess of Ptarth.

Carthoris is in love with Thuvia and apparently he started to woo her at the end of Warlord of Mars, but he didn’t make his intensions clear and so Thuvia’s father promised her to his heroic friend and ally, the Jeddak of Kaol, Kulan Tith. Since Thuvia is honorable to a fault, she honors her father’s promise and spurns Carthoris. He returns to Helium with a heavy heart. However, another man is also determined to have Thuvia: Astok, Prince of Dusar. He kidnaps Thuvia, but is cunning enough to lay the blame on Carthoris. He has also sabotaged Carthoris’ compass so that Carthoris disappears around the same time as Thuvia and can’t defend himself against accusations.

Both Thuvia and Carthoris end up in the ruins of the ancient city of Aanthor in an unexplored (by red men) part of Mars. There, they encounter the Lotharians who have focused on their mind in order to survive. They can create fearsome bowmen and even food with their minds alone. However, they are constantly besieged by the green Martians and so they’ve come to believe that they are the only civilized people alive on Mars. They have hard time believing that Carthoris and Thuvia are even real. Oh, and all the Lothrian women and children are dead so it’s literally a society of very long-lived adult males. Their jeddak has forbidden them to conjure images of women or children. They have two factions: the realists who believe that they need to imagine meals in order to continue living and the etherealists who don’t even image meals anymore. Both stay alive.

The device that Carthoris has developed is quite ingenious considering the time the book was written. It’s essentially an automated pilot and it can also sense when some obstacle is near and goes around it.

This is another fun romp and I think that Thuvia is slightly less passive a heroine than Dejah. Thuvia commands the banths and she even uses her dagger to defend herself. Of course, a modern reader can find lots of objectionable things in this series.

Collects Ms Marvel vol. 2 # 25-30.

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Adriana Melo, Ron Frenz, Mariah Benes, Sal Buscema

Secret Invasion starts right after the end of Monster Mash. Tony sends Carol’s own Lighting Storm team after her, because he believes that she’s a skrull. Meanwhile, Carol is investigating a lead on her own.

This collection starts with issue 25 which has two stories: one tells about Carol’s earliest adventure when she was the security chief of NASA and the kree Mar-vell was masquerading as a human. They tackled skrulls and it was the first time Carol saw one of them. Ron Frenz and Buscema’s art looks really old fashioned, which fits the story well. Back in the modern world, Carol is hunting AIM guys and makes a promise to herself that from now on, she starts to think things through before charging in. However, the AIM goons get way and Carol has just time to confer with her (quite pushy) publicist and then she sees her boyfriend, who dumps her. Later, Carol follows an AIM van but a Super Skrull sniffs her out (literally). When her now ex-boyfriend William appears to be in trouble, she hurries to his side, only to find him dead. But that’s not the end of the story, of course.

In issue 26, we finally see who agent Sum is. It was a bit strange that Carol just states that she has always known it but I guess as team leader she has to. I really like characters like Sum.

The first three issues deal with a skrull impersonating Carol. In turns out that William really isn’t who Carol thought he was and to top it off, the skrulls have kidnapped him. Carol goes out to look for him but doesn’t find him and we never hear from him again. Strange. Maybe this was resolved in the main Secret Invasion series? Also, the minicarrier is destroyed and Carol sleeps with Simon which might be a mistake.

The next three issues focus on the Carol defending Manhattan and its inhabitants from the skrulls. She even has to fight a Super skrull whom the other skrulls are afraid of. She clearly enjoys the fighting and kills the skrulls mercilessly. This isn’t shown often in superhero comics but I think it fits the story line and the character. I also really enjoyed how Carol shook off her insecurities and focused on the fight. However, the issues don’t really have much plot development. I haven’t read the Secret Invasion main story line.

Overall, I was a bit disappointed if that was the resolution to the William subplot but otherwise I quite liked the collection.

Oh, this is not a good volume to start reading about Carol.

A stand-alone SF book.

Publication year: 2006
Format: print
Page count: 392 plus an excerpt of Undertow
Publisher: Bantam

Michelangelo Osiris Leary Kusagi-Jones is spy, a bodyguard, and an assassin. He’s also something which his people call a Liar; extremely good at lying to everyone, especially to people close to him. About forty years ago, he met the love of his life and they were spies together on missions. Unfortunately, part of one of Michelangelo’s mission, 17 years ago, was to undermine his love’s mission and that’s exactly what he did. In the end, they were parted and sent to different worlds. But now, he has just been reunited with his love for one more mission. Once again, Michelangelo is a double agent with orders to betray his love. He isn’t happy.

Vincent Katherinessen is a diplomat and a spy. He’s also a double agent to his mother. He’s very good at his job and dedicated to it. He also loves Michelangelo still after 17 years spent apart.

Both have grown up in Coalition, a governing body which rose when the Old Earth’s natural resouces had been almost depleted and in order for humanity and the planet to survive, ruthless measures were taken. And they are still in effect. The ruling body of the Coalition seems to be a group of AIs called the Governors which were programmed by extreme environmentalists. The AIs literally decide who lives and who dies when human population grows too large. In the past, they killed off most of the human population in order to save the environment. Some humans also escaped to other planets and now the Coalition wants to govern all of those planets, too. However, the day to day governing is done by a human group called the Cabinet. Also, humans are forbidden to use any animals either as food, a source for food stuff (such as milk), or as slaves, generally called pets.

The Coalition is aggressively heterosexual to the point that being non-hetero is criminal and treated either with “therapy” or forced retirement. While women are able to vote or nominally become a candidate for the Cabinet, in reality they rarely have actual political power. Indeed, there are apparently no female diplomats. The Cabinet has only one woman in it and she comes from a planet where the women were rulers before the Coalition conquered it.

Vincent and Michelangelo are sent to New Amazonia. It’s a planet settled by disgrunteled women who made a society which benefitted them (of course). In New Amazonia, hetero males’ position in society is very limited: they have to have permission to leave the house they belong to. They also have to combat each other to death in the Trials. They’ve sent to train in combat when they’re 10 years old. But homosexual males, called gentle, can learn other things and even become scientists. This is done to protect women from males, rather than assuming that the would-be victims should protect themselves (as is pointed out on page 107).

The New Amazonias specifically requested “gentle” males or women as diplomats and that’s why Michelangelo and Vincent have been reunited and sent. However, they enter a complex web of treachery and politics where people are rarely what they seem at first glance.

The third point-of-view character is Lesa Pretoria, the head of security at the city. She had two surviving children. One of them is a young boy who will soon turn ten and be sent to battle. Lesa doesn’t want him to die in battle but instead to learn and have a better life that he could have on New Amazonia. However, that would mean trusting the male diplomats with the boy. And her family wants nothing to do with Coalition so that’s also her official policy.

Neither faction knows that an alien intelligence has taken an interest with New Amazonia. So far, humanity hasn’t encountered any aliens. New Amazonia is built on an old alien city, though, so the humans know that intelligent aliens have existed in the past.

The two cultures are, deliberately, intensely different from each other, from eating habits to personal relationships. I don’t think they’re meant to realistic and neither is ideal for the any of the characters. However, that’s what cultures tend to be like: ideal for a few, most can get by, and horrible for some. Little details stand out to me and make the cultures real. For example, when Vincent and Michelangelo come to New Amazonia, they’re horrified to see pets and people eating meat. At first they’re unable to eat much because butter or some other animal produce has been used in pretty much everything and they’re also very repulsed by the smell of cooked meat. Lisa carries her weapon, which is called her honor, everywhere and feels helpless without it. And Vincent and Michelangelo are called with the honorific “Miss” because “Mister” isn’t an honorific.

The culture clash is very interesting to me and I enjoyed the book. However, this isn’t a quick and light read.

Collects Ms Marvel vol. 2 #18-24.

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Aaron Lopresti, Matt Ryan

After the previous story’s end, Carol gets some new team members for the Lighting Storm team: Machine Man and Sleepwalker. Neither are well known as heroes (at least here in Finland). Machine Man, Aaron, is a grumpy man who apparently likes to drink heavily, even on the job, and irritate his teammates and superiors. Rick Sheridan, who is Sleepwalker’s host, seems to be more ordinary young man who is looking for some direction for his life. They contrast each other nicely and Aaron is funny but I still missed Wonder Man. Of course, Ms Marvel is the only heavy hitter in this team so her role is more distinct.

The first three issues have a story arc called “Puppets”. The Puppet Master has retired from super villany; instead he uses his powers for money and his own gratification. He’s also moved to Chile, apparently so that his actions would go unnoticed – and he’s correct. So, he has kidnapped lots of women and some men and made them his puppets. He makes the men do hard labor and fight each other to the death. They also do the kidnapping. The women he sells for the highest bidder. However, he makes a grave mistake when he starts kidnapping super powered women. Apparently, nobody has missed poor Tigra or Silverclaw, even though they used to be Avengers, but then The Puppet Master kidnaps Ms. Marvel’s young sidekick Anya. But even though Anya is missing, she’s gone for such a short time that Carol doesn’t even know it. Instead, Ms. Marvel intercepts Puppet Master’s squad trying to kidnap a super powered woman called Battleax and their clues point to Chile, so the Minicarrier travels there. Predictably, the new team has to fight the Puppet Master’s minions. The confrontation between Carol and mind controlled Anya is more interesting than a usual slug fest.

Ms. Marvel asks the Beast if he could find out what is wrong with her body. The Beast doesn’t know but takes scans and promises to look into it. Just before the villain from the first story arc, Cru, smashes into the Minicarrier, Hank calls back to Carol with some news. But unfortunately, a bit too late. Cru battles Carol and carries her off to Monster Island where Carol finally finds out the truth about her own healing abilities and about Cru. She also has to take a good, hard look at herself and her past. And she doesn’t like what she sees.

The start of that story was a combination of comedy and a super hero battle. While Carol battles Cru, no less that three people call on her cell and leave a message. First is Carol’s love interest William who most likely wants to end his relationship with Carol. Then her longtime teammate and new love interest Wonder Man calls talking about a Daily Bugle article which Carol doesn’t know about and finally her publicist calls to complain that Carol is hard to get a hold of. It’s might be a bit too slapstick for some readers but I think it lightened up the otherwise quite serious story.

The sub plot about Carol’s new healing abilities is revealed in this volume. I was actually a little creeped out that someone else was taking control of Carol’s body even though for such a supposedly benign purpose as healing her. Still, Carol is supposed to be a hero with mighty powers and even she can’t prevent other people from using her body against her will. Aren’t there enough people in the real world trying to control the bodies of women? The Puppet Master plotline amplified this creepiness. I also didn’t really like the ending where Carol is sitting in the shower and thinking that she’s a failure. At first Carol being a little insecure about herself was a feature and not a bug, but we’ve seen that for two years already and she isn’t getting better. In fact, she’s getting worse. I thought she would gain confidence and expertize during the series but instead she’s lost them. I’ve also never gotten the insecure vibe from her in team books.

The romance subplots are still unresolved.

The collection ends with a huge cliffhanger where Tony tells Agent Sum that he knows that one of the Lighting Storm people is a skrull and it needs to be taken down quietly. And that skrull is Carol herself. The story of course continues in Secret Invasion tie-in.

Today the topic of Top Ten Tuesdays is Top Ten TV shows or Movies. I chose Comedy series.

I really like comedies but I actually rarely go to a movie theater to see them and most of the comedy movies I watch on TV just aren’t that good. But luckily I have several favorite comedy shows.

1, As Time Goes By
This is a British series starring Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. I just love them as the basic couple and some of the side characters were hilarious, too. Such as Palmer’s character’s father and the father’s new USAian wife and their grim housekeeper. The series ran from 1992 to 2002.

2, Coupling
Another British comedy series, but not quite as old. Again, the characters are marvelous, even though their humor is often meaner than in As Time Goes By.

3, Black Books
Bernard Black (Dylan Moran) owns his own bookshop. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any business sense and even less common sense. Finnish broadcasting company showed it for a month on their website last year and I found some of the episodes even funnier than when I first saw them.

4, Yes, Minister and Yes, Prime Minister
If you haven’t seen these two shows, do yourself a favor and watch them. Then you can wonder with the rest of us how governments can work at all.

5, Fawlty Towers
Another great British comedy starring John Cleese. I think the clip of Cleese’s character beating his car with a branch is widely viewed on YouTube.

6, Jeeves and Wooster
I love Wodehouse’s books and I think that this show captures the books very well.

7, Monty Python
Of course, the daddy of all comedies.

8, Northern Exposure
This quirky show set in a small town in Alaska had also great characters and interaction.

9, Alas Smith and Jones
Mel Smith and Griff Rhys Jones were a great team in this show.

10, A Bit of Fry and Laurie
Another Hugh Laurie and Stephen Fry comedy series but so different from Jeeves and Wooster that I felt I could include it.

Collects Ms. Marvel vol. 2 #11-17.

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Roberto De La Torre, Aaron Lopresti , Matt Ryan

The first two issues deal with the Doomsday Man, an old Avengers villain. It turns out that AIM had secured him and taken him to a lab to study. He escapes and lures Carol to a trap in the lab. AIM has also undead creatures, the Targoth, and the Doomsday Man uses them to attack Carol. They touch changes people to Targoth. In the middle of the fight, Carol loses consciousness and when she comes to, she hears some strange people talking about healing her. And she healed. However, during the fight, Carol’s young sidekick Arana is wounded and Arana’s father files a restraining order against Carol.

As a side plot, Carol has a lovely date with her love interest William.

In issue 12 Carol is determined to make up her past mistakes. When Iron Man asks her to lead the Avengers, she accepts but only if she gets her own SHIELD team, Operation Lighting Storm. The team’s stated goal is the take care of threats before they come so huge that Avengers need to get involved. Wonder Man is also part of the team along with three SHIELD agents. However, their first order of business is to locate Julia Carpenter and reunite her with her daughter. But Julia is looking for her, too, and thinks that Carol’s people have Rachel. So she tries to intimidate Carol’s side kick Anya. However, Anya manages to defeat Julia. Despite Carol’s misgivings, Anya wants to help and train.

Even though Carol helps Julia find her daughter, it’s clear that Julia won’t forgive her, or Simon for that matter.

Next, the group tackles AIM and MODOK. Apparently, AIM has some sever internal friction and is in danger of splintering. There are at least three groups who want to become AIM’s next leader. Also, MODOK is sick and is trying to conceal it from his underlings. Carol and her gang get information that AIM is trying to build a DNA bomb. They attack the group with the bomb. However, Carol is lured away with the bomb and meanwhile, MODOK mind blasts Simon, controlling him. MODOK orders Simon to attack Carol. While they fight, the rest of Carol’s team is in trouble against a horde of AIM goons.

Carol’s three SHIELD operatives seemed interesting but we barely got to know them. In fact, I feel that we know far more about the main enemy, MODOK’s scheming son. He will appear later, too.

Carol’s agents were Sum, a mystery man whose specialty wasn’t told to us, Baines is a technology expert, and Locke is a psionic specialist. Maria Hill also resents Carol because she can just make a deal with Tony and get her own minicarrier and staff. Hill even hinted that Carol was sleeping with Tony.

Two sub plots continue: Carol is again severely injured and something or someone strange heals her while her skin turns blue. Also, her love interest William is apparently hiding his true identity and Carol’s publicist blackmails him into leaving. And the dreaded romance triangle with Simon is making itself known.

Once again, Carol sets out with good intentions and they don’t work out like she expected. Her team is scattered and she takes it personally. But she’s determined to be better and do better.

Overall, this an enjoyable read and more realistic than some comics. Carol’s victories are far from absolute and while her powers (and the mysterious helper) keeps her from being too injured, the people around her aren’t so lucky. Yet, she’s determined to do the right thing and be a hero.

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