Marvel comics


Collects Ms. Marvel vol. 2 #35-40.

Writer: Brian Reed
Artists: Patrick Olliffe, Serge LePointe, Kris Justice, Rebekah Isaacs, Sana Takeda, Luke Ross, Rob Schwager

Dark Reign continues right from the previous collection. Carol is still on the run from the Osborn-led Avengers with her two friends, Rossi and Mason. The first three issues are titled “The Death of Ms. Marvel 1-3” and events do escalate towards that point. This is not a stand-alone collection but relies heavily on storylines from the previous collection and also from other titles. I haven’t read Dark Reign.

In the first issue, Carol finds out about a mass suicide in a Church of Hala, who apparently worship the original kree Captain Marvel. When a new Captain Marvel joins the Avengers, these worshipers killed themselves in protest. Carol investigates and runs into the new CM. Neither is happy about it.

In the next two issues, Carol continues her hunt of Ghazi who is selling some doomsday weapon and also tortured her years ago. Her powers are increasingly erratic until at the end of the third issue during a confrontation with Ghazi, Carol’s powers explode seemingly killing her. We also find out a startling fact about Rossi.

Osborn takes advantage of the situation and appoints Moonstone as the new Ms. Marvel, taking Carol’s old costume. However, she has to undergo psychological evaluation which ends up being quite unusual.

Next, Moonstone investigates A.I.M. and is shown that they are trying to breed a new type of superhuman, a combination of MODOK and the storyteller whom we met in the previous collection and in the very first issue of this series. However, instead of shutting them down, Moonstone has an offer from Osborn. Unfortunately, AIM turns it down… by throwing an asteroid into New York. It turns out that Moonstone has some weird mental connection to the fetuses which AIM has and she stole them and brought them to the Avengers headquarters. However, a mysterious (but not really) female figure made of energy is also interested in the fetuses and attacks Moonstone.

This is somewhat disjointed collection where one storyline ends and another begins. In fact, it might have been better to combine first three issues with the previous collection and start a new one with Moonstone as Ms Marvel. Also, Moonstone is not introduced at all, so the change came very suddenly and unexpectedly. My feelings of disjointedness might be heightened because Carol’s story arc was well developed (even though I personally felt quite frustrated with it at times).

It’s quite ironic to see how the former villain appears to do good and gets praised for it, even though she’s actually furthering Osborn’s evil agenda and even killing people in full sight of others, while Carol has been failing pretty consistently for a couple of years now.

One thing which actually helped the transition between the different storylines was the change in artist. Isaacs’ and especially Takeda’s art is much more manga styled than Olliffe’s.

The collection ends in a cliffhanger.

Collects the miniseries Infinity Gauntlet 1-6.

Writer: Jim Starlin
Artist: George Perez, Ron Lim, Josef Rubinstein, Tom Christopher

This is the first big cross-over event I ever read, back in 1993, when it came out here in Finland, so there’s no way I can be objective about it. I loved it back then and much to my surprise, it was still enjoyable, more so than many of the more recent cross-overs.

The story starts with Thanos. He has already found all the Infinity Stones and combined them into a gauntlet which makes him the master of mind, soul, time, space, reality, and power. He’s literally the supreme power in the Marvel universe. Mephisto is playing his lackey, giving him advice and flattering him all the way. Thanos worships Death and he tries to make Death love him. Fortunately, for the rest of the universe, that’s not easy.

Then, the Silver Surfer crashes to Dr. Strange’s house telling him the awful news. Meanwhile, three people die in a car crash and others take over their bodies. It seems that our heroes Adam Warlock, Pip the Troll, and Gamora have already died and this is the only way for them to have bodies.

Then things start to escalate and they don’t stop until in the end. Thanos kills off half of sentient life in the universe. Half of the people on Earth just disappears, along with a lot of superheros. Among the dead are the Fantastic Four and apparently most of the X-Men. In fact, only two X-Men appear in this series, Cyclops and Wolverine. Dr. Doom also joins the heroes.

Adam Warlock makes his appearance and gathers up a fighting force of the surviving heroes who will serve as fodder and distraction for bigger guns, among whom are personified powers such as Eternity and Galactus. The fighting is epic.

Warlock knows that in order to win, he has to have an intricate scheme and send people to their deaths. He seems very ruthless. And he’s right.

This is a very enjoyable cosmic fight but don’t expect anything else.

Collects Thor 140, Hulk 135, Avengers 69-71 and 267-269

Writers: Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, Roger Stern
Artists: Jack Kirby, Vince Colletta, Sal Buscema, Sam Grainger, Herb Trimpe, John Buscema, Tom Palmer

This is a collection of stories centered on the early appearances of Kang the Conqueror. However, they don’t include Kang’s first appearance which I found a bit strange.

Thor 140 focuses on the mystery of the Growing Man, Kang’s henchman. After the Troll War, Thor returns to Earth and fights the Growing Man.

Next up is Avengers 69-71.Tony Stark has been badly wounded and is in hospital, waiting for a doctor Thor is bringing to him. However, before the doctor can do much, the Growing Man kidnaps Tony and the Avengers chase him. They (Yellowjacket, Giant-Man, the Wasp, Captain America, Thor, and the Vision) are transported to Kang’s presence. Before the Avengers can pummel him, the Black Panther stops them and forces them to listen to Kang’s tale. He has started a contest with the Grandmaster and the prize is Earth. If Kang loses, Earth will cease to exist and if Kang wins, he will gain powers over life and death so that he can revive his beloved Ravonna. The Avengers agree to become his champions. Four of them are sent one by one to various places on Earth to battle The Grandmaster’s minions, the Squadron Sinister. In the second phase the rest of the Avengers battle the original Invaders in WWII setting. They still need the Black Knight’s help to get free from Kang’s clutches.

Next is Hulk where Kang is thrown about in a timestorm. He needs help from something or someone indestructible to destroy the Avengers and so he tricks the Hulk into helping him. Kang sends Hulk into the past to alter the present.

The final three issues are another Avengers story with multiple Kangs. Kang has traveled so much through time that there are lots of Kangs around from timelines which have splintered off from the original. They’ve apparently formed a Council which is eliminating some of the Kangs. The Avengers (the Wasp, the Black Knight, and Hercules) are boring a tunnel underneath their mansion when they’re surrounded by thick fog and strange sights. They encounter old Avengers, such as Hulk and Giant-man. Meanwhile, Captain America, Captain Marvel, and the newest Avenger Namor are enjoying the sea air until they find out that the others have disappeared and try to find them.

This is an okay collection but I don’t think these are actually the best Kang stories ever. I was also rather surprised to see that the first Kang story was not here. Because the rest of the stories revolve around Kang trying to revive his beloved Ravonna, it would have been better to show the story where Ravonna was originally hurt. It’s told in a flash back but that doesn’t quite feel enough.

It’s also interesting to compare the different style throughout the years. Most of the stories are quite old and they show it, in cheesier dialog (especially in the Thor issue) but also in the treatment of female characters. The last story has both Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau) and the Wasp and their treatment is a far cry from how the Wasp is sidelined and forgotten in the first Avengers story. In the second, she’s the Avengers’ leader. In fact, Avengers issue 71 focuses on the Black Knight.

Overall, an ok collection but not really special.

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.

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.

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.

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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