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.