Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

29 July 2008

Essential Ms. Marvel, v. 1

Collects: Ms. Marvel #1-23, Avengers Annual #10, Marvel Super-Heroes Magazine #10-1 (1977-9, 1981, 1992)

Released: January 2007 (Marvel)

Format: 512 pages / black and white / $16.99 / ISBN: 9780785124993

There’s not much of a way to sugarcoat it; the Essential Ms. Marvel, v. 1 is a collection of ‘70s mediocrity.

I mean that in the best way, of course; it’s not bad enough to offend, nor is it good enough to truly entice. It falls in the same category as the Essential Iron Fist or Essential Nova. The former collection is an apt comparison in more than one way; although Ms. Marvel was created by other hands, Ms. Marvel is the work of Chris Claremont. Like Iron Fist, Claremont rode Ms. Marvel to cancellation at the same time he was making X-Men a sales juggernaut. In fact, his work with Ms. Marvel begins at about the time Iron Fist ends.

Essential Ms. Marvel, v. 1 cover Early Claremont is the main draw here. With eight pencillers in 23 issues, there are frequent changes in art styles, although Jim Mooney provided art for ten issues over a couple of stints. The few guest stars are second tier, and although the established villains in the book are occasionally better than average (MODOK, AIM, Scorpion), there is plenty of dead weight in the form of Grotesk, Tiger Shark, and the Faceless One.9 Just as Ms. Marvel was wrapped up in an Avengers Annual and an issue of X-Men, Claremont wraps up a storyline from the even more obscure Supernatural Thrillers #10-15. (Why, I don’t know.) The new villains are mostly crap: Destructor, the reptilian People, two unidentified aliens. Except …

Except Deathbird and Mystique. Deathbird is an alien cypher working for MODOK, but Mystique is a big player with a mad-on for Ms. Marvel. (Claremont’s predilection for long-dangling plotlines don’t tell us why during Ms. Marvel; in the Marvel Super Heroes Magazine reprinted after the Ms. Marvel issues, Destiny reveals she’s predicted Ms. Marvel will harm Rogue, Mystique’s stepdaughter.) For fans of Mystique, it is interesting to see her humble and obscure beginnings.

Also interesting are the two issues of Marvel Super Heroes Magazine. #10 would have been Ms. Marvel #24; the completed cover for #24 is included. #11 is a condensation of Claremont’s plans for Ms. Marvel’s non-Avengers career before Rogue steals her powers, including scraps with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and the Hellfire Club. It’s too condensed to be enjoyable, but it’s good to see Claremont’s intentions, and I appreciate Marvel reprinting the two relatively obscure ‘90s anthology issues. (It has some quintessentially ‘90s art that is a jarring shift, though.) Also included is Avengers Annual #10, famous for Rogue’s debut but included here because it shows Carol dealing with her lost powers and memories and excoriating the Avengers for letting her be mind controlled and abducted by the son of Immortus in Avengers #200 (not included in Essential Ms. Marvel, presumably because of page constraints).

This is Claremont, through and through. A powerful female character, some verbal tics and a great deal of unnecessary verbiage, and several mind control plots. For those who love the Claremont of the ‘70s, this book is well worth your time. For the rest of the world, it’s a bit more missable.

Rating: Marvel symbol Marvel symbol (2 of 5)

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