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

16 December 2008

Ms. Marvel, v. 1: Best of the Best

Collects: Ms. Marvel (v. 2) #1-5, Giant-Size Ms. Marvel #1 (2006)

Released: March 2007 (Marvel)

Format: 136 pages / color / $14.99 / ISBN: 9780785119968

What is this?: The first volume of the new Ms. Marvel series.

The culprits: Writer Brian Reed and penciler Roberto de la Torre

Ms. Marvel is not usually a character that I’m very interested in. I mean, I’ve read the Essential Ms. Marvel, but I read all the superhero Essentials. And I’m about as likely to be drawn in by Marvel’s premiere “feminist”22 superhero as any male, I suppose. But I decided to pick this up on a lark — 2/3 off cover price! — and was pleasantly surprised by what I saw.

Ms. Marvel (Carol Danvers) has been around for a long time, since the ‘60s, and she had her own short-lived (for the time) series in the ‘70s. After that, she became a journalist, an Avenger, an X-Men associate, a victim of very, very bad writing, an amnesiac, an alcoholic, Binary, and Warbird. Ms. Marvel is a name that is deeply ingrained in the Marvel Universe, but over the past 20 years, it’s faded into the woodwork. In Ms. Marvel, v. 1: Best of the Best, Brian Reed takes advantage of that setup and makes the series about Carol, who after being a great hero in the House of M universe, decides to work on becoming one on the regular Marvel Universe.

Ms. Marvel, v. 1: Best of the Best coverIt’s a great starting point. Carol’s first move is to quit her job, become a solo hero, and hire a PR firm, which gives an idea of what she thinks it takes to become a famous hero. She needs more name recognition! And an archenemy! Who conveniently follows her through from the House of M universe, so that’s OK. But overall the strategy works about as well as you’d think.

Best of the Best shows something we don’t see that often in superhero comics. Ms. Marvel makes a large mistake and can’t save the townspeople who normally are saved. Although the fallout of her failures isn’t seen in this volume, it’s nice to see heroes who aren’t invulnerable. Reed makes a big deal out of Carol’s level of confidence; she sees heroes like Captain America and the Fantastic Four as bulletproof, while she makes big mistakes. It works well, and it fits in with Carol’s previous characterizations — if her confidence isn’t shaken a little after everything that’s happened to her, then she hasn’t been paying attention.

So the main character and the idea for the series are solid. The archenemy is ready made from another universe, which works surprisingly well; he’s a mage, someone Carol can’t always run up and punch, which is her strong suit. He even manages enough of a backstory to be interesting. She’s even managed to get a cat in the same transaction as the supervillain. So far, so good; what are the shortcomings?

The art — mainly the covers by Frank Cho — leave me cold. In Cho’s hands, Ms. Marvel comes across a bit too … pneumatic for my tastes, with thighs larger than her head. Regular penciler Roberto de la Torre doesn’t have those problems — at least not beyond the regular superhero comic expansion of chests — but there are others. Carol’s friend Jessica Jones looks nothing like she does in other appearances, and Carol looks inconsistent at times. De la Torre has fun with the Brood and the alien Cru, and he tells the story clearly, so overall, he does a very good job.

Carol Danvers as BinaryThere are times the plot sags a little. The Brood is a good choice for Carol to fight, given her history with them — their attack triggered one of her transformations, into Binary — but the connection isn’t mentioned, which it should have been. Dr. Strange is taken out like a chump at one point, which is a let down. There’s a lot of reality and time hopping, which can be (and is, at times) confusing. As I said, Carol’s failing isn’t dealt with in Best of the Best, and I’m not sure whether it will be; I’m also not sure whether Carol’s somewhat callow exterior is something the reader is supposed to recognize or if it’s an unconscious insertion by the writer.

Still, this is a good collection, and I’m interested in how it progresses. Unfortunately, it progresses through a couple of crossovers I have no interest in, and I have severe doubts I want to read them, even tangentially.

Rating: Marvel symbol Marvel symbol Marvel symbol Half Marvel symbol (3.5 of 5)

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Anonymous Josh said...

Are the older reprints that came with the Giant-Size Ms. Marvel also come with this TPB? Thanks.

1:13 AM  
Blogger Raoul said...

No, v. 1 has only the recent stuff -- just what it says at the top of the review.

11:11 PM  

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