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Ms. Marvel, Then and Now, Part Three: Ms. Marvel #1 (2006)

This month, we’re taking a look at the history and present of she who bears the name of the House of Ideas… Ms. Marvel. Last time, Chris Claremont sought to make recompense for the sins of other writers – and he did a pretty thorough job of it. Now, with Ms. Marvel back where she’s supposed to be (on Earth and saving lives rather than, you know, off in the far reaches of space and time with her son-husband), we’re aiming to see how creators in the modern era treat Carol Danvers. Does she get that Avengers #200 disregard, or some of that Avengers Annual respect? Let’s find out.

What better place to begin than the first time I, as a comics reader, saw a Ms. Marvel comic. It was back in the just-before-Civil War days, when I was just about to start dabbling with comics. I was working at a bookstore then, and I’d frequently see Ms. Marvel trades from Brian Reed’s run. Now, years later, having read my fair share of Carol tales – though, mostly under the more recent name of Captain Marvel, which is the version I know and enjoy most – I thought why not finally dig into Reed’s take? He relaunched the Ms. Marvel title with a new #1 in 2006 along with penciller Roberto De la Torre, inker Jimmy Palmiotti who is better known these days for making Harley Quinn consistently a top selling comic from month-to-month as writer on that title, colored by Chris Sotomayor, and lettered by Dave Sharpe. This first issue is called Best of the Best – but does it live up to that title?

Maybe? And that’s pretty much the point of this story. Ms. Marvel has a lot going on, and it seems to juggle two very different goals. It seems to love quick bursts of action – there’s a scene where Ms. Marvel calls Cap for help while chasing an alien, and we get a fun and humorous glimpse at what he’s doing – while spending most of the rest of the time setting up longterm plot/character stuff. Brian Reed stayed on Ms. Marvel for 50 issues, so it makes sense that he’s playing the long game. When you cut away the somewhat basic action scenes, though, and focus on the core of this book, it has a very clear and interesting message: Ms. Marvel is as important and powerful as any of the iconic superheroes everyone obsesses over… so why isn’t she more popular? Why isn’t she seen as the best of the best?

Ms. Marvel herself is trying to find out why and, perhaps along the way, discover true purpose along with it. Through a conversation with Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman!) that runs through the issue, we get the sense that Carol Danvers shifts back and forth between thinking she’s an amazing hero and then, after a huge win, sitting on her butt and doing nothing for months. I admit, this isn’t the Carol Danvers with whom I’m familiar. She lacks the militaristic drive, the sense of purpose attached not to her self-worth but to her empathy for others, the special spark that makes her stand shoulder-to-shoulder with heroes like Thor and Captain America and have no one question her status as an Avenger. Here, she’s far more Peter Parker than she is a Captain Marvel – which makes me wonder if this was perhaps the run that worked toward building her into the hero we see her as today. Because honestly, even here, she has the power – it’s not that we question her status as an Avenger in this run. She does.

Overall, it’s an interesting start to a run that surprised me in more than one way and entertained me throughout. The cliffhanger is a random alien insect invasion, but hey – it’s comics, right? Sometimes, that kinda thing is just what the doctor called for.

NEXT: A different hero takes on the mantle with the second volume of Kamala Khan’s run as Ms. Marvel.

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