Comics : Ms. Marvel (Vol. 2) #21

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This story is part of an Arc: "Monster and Marvel"
     Part 1 / Part 2 / Part 3 / Part 4

This review was first published on: 2008.

Background...

A short while ago, Ms. Marvel saved humanity from the parasitic Brood. During this encounter, Ms. Marvel met the alien monster Cru. Since that battle, Ms. Marvel has been experiencing several oddities including: a heightened healing factor, strange voices, and out of body moments. Cru has now returned and attacked Ms. Marvel on her own minicarrier.

In Detail...

"Monster and Marvel"
Ms. Marvel (Vol. 2) #21
Nov 2007 : SM Spin-Off App
Summary: Arana appears
Arc: Part 1 of "Monster and Marvel"
Editor:  Bill Rosemann
Writer:  Brian Reed
Pencils:  Aaron Lopresti
Inker:  Matt Ryan
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Carol transforms into Ms. Marvel and begins to wail on Cru. During battle, Carol calls her voicemail. William Wagner, Carol's current beau, has called her. He wanted to let Carol know about recent developments he had with Sarah Day, Ms. Marvel's publicity agent, and the Daily Bugle. Carol's second message is from Simon Williams, also known as Wonder Man. He desperately misses Carol and also informs her of the Daily Bugle. Before she can complete her thoughts, Ms. Marvel hears Cru's voice inside her head. Cru is apparently a woman. Agent Sum sees Carol getting grabbed by Cru. A third message comes on – it is Sarah Day. The Daily Bugle is taking aim at Ms. Marvel's public persona.

Meanwhile, Cru blasts Agent Sum's skin clean off. Machine Man witnesses Sum's inglorious death. Machine Man battles Cru while Ms. Marvel blacks out. The mysterious alien departs with Ms, Marvel in hand. Agent Sum miraculously recovers, skin intact, and seeks to find a replacement body for the battered Machine Man to use.

Next, Carol is floating through space. Cru's voice once again enters her thoughts. They are descending upon Monster Island. It seems as if Carol's superpowers have been deactivated. Cru enters a debate with Carol on the nature of her Ms. Marvel persona. Cru reveals her female form to a shocked Carol. Carol is none too pleased at the actions of Cru and wants her to stop interfering with her thoughts. Unfortunately Cru blacks out and Carol discovers they are on Monster Island. She stands face to face with a giant creature intent on eating her.

Back on Minicarrier 13, Arana searches for Carol's cat, Chewie. Machine Man's new female body construct is fitted to his head. Agent Sum thinks his new form is some kind of joke despite Machine Man's protestations. Sum gets into an angry conversation with Maria Hill of S.H.I.E.L.D. Wonder Man offers his help in recovering Carol from the clutches of Cru. Arana is happy to see Simon.

Carol is in a dire predicament. Monsters left and right are attacking her. To make matters worse, Carol cannot seem to activate her Ms. Marvel powers. She turns to escape but trips down a hill. More monsters greet her at the bottom. Cru appears and helps Carol fight off her attackers. She offers to join Carol. Carol begrudgingly accepts Cru's offer. It seems as if Cru's home was annihilated by a Brood invasion. Part of Cru had been manifesting inside Carol's body. Cru had attempted to destroy Earth in order to kill a smattering of Brood. Two pods of Brood had landed with Cru on Earth. Cru had chosen the wrong pod to follow because it contained the Brood Queen. There is little time for debate. The Brood is intent on claiming Earth as their home. Cru and Carol prepare to deal with an oncoming huge Brood force.

In General...

Ms. Marvel remains frustratingly inconsistent. Brian Reed has a long-term plan for the book. However, we are twenty one issues through and I have little sense of where it is going. Cru returns from Reed's first arc and proves even more confusing than last time. There's also the slight problem of explaining why Ms. Marvel would lose her powers. It is all rather convenient that she loses them on Monster Island of all places.

That being said, I liked some of the developments contained in this month's issue. Reed manages to touch on nearly all the supporting characters even if they don't physically appear. I have a feeling that the William Wagner business is going to be resolved down the line but it was nice to see that Reed did not ignore his dangling plotline. Wonder Man also appears, setting up a possible love triangle with Carol and Wagner that is ripe with possibilities.

Machine Man's explanation for his new body construct is oddly disturbing but charming. Reed seems to like writing the character. This development of Machine Man comes at the expense of the other super-powered Lighting Strike operative Sleepwalker. Since being introduced alongside Machine Man, Sleepwalker has had little to do other than be cannon fodder in fights. His character deserves better.

Arana is worried about Carol's cat in this issue. At first glance, this may seem like wacky exposition. And on one level it is...however, Reed's direction paints Arana as a caring character concerned with every aspect of Carol's life. Hence, Arana's fretting over a mundane cat. The point being that Carol is developing into a surrogate mother for Arana. I've criticized this earlier direction as being too haphazard and fast. Yet, this issue seems to slow the pace of their growing relationship to a logical pace that fits a longer-term book. Such an indication bodes well for the long-term future of devoting an ongoing series to an admittedly lower tier superheroine.

Carol fights for her life against the riffraff of Minster Island. I particularly liked that Carol is not beaten without her powers. She shows a remarkable resourcefulness that complements her background as an ex intelligent agent of the Air Force and NASA. Too often, I see superheroines in their own books being sexually marginalized and captured all too easily. It is a testament to Reed that Ms. Marvel does not do so on a regular basis.

I'm starting to warm up on the art of Aaron Lopresti. Lopresti has a knack for balancing fight scenes with dynamic character poses. The page where Carol falls into a river stream shows off Lopresti's talent. Lopresti also managed to ditch Wonder Man's ridiculously over-the-top leisure suit get-up that he's been sporting over in Mighty Avengers. Lastly, the art direction meshes well with Reed's script. This is the best Ms. Marvel has been sequentially since the Civil War arc. The last splash page with the Brood bodes well for future issues.

Overall Rating...

After a dreadful transitional arc, Ms. Marvel regains some of the plot mojo she had following her encounter with Spider-Woman and her encounter with Doomsday Man. Reed is doing a solid job and is ably complemented by Lopresti on art duties.