Ms. Marvel, the alter-ego of Carol Danvers, is another feminist superhero continuing the tradition of Marvel's strong female characters. The first writers of Ms. Marvel depict Carol as editor of Woman Magazine. Carol is an analog for the second-wave feminists emerging in the 1960s and 1970s, particularly Gloria Steinem. Over the years, Ms. Marvel's character has endured excruciating tragedies in her personal life as well as a penchant for numerous codenames (i.e. Binary and Warbird). X-Men fans should be aware of her complicated and often acrimonious relationship with Rogue.
Currently, Ms. Marvel has chosen a side in the Civil War engulfing the Marvel universe. Siding with Iron-Man's Pro-Registration forces, Carol's role entails training newly registered heroes in their super-powered abilities. Joining her as paid government employees are Wonder Man (Simon Williams) and Arachne (Julia Carpenter).
Our story begins in New York City. Ms. Marvel is en route to capture the Prowler, a superhero who refuses to register. Carol recounts the horrific devastation of the Stamford, Connecticut tragedy (as depicted in Civil War #1). S.H.I.E.L.D forces assist Ms. Marvel in quickly capturing the overmatched Prowler.
The scene shifts to Carol lying in bed suffering from a nightmare. After a shameless butt shot, Carol is woken up by Simon Williams, known to many as Wonder Man. They have been chosen to head up Iron Man's superhuman training program. Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man arrive at Stark Tower and are greeted by Julia Carpenter. A brief reunion ensues with Julia explaining the reasoning behind her name change to Arachne. Julia mentions her daughter is in Denver until the Civil War ordeal can be sorted out.
A briefing begins as the late Iron Man explains that superheroes have become emboldened by Captain America's anti-registration stance. Their first mission is twofold. Despite an ominous protestation, Arachne will go to apprehend the superhuman Shroud. In the meantime, Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man will go to convince the teenage superhero Arana to register in good faith. Iron Man and Carol privately confer on the whereabouts of Captain America. It is revealed that Captain America offered Ms. Marvel to join him as a fugitive from the law. Carol flatly refuses in a flashback sequence professing her allegiance to the law.
At Ryker's Island, S.H.I.E.L.D agents interrogate the detained Prowler. The chief interrogator blackmails Prowler into revealing the shocking information that Arachne is a double-agent. We then see Arachne greet Shroud in a passionate embrace. They are clearly an item. Their conversation is interrupted by S.H.I.E.L.D forces. Arachne is compelled to blow her cover and help Shroud escape.
Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man are now in Brooklyn searching fruitlessly for Arana. Carol spots a Chicken Cow restaurant and the pair decides to break for dinner. While placing their order, Carol and Simon encounter armed clown robbers. The captions inter-cut with a monologue from the Chicken Cow employee. Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man easily dispatch of the robbers but are startled at the subsequent transformation of the employee into a bug-like armor. They have inadvertently found Arana.
Ms. Marvel gets the Civil War treatment with this initial installment in three part arc. I've always enjoyed the depiction of Ms. Marvel over the years. This issue is no different. Despite her many hardships, Carol Danvers is still a tough-as-nails soldier willing to do her part in something she whole- heartedly believes in. Writer Brian Reed does a nice job of providing the requisite pathos. This is particularly evident in the Chicken Cow scene where Carol displays some endearing child-like interplay with Wonder Man.
The main problems I had with this issue lay with the supporting characters. It is nice to see Ms. Marvel populated by some of the lesser used characters of the Marvel universe. However, Reed does not do a good job providing these characters with proper motivations. Julia's friendship with Carol obviously means a lot to her but she forsakes it for a simple boyfriend. We never invest in her as a character and her betrayal feels rushed and marginalized. Iron Man's directive to capture Arana is similarly perplexing. Are we to actually believe that of all the priorities the Pro-Registration forces have, that they thought it was a good idea to send out one of their A-list superheroes to confront a teenaged C-Lister? It is thoughts like these that stretch the realm of believability for me.
Artist Roberto De La Torre is a mixed bag on this title. There were scenes I really liked where the pencils enhanced the narrative. The flashback scene where Captain America tries to recruit Ms. Marvel evokes the sadness and schisms that have developed among friends during Civil War. De La Torre is less successful when he draws fight scenes. Ms. Marvel is incredibly powerful but we never get a real sense of her powers. Too often, De La Torre relies on quick and jarring battles to advance the action. We don't really see how Ms. Marvel dispatches her opponents other than the end result.
It's ironic that the title character of a book can be written adequately but the end result coming out less than satisfying. There's plenty to like here, but nothing that makes you want to stand up and purchase the issue other than its Civil War crossover designation. It'll be interested to see how they develop Arachne and Arana in the next two issues.