As we anticipate the awesomeness of the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, it’s a good time to recount all the stories that came before it. Especially for a character that has had tumultuous character choices made about her over the years. In the third volume of Brian Reed’s epic run on the character, I delve into three things to keep an eye on.
What is in this collection?
This book collects Ms. Marvel #35 to #50, Ms. Marvel Special: Storyteller, and Siege: Spider-Man, all of which are written by Brian Reed. These stories take place back in 2006 when Marvel was reinventing the character in a variety of ways.
What do I need to know?
Carol Danvers has been having some issues with her powers, which I talk about in the second volume review. There’s also a little boy called the Storyteller who can literally do anything with his mind and Carol has a soft spot for him. Reed uses this character throughout this trade.
The Storyteller is a character to keep tabs on
It remains to be seen if the Storyteller is still alive, but based on how much attention he gets in this collection it’ll be fascinating to see him pop back up. Only a child in the opening issue of this collection, the Storyteller is a boy with near limitless power but he means well. Giuseppe Camuncoli draws him so he has a look that could mean terrible things as he gets older, but at this stage, he’s just lacking guidance. As the story progresses we later find out in this collection he’s being cloned by A.I.M. and they’re using these fetus versions of Storyteller to rule the world. Or something. It all ends up resolving Captain Marvel’s story after she was blown up and turned to energy. Thanks to Storyteller she’s brought back just in time to kick Moonstone’s butt. Not unlike Kobik, Storyteller has the potential for more stories that push reality to its brink, but since he is human there’s potential to explore a character who can do anything.
Moonstone is a complex anti-hero to keep an eye on
A large chunk of this collection is focused on Moonstone who dresses like Ms. Marvel to work for Norman Osborn in his new evil Avengers. In a logical turn early on in the collection, Captain Marvel explodes (more on that in the next point) so Moonstone can take over without fuss. Reed explores this character in psychological terms with an evil psychologist and in this journey we learn she killed her mother. It’s an interesting side story that helps build up her point of view further complicating things when Captain Marvel does show up. She’s written in a way where she can kill bad guys and yet you feel sorry for her since a lot of her actions come from pain. In a great turn, her story ends in this collection with a lesson from Ms. Marvel. It not only shows the compassion of Ms. Marvel, but the long road to being a better person Moonstone has ahead of her.
Carol Danvers has been dragged through the mud, like, a lot
After a short adventure with Storyteller, this volume kicks into high gear with a globe-trotting mission that eventually sends Carol into a painful explosive exit. Prior to that Carol is attempting to navigate a world where Mar-Vell is a great hero and she’s trying to live up to his name. That includes strange religious cults that end up committing mass suicide. Her identity is largely connected to the hero, which is probably why it was changed recently in The Life of Captain Marvel #5. All that anxiety to live up to his name continues when she comes back later in this collection, but when she does she’s split between the superhero and the Carol Danvers persona. Add in how Rogue ripped memories from Carol and you can see she’s one of the most toyed with heroes in all existence. Thankfully she gets her life back in order, but the emotional toll of this story lingers.
How does it hold up?
There are certainly dated elements in this collection. Even though the stories here are only 12 years old there’s heavy sexualization of the character. It’s nice to see the character reflect on that by vocalizing how uncomfortable it is that people take pictures of her butt or leer at her, but that doesn’t excuse the blatant ass and breast shots. There’s an awkward moment that feels out of place in light of the #MeToo movement involving Carol and Peter Parker. Now that shows a dated mindset.
This also is a time when Carol’s powers and identity are strongly tied to Mar-Vell which presents some serious issues. The recent retcon of Captain Marvel’s powers in The Life of Captain Marvel negates this, but it’s a bit cringy to see it portrayed as it is here.
I liked this collection for its big sweeping story and how it plays with identity. There are certainly some dated elements like the sexualization of the hero, but there are elements here that are so strong I wouldn’t be surprised if they popped up in a future film. Reed develops Storyteller, Moonstone, and ultimately Ms. Marvel in intriguing ways making this worth a look.