Thursday, October 13, 2016

Crabs, Assemble!, Part Six: Marvel Masterworks, Vol. 234: Ms. Marvel

 The Avengers marathon continues, now with added rape and incest!

 After the underwhelming first Ms. Marvel volume (Review here), this volume is a massive improvement. It's still far from perfect, but the series, under writer Chris Claremont, finally starts to come into its own, just in time to be canceled.

 MARVEL MASTERWORKS, VOL. 234: MS. MARVEL starts off with an introduction by Kelly Sue DeConnick, which is hot garbage. It's four pages long, and is mostly self-centered rambling, with a little bit of trash-talking and SJW babble thrown in for good measure. DeConnick closes her introduction with a few paragraphs about AVENGERS #200, which she classifies as "garbage". I hate to see one creator diss another, especially in the pages of a comic. If it's an interview in a magazine, or online, well...it's their opinion. When it's in the introduction to a pricey collection, it seems very out of place. When one creator calls out another in a comic, it strikes me as them setting themselves above someone who doesn't have a similar forum to defend themself on. DeConnick's railing against David Michelinie's story, and how it's a part of "Rape culture", strikes me as condescending and arrogant. I've never read a DeConnick story that I thought was excellent, so, to me, this is a middling writer getting to go off on a superior writer, simply because it's in service of a female character, and she's a female writer. Marvel would have been better served using these four pages to have someone who was actually involved with AVENGERS #200 explain how the plot was conceived, and why Marvel felt the perplexing story was the way they wanted to write off this character. The introduction, as published, is a self-indulgent waste of space.

 Anyway....This volume collects the remainder of the MS. MARVEL series, issues 15-23. The bulk of this run suffers from the same problems that the first fourteen issues did: Claremont doesn't seem to have a grasp of what he wants to do with the character. (This is borne out by a brief article from F.O.O.M. #22, in which Claremont states that "The first issue that Dave Cockrum drew (#20), I feel, is the way MS. MARVEL should have been done from the beginning." Unfortunately, that new beginning came too late to stave off cancellation, which came with issue #23.

 Issues 15-16 find Ms. Marvel facing Tiger Shark, and feature her first encounter with The Avengers, and #'s 17-18 find our heroine tracked by an assassin, as she pals around with the female Avengers. #19 is a bland team-up with Captain Marvel, but #20 is where the books really starts to fire on all cylinders.

 Dave Cockrum takes over as artist with issue #20, and he debuts a new costume, which is a big improvement.

 Issues 20-21 feature Carol tackling an race of underground lizard-people, and I am a sucker for stories like this. Claremont and Cockrum nail the characters and the artwork, and all seems right with the world...

 Until issue #22, which finds the art now being handled by Mike Vosburg. I've never been much of a fan of Vosburg, but his art isn't terrible, by any means. He has a nice, workmanlike style, complimented wonderfully by inker Mike Zeck in issue #22, which features the return of Claremont favorite Deathbird.

 Issue #23, the series finale, is a lackluster affair guest-starring Vance Astro, from The Guardians of The Galaxy. (The ORIGINAL ones!)

 Claremont and Vosburg already had MS. MARVEL #24 and part of #25 in the can, and these are presented here as MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #'s 10-11. These issues feature Carol battling Sabretooth and The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants. Only part of #25 was completed, so the story is finished by Simon Furman and Mike Gustovich. The Furman/Gustovich portion is interrupted a few times by pages from THE AVENGERS #'s 197-199 and the complete 200th issue, and resumes afterwards, dovetailing nicely into AVENGERS ANNUAL #10.

 AVENGERS #200 is an...odd story. (I get in depth with it HERE.). I would love to get the whole behind-the-scenes story and learn how and why the writer, editor-in-chief, and a pair of artists decided to, in essence, jettison the Ms. Marvel character entirely. Surely there are better ways to get rid of a character than to have them fall in love with their own son and go off to live in incestuous bliss in Limbo.

 This Oedipal turn of events must have pissed off Chris Claremont mightily, because he comes roaring back to the character with a blistering retort in the pages of AVENGERS ANNUAL #10, another one of my "I read the original issue a million times as a kid!" classics. The art is handled by the legendary Michael Golden, in tandem with inker Armando Gil. This is a key issue, for a number of reasons. In addition to the return of Carol Danvers, it also features the first appearance of future X-Man Rogue, as well as an appearance by a tiny tot named Maddy Pryor.

 The issue also features appearances by The Brotherhood of Evil Mutants, The X-Men, and Spider-Woman, who is creepily referred to by Claremont repeatedly as "The Dark Angel" (?). The issue ends with a brutal verbal confrontation between Carol and The Avengers, which virtually drips with Claremont's scorn for how her Avengers tenure was ended. Powerful stuff. Comics, to me, were never better than Marvel in the '80's.

 The book ends with a nice little short from MARVEL FANFARE #24, which features Danvers in her new incarnation of Binary, as she learns about the death of Captain Marvel. The transition to the identity of Binary is nicely explained at the end of the Furman story earlier in the book, and Chris Claremont does a nice job of laying out Carol's new status quo in just thirteen pages, including some wonderful interactions with Wolverine, The Thing, Nick Fury, and The Avengers. Artist Dave Ross' back cover from the issue is also included.

 Extras are sparse this time out; Just the aforementioned F.O.O.M. issue, a pair of house ads, and creator bios. There's enough good stuff here for me to cautiously recommend it to fans of late '70's/early '80's Marvel. Another fine effort from the ever-trustworthy MASTERWORKS team.