Monday, September 3, 2007

Ms. Marvel #19

In addition to conveying the adventures of the title character, Mighty Avengers field leader Carol Danvers, Ms. Marvel also seems to serve as a check-in point for a variety of other non-central Marvel characters. In this issue, for instance, we get lengthy appearances by Machine Man, Sleepwalker, Tigra, the Puppet Master and Silverclaw. None of the above are really characters I’d deem worthy of their own ongoing monthly series, some having already crossed that bridge and failed, but as far as supporting characters go, they’re good options.

After spending some time under the scrutiny of a large-scale book (Silverclaw and Tigra, for instance, were once Avengers) these guys have all been given more back story and personality than you’d expect from a backing cast. That really gives this book more depth than you’d expect, especially after reading through that roster of has-been and never-were superheroes. For example, I can remember when Sleepwalker had his own monthly series – it was a good concept, but the character never clicked and the stories were redundant. I wrote him off and shook my head when I saw that Marvel was still using him, but as a supporting character he really finds his niche. Such is the case with nearly all of these characters: left to their own, their greatest shortcomings are revealed. But in small doses, they can still tell a fine story.

Brian Reed understands that, and showcases his ability to do so with this tale. Never overly ambitious, he keeps the scale smart, manageable and within the heroes’ limits. If the master plan were too large, the stakes too high, I’d wonder why the big guns hadn’t come out to put a stop to it. The conflict is just small enough to slip below the notice of Iron Man or Spider-Man, but serious enough to retain a bit of suspense and intrigue. The underlying mood is fairly light, but that doesn’t mean there’s no tension or drama, and the dialog is kept loose and entertaining.

Aaron Lopresti’s artwork matches that tone – detailed and intelligent, but not over-treated or needlessly dynamic. He has a distinct personality, which shines through in many of these panels, and a good understanding of the subtleties of most of the cast. Occasionally, he’ll run into a problem with a character or two – Silverclaw, for instance, never jumps off of the page with the same kind of life he bestows upon Tigra or Sleepwalker – but his rendition of Danvers herself is pretty close to ideal. I’ve seen so many artists use her costume and powers as an excuse to over-exaggerate her physique that it’s nice to see somebody who can render Carol a bit more realistically without losing sight of her identity or charm. He’s a good fit for this series.

End to end, I have to say I got more than I was expecting from this book. Although this is the middle chapter of a three-part tale, I was brought up to speed very quickly (and without any assistance from the “last month” blurb on the opening page) and never felt like I’d missed anything vital to my enjoyment of the story. Sufficient progress is made for a standard 22-page story, and nothing felt forced, clich├ęd or out of place. I’ll give this a strong recommendation to borrow, with a lot of potential for the future.

On a scale of 1 to 10, where 1 is poor and 10 is amazing...
Overall Score: 7

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