Thursday, February 7, 2008

Ms. Marvel #24

I’m having a hard time understanding the recent extraterrestrial events in Ms. Marvel. Evidently, she’s battled the invading forces of the Brood alongside a shape-shifter named Cru, who somehow handed over a few shards of her own genetic material to the titular superhero. Since then, Carol’s been surviving wounds she shouldn’t, inexplicably losing faith in her own body and hearing voices. Now Cru wants her genetics back, there’s a new Brood Queen in town and Carol’s powers are continuing to expand.

Sounds like an awful lot, right? Fortunately, in action it’s not so bad. Brian Reed has a talent for compressing such complicated events into a clean, reader-friendly format. He occasionally overdoes it with the internal monologues, (especially considering each box of introspection is accompanied by a gaudy lightning bolt icon… it’s cute once in a while, but five of them within two panels?) but even those are thankfully kept brief and straight to the point. Although the majority of this issue is slobberknocking action, it maintains an intelligent dialog and never seems to regress into mindless fistfights and power blasts for their own sake. There’s some weighty stuff going on with serious consequences, and Reed is able to surprise readers on several instances in this issue.

With that said, I’ve never been much of a Brood fan. There’s something about an inconquerable mass of gigantic, sharp-toothed sentient insects that removes me from that suspension of disbelief and takes me out of the story. They’re treated semi-seriously here, as a real threat, but one that says things like “I’ll snap you in half and eat your innards!” randomly and repeatedly from cover to cover. Still, it’s a solid enough conclusion to the arc, which leaves just enough threads dangling to keep the fanboys coming back for another month.

Aaron Lopresti’s artwork is a great match for the tone of Brian Reed’s tale – it’s just simple enough to keep the page’s focus on the storytelling and not his linework, but detailed enough to enliven the page with an extra touch of depth. He’s got a nice firm understanding of the primary cast: Carol, Wonder Man, Sleepwalker, Agent Sum… and gives each of them a unique face. His fundamentals are spot-on, but he could do with a little work on his splash pages. As an all-out action issue, he’s asked to provide several of them (the first six pages are nothing but full-page spreads) and they generally underwhelm. They’re missing the rich creativity and ease of motion evidenced in his interiors, like he’s overreaching in search of some unseen perfection. When he’s constrained within a solid set of panels, he’s great, but he has trouble translating his style into a larger format without that rigid frame.

If you’ve been reading Ms. Marvel for a while, you should know what to expect here. It’s solid storytelling, albeit with a moderately low-level cast, accompanied by fine artwork that’s good enough to slip by unnoticed but not great enough to demand your attention. There are a couple of big shocks contained within this issue, and they both deliver. Normally, this would be something I’d recommend you merely flip through unless you have a special interest in the cast, but this month’s is a minor step above that. Borrow it from a friend, it’s worth a second look.

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

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