Ms. Marvel #1

[11 May 2006]

By William Gatevackes


Ms. Marvel is the latest Marvel character from the 1970’s to get dusted off and receive another title here in the Zero’s. Her history is an interesting one. Carol Danvers started as a member of Captain Marvel’s supporting cast before becoming a distaff version of the character. She got her own series in the 1970’s which ran for 23 issues, then appeared in various Avengers and X-men books for the last two decades.

Ms. Marvel was never one of Marvel’s hottest properties, yet not one of their worst sellers either. She is a character with a lot of upside, one tied into the fabric of the Marvel Universe containing a great deal of potential, but potential that as of yet has remained untapped.

Ms. Marvel#1 uses the character’s “real life” struggle to find an audience and popularity amongst readers as the model for its storyline. Ms. Marvel is a hero that flies under the radar of the Marvel Universe. Even though she is immensely powerful, the bad guys she faces don’t even know who she is. She believes that she has the potential to be one of the most respected and well-known heroes in the world, and she is taking steps to garner the respect she feels she deserves.

This tack is brilliant, not only because it plays into fans opinions of the character, but also because it shows the character’s vulnerability. The lengths to which she goes to reach her goal, which includes hiring a publicist, doesn’t come from ego or hubris, but rather from a lack of it. Carol Danvers is motivated by an insecurity that will resonate with a lot of readers. And this makes her an interesting character.

In the wrong hands, this course could come off as being too melodramatic or extremely silly. You need the right touch to make this type of story work. Luckily, Marvel was able to find two relatively new creators that succeed in this task.

Brian Reed comes to comics from the video game industry but writes like he’s been doing comics all his life. This being a first issue, not much is revealed about the overall storyline, but Reed provides a satisfying story to readers. He balances action scenes and conversation scenes very well. He excels at dialogue, making what the characters say seem natural and real. He deftly adds exposition in so that the reader isn’t hit over the head with “THIS IS EXPOSITION!!!”

When I saw Roberto De La Torre’s artwork, I wondered immediately where he came from and why he hasn’t done more comic work. I have never heard of the artist before this series, but his penciling is an example of what good comic book art work should be. His pencils are extremely detailed yet clear and concise. His characters are each unique and easy to recognize. There are two attractive brunette women and two attractive blonde women in the story. For most artists, this would be confusing because all their characters look the same. With De La Torre, you can tell when Carol Danvers is on the page and when Sharon Carter is on the page. Furthermore, you can recognize Danvers whenever she appears in the book whether she is in costume or not. This is a skill lacking in many established and popular professionals today.

De La Torre draws a good action sequence, but really shines in drawing the more conversational panels. Many artists will draw two people talking as little more than talking heads. There will be a static sameness to each panel. De La Torre fills each of these panels with life. Sure, the two characters are talking, but they are also doing other things at the same time: putting up their hair, stabbing a hunk of salad, lighting up a cigarette (a big no-no in the Quesada era of Marvel that some how slipped under the radar) or even just folding their hands a certain way. This brings the panels to life and creates the illusion that you are actually watching two people having a conversation instead of two comic characters spouting exposition.

I cannot begin to tell you how impressed I was by De La Torre’s work. I guarantee that even though many people might not know him now, this will not last for long.

Ms. Marvel has all the makings of a successful book: an interesting premise, a great writer and a soon-to-be superstar artist. Will it be enough to overcome any of the prejudices comic fans might have about the character? Hopefully, yes.

Published at: http://www.popmatters.com/pm/review/ms-marvel-1/