Today’s Super Comic — Ms. Marvel #20 (2007)

I’ve been rereading writer Brian Reed’s Ms. Marvel and enjoying the gradual redevelopment of Carol Danvers from failed superhero to A-lister. Issue #20 concludes a three-part storyline that pits her against a villain who’s a very appropriate antagonist when you consider the character’s troubled fictional history (spoilers ahead).

Even before Rogue absorbed her memories and powers, Ms. Marvel’s career went off the rails in an ill-advised Avengers storyline. Following a supernatural pregnancy (and what good ever follows a supernatural pregnancy in comics?), Carol left to live in another dimension with her…son who was also his own father and therefore her lover too? Was that it? I had to check, and regrettably, I’m not wrong. Ugh.

So, back then, Carol was mind-controlled in mega-creepy fashion. Therefore, in #20, when she thwarts another creepy mind-control plot, this one by perennial Fantastic Four foe the Puppet Master, her decision to let the Puppet Master kill himself feels entirely justified. Not heroic, but in character for Carol at this point. (That Avengers storyline is never mentioned here, and that’s probably for the best, but knowing the history adds subtext to the story.)

Importantly, she’s conflicted about her decision, albeit after the fact. It shows how she’s still getting herself back on track, but also that she’s capable of the self-reflection and growth needed to get there.

Writer: Brian Reed

Penciler: Greg Tocchini

Inker: Roland Paris

Cover: Greg Horn

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Ms. Marvel vol. 4: Monster Smash (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Ms. Marvel #10 (2007)

The Ms. Marvel series from ten years ago is largely about Carol Danvers striving to become one of Earth’s greatest superheroes. But to be her best self, she must first confront her own worst self—and do so in very comic booky ways, of course.

In #10, a Carol Danvers from a different reality has come to murder the X-Men’s Rogue. Bit of history: In Rogue’s first appearance way back when, she was a member of the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and attacked Ms. Marvel, permanently absorbing all her powers and memories. Carol hung out with the X-Men for a while as Professor Xavier helped reassemble her memories, but she felt like a stranger in her own head. After she evolved into Binary and the X-Men took Rogue in, Carol ran away from Earth with the Starjammers (and returned at some point, obviously, though I’m not sure when).

So apparently in every reality, Rogue has ruined Carol’s life in this same way, so this alternate Carol (calling herself Warbird, which was the main Carol’s name during her alcoholic period), having failed to save her own world from obliteration, is on a mission to kill every reality’s Rogue and every Carol who has forgiven and befriended Rogue.

Yes, very comic booky. But in a good way. The situation forces the real Carol to question whether she has indeed forgiven Rogue, and it tempts her to run away again. And she has to make a decision to be a better person than she was all those years ago.

Comic booky shenanigans, when executed properly, can indeed lead to character growth.

Writer: Brian Reed

Penciler: Mike Wieringo

Inker: Wade Von Grawbadger

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Ms. Marvel vol. 2: Civil War (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Captain Marvel #1 (2012)

Carol Danvers hasn’t had the smoothest history, but she’s finally in the A-list where she belongs. After her character-rehabilitation in the Ms. Marvel series from ten years ago, she was finally ready to take the name and title she should have had from the start—Captain Marvel, Earth’s Mightiest Hero.

She officially takes the name in Captain Marvel #1 (from 2012, not 2014 or 2016; I miss the days when series would go on for hundreds of issues). It’s basically a tone-setting issue, beginning with a fun romp as then–Ms. Marvel and Captain America take on the Absorbing Man, who amusingly wants to steal a moon rock in hopes it will give him moon powers. Things get a bit more serious later with the true inciting incident for the first storyline—the death of Carol’s hero from her youth (and not a superhero hero).

It’s a solid start that strikes a nice tonal balance. I thoroughly enjoy Kelly Sue DeConnick’s writing style—the dialogue sounds organic, the sense of humor is strong, and there’s a focus on character. All good stuff.

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Artist: Dexter Soy

Cover: Ed McGuinness, Dexter Vines, Javier Rodriguez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Captain Marvel vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Ms. Marvel #6 (2016)

ms-marvel-6It’s only natural for teen superheroes to screw up from time to time, and in Ms. Marvel #6, Kamala screws up big time…literally big time.

Like many teenagers these days, she’s so over-committed that she’s trying to be in multiple places at once (also literally in her case). In doing so, she risks missing out on all the important things and winds up fighting a giant-sized clone of herself (maybe not so much like many teenagers).

I’m pleased to see that the series, as well as Kamala, values input from adult role models. Captain Marvel (her hero) and Iron Man (her boss in the Avengers) both show up. Their Civil War II tensions appear without much subtlety, but no knowledge of that storyline is required (I haven’t read it yet). Despite their differences, though, both adults genuinely care about Ms. Marvel … not only her career, but her personal well-being.

Such a fun series, with excellent heart at its foundation.

Writer: G. Willow Wilson

Artist: Nico Leon

Cover: David Lopez

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Ms. Marvel vol. 5: Super Famous (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Spider-Man #3 (2016)

spider-man-3When is a team-up not a team-up? When the title character is grounded!

The superheroics take a break, but the fun continues in #3 as the new Ms. Marvel visits the new Spider-Man. These two are easily Marvel’s best teen superheroes at the moment, so pairing them up—even for just some banter and visual gags—is a delight.

This series started strong, and each issue keeps getting better…and the ominous shenanigans later in the book bode well for subsequent issues. Maybe not so well for Miles, though.

It’s a teen book done right.

Writer: Brian Michael Bendis

Artist: Sara Pichelli

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Spider-Man: Miles Morales vol. 1

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Ms. Marvel #3 (2016)

Ms Marvel 3Renumbering hasn’t derailed the new Ms. Marvel’s quality. Writer G. Willow Wilson continues to demonstrate a superb grasp of what makes a great teen superhero book, and the result is a fun time for readers young and old.

Issue #3 raises the stakes by imperiling Kamala’s best friend through brainwashing, leading her to turn to an unexpected ally to help save him as well as the rest of Jersey City from an insidious plot. Wilson puts the focus on friendship without sacrificing any super-heroic excitement, and the approach works wonderfully. Not all of the individual pieces are wholly original, such as the teen soap opera elements or a superhero’s public perception problems, but they’re assembled expertly and at precisely the correct pace to create a consistently engaging read.

Best of all, Ms. Marvel provides an excellent role model for kids, one delightfully free of cynicism.

Writer: G. Willow Wilson

Artist: Takeshi Miyazawa

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Ms. Marvel vol. 5: Super Famous (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up

Today’s Super Comic — Ms. Marvel #1 (2006)

Ms._Marvel_Vol_2_1In recent years, as Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers has become one of Marvel’s preeminent superheroes. She should have been an A-lister when she first became Ms. Marvel in the ‘70s, but writers have not always treated her character well. A supernatural pregnancy led to her leaving the Avengers, and later a pre-X-Men Rogue absorbed her powers and memories, stealing her very identity in the process.

Carol eventually reemerged as a superhero, first as Binary (not the name of an A-lister, for sure) and later as the alcoholic Warbird. By 2006, she was overdue for another shot at the Ms. Marvel title—and her own solo title—and in this series written by Brian Reed, she earns it.

The first issue acknowledges Carol’s tendency to go astray, and it establishes her determination to rectify that situation and become one of the greats.

That’s going to take time, as shown by her knee-jerk reaction of calling for the Avengers when an extraterrestrial threat appears. But she’s working at it.

As Captain Marvel today, Carol is one of the best superheroes in the Marvel Universe, as she should be. And this is where her resurgence began.

Writer: Brian Reed

Penciler: Roberto de la Torre

Inker: Jimmy Palmiotti

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues; Marvel Unlimited; Comixology; included in Ms. Marvel vol. 1: The Best of the Best (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 13 and up

Today’s Super Comic — All-New, All-Different Avengers #6 (2016)

All-New-All-Different-Avengers-6-coverLeave it to the ever-reliable Mark Waid to craft a new Avengers series that feels both classic and fresh. A large part of this book’s success is due to the exceptionally well-balanced roster—three adults, three teenagers, and one android.

All the superhero names are pretty well established, but except for Iron Man and Vision, none are the original incarnations (though the Vision isn’t exactly like his original self, so really just Iron Man). We’ve got the former Falcon as the new Captain America, the new female Thor (I won’t spoil her identity since it was a secret not too long ago), the new teenaged Ms. Marvel, the Miles Morales Spider-Man imported from the Ultimate line, and a teenaged Nova (I haven’t read much Nova, but I’m pretty sure this kid isn’t the original).

This issue wraps up the first story arc, revealing a worthy villain for the new team and providing the sort of large-scale action the Avengers have always thrived in. The specific plot isn’t too noteworthy, but it serves as just the right vehicle to showcase the new team. Most important, the characters never get lost in the shuffle. Everyone has a distinct personality that shines through. The relationships between the members create a wonderful team dynamic. And each Avenger is first and foremost a hero. Plus, at no point does anything ever get oppressively serious.

This Avengers series definitely earns the name, and it’s a specific assemblage I want to continue to see working together. I knew I could trust Waid to get it right.

Writer: Mark Waid

Artist: Mahmud Asrar

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; included in All-New, All-Different Avengers vol. 1: The Magnificent Seven (TPB); Comixology

Appropriate For: ages 12 and up

Today’s Super Comic: Ms. Marvel #17 (2015)

MSMARVEL17I continue to catch up on Ms. Marvel, and it continues to be a total delight. Not even getting caught up in a company-wide crossover can throw it off track. Rather, this Secret Wars tie-in allows Ms. Marvel the opportunity to team up with her idol, Captain Marvel.

Kamala’s initial reaction to meeting her own personal hero after a really rough day is priceless, and their interaction throughout the issue is handled wonderfully. Her youthful enthusiasm is infectious, and Carol Danvers’ patience with her young fan and encouragement of a promising young hero helps set a great, kind-hearted tone for the story.

Writer G. Willow Wilson gets this teenage superhero series exactly right. It’s funny, full of heart, and with a protagonist who tries to do the right thing no matter how difficult that is. If you want a superhero book that will put a smile on your face, check Ms. Marvel out.

“For a while, I just felt kind of weird and gross.”

“And now?”

“Now I feel weird and awesome!”

Writer: G. Willow Wilson

Artist: Adrian Alphona

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: recent back issues; Marvel Unlimited; included in Ms. Marvel vol. 4: Last Days (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 10 and up


Today’s Super Comic: Ms. Marvel #6 (2014)

MsMarvel6Marvel Comics made lots of headlines when the new Ms. Marvel was announced, as the series features the company’s first Muslim superhero. That’s nice, but it would’ve been meaningless if the book wasn’t any good.

Now that I’ve finally gotten around to checking out the first six issues, I’m happy to say it’s great. This book is ridiculously fun.

Kamala Khan is an Avengers fangirl turned superhero, and this Jersey City teenager is still getting the hang of her new powers as the second storyline begins. She’s very likable, and as an outsider who’s just trying to do the right thing, she fits the classic wish-fulfillment trope the superhero genre often excels at. And her stretchy/shrinky powers are not only visually interesting, but they suit the awkwardness of the teenage years.

Of course, every superhero needs a great nemesis, so Ms. Marvel gets…Thomas Edison…a genetically engineered bird-man named Thomas Edison. It’s kind of perfect, actually.

And she gets her first superhero team-up in this issue, and the interaction between the two is nothing short of delightful. She’s enjoying every second of it, and therefore the reader is, too.

More comics need to be like this. It’s great for middle school readers and still plenty of fun for adults.

Writer: G. Willow Wilson

Artist: Jacob Wyatt

Publisher: Marvel Comics

How to Read It: back issues, Marvel Unlimited, Ms. Marvel vol. 2: Generation Why (TPB)

Appropriate For: ages 11 and up