Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Comic Review Wednesdays - Ms. Marvel #38

Ms. Marvel #38
Written by Brian Reed
Art by Rebekah Isaacs

There's been a new Ms. Marvel in the Marvel Universe since the beginning of Dark Reign, and with the death of Carol Danvers she has usurped her title in addition to her mantle. Because Osborn's Avengers are more in the public eye then ever before, it's been decided that they need to have additional physical and psychological examinations-- the latter being a dangerous thing to put to ruthless killers and psychopaths. Norman forces Karla to be examined first believing her background as a psychologist will help size this examiner up. The secession proves to more than all parties bargained for. 

First, I should say that I haven't been a fan of the idea of a protagonist switch since it was announced a few months ago. Super-hero comics are different from other media in that they don't typically end until cancellation, and the result is that people get angry when their favorite characters die/go away because that's just not how that super-hero comics work. For many, the character is the reason for reading rather than the events (and sometimes even quality) of the book. Whenever a comic announces a changing of the guard it's most often not the best thing for sales, and God knows Ms. Marvel doesn't have the readership to lose. It's unfortunate then that after resigning to come into this issue with an open mind regarding the new protagonist that character should be one of the biggest problems with the issue. 

What I had expected from this issue was a simple exploration into the mind of the new Ms. Marvel-- that would have certainly justified the action-packed but ultimately irrelevant opening scene-- but Reed seemed to have different intentions. Once the psychologist has entered the picture, he's almost an instantly dislikable guy which on the surface seems fine given that he is essentially the antagonistic force of the issue, although it's jarring and (for myself, perhaps others) unwelcome turn of events, but once his motives are revealed in the issue things begin to get complicated. Because the examining psychologist is a ruthless, and malicious character the reader has an instant dislike of him, but his motivations flip the tables-- a move that would be technically brilliant if Reed had intended it. 

Reed's failure on this front comes from the thing that concerned me from the onset: The character we've followed for thirty-seven issues is dead! Carol Danvers, a character we grew to like, or at least remained interested in, bit the dust last issue, and Karla, this new Ms. Marvel, should be considered new to the readership. Yes, Marvel has a broad, interconnected universe in which Karla has been a player in for a long time but whenever you have a new protagonist and a readership that isn't necessarily familiar with them, you need to make that readership care about the new character to keep them on board

Here the facts: Karla is a murderous, manipulative, and downright mean bitch. That doesn't mean she can't be a successful protagonist, but it means that certain elements of her personality need to redeem her; she needs to be funny, captivatingly vicious, or something so that when a character I've disliked since the beginning of the issue reveals why he's doing what he's doing I'm not rooting for him! The fact that I wanted the antagonist force of the issue to topple Karla despite that I disliked him from the beginning says volumes about Reed's ability to make this character remotely interesting. 

Nothing in this issue made me want to continue with the new protagonist, and the events themselves were hopelessly dull. The most interesting aspects of the issue were at the very end when it began to get horribly violent. Why should I care about any of this? Is there anything captivating about a bank heist by generic villains, or hulk shaped manifestations? No. 

RATING: 3 out of 10 
This is the point to start reading Ms. Marvel if you're at all interested, but with an issue that's best aspects were some violent panels and interesting notes on the legacy of Ms. Marvel, I wouldn't recommend it. 

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