Book reviews / Comics

Book review: Marvel Masterworks – Ms Marvel vol. 1

So I finally succumbed and got a Marvel Unlimited membership, mainly because I wanted to read all of Captain Marvel before the film next year (as I’m a big fan of the more recent incarnation of that super hero). I looked at how much all the comics would cost and it was definitely more than a year’s subscription, so I just went with it.

So I’ve started at the beginning, with Ms Marvel/Carol Danvers, which was written in 1977. And wow, can you ever tell it was written in 1977. It’s an odd mixture of trying to be right on feminist (because its a female super hero) and just kind of outrageously sexist. If I’m being charitable, I would consider it comic effect. If I’m not being charitable, some of the characterisation of some of the male characters are awful.

But lets start with Ms Marvel herself. Volume 1 covers 14 comics in all, and has Ms Marvel pulverising a whole host of B-grade villains. DEATH BIRD! GROTESK! SCORPIAN! Generally it’s “oh geez, getting my ass kicked” followed by judo throw and winning the day. It’s fairly repetitive. There’s lots of “you can’t beat me WOMAN!” which is proven instantly wrong. As well as Ms Marvel talking about being a Kree Warrior a lot. It’s all fine, not really that complex but fine.

The stuff that began to annoy me was up until issue 12, Ms Marvel and Carol Danvers are basically fighting for control over each other. It starts with her blacking out completely and slowly being aware that it’s Ms Marvel. However, the ultimate resolution in issue 12 was pretty lame. It was just very stilted and short, and also repetitive as she already knew she was both people. Anyway, you’d have to read it to see what I mean.

As well, there’s not a lot of character development. Carol gets more frustrated and angry, but there’s nothing really happening. It’s just a series of encounters with bad guys and explosions and stuff. Even her half-baked romance with her psychiatrist is inconsistent. One moment they’re on a date, and the next just friends.

Also, all the male characters basically look like Robert Redford with different hair.

Some of the sexism is pretty laughable – mostly when it’s related to J. Jonah Jameson.

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Clearly, they were setting him up to be a bit of a foil, even though that rarely occurs. Carol Danvers in this universe is the editor of Woman magazine (I know, right?) and Jameson runs the publishing company.

As mentioned, lots of the male villains say things like “you can’t beat me, WOMAN!” Which is fine, like the first time, but by the 14th issue it becomes somewhat stale. Looking forward to being annoyed in volume 2!

But the absolutely vile kind of sexism (or at least appears to me) is with Carol Danvers dad, of all people! He just seems like an absolute asshole. Carol’s home for dinner and her mom drops a line about Joe Danvers not reading Woman magazine because there’s not a man in charge. Yet, his daughter is the editor. Like, what a prick.

Also, this panel, which was a bit. Ewww, she’s your daughter.

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Then there is the last sequence of issue 14, where Ms Marvel saves Joe Danvers (twice). And well, the last set of panels are quite something.

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I think Carol’s mom needs a divorce, living with that asshole must not easy. She’s internalised his misogyny.

Great on Ms Marvel on that last panel going, “I don’t care.” But would that all be that neat? If your father thought so little of you that he wanted you replaced in your chosen profession by a man, would you have even bothered to have seen if he was okay? Anyway, that bit seemed entirely unrealistic (and pretty garbage of Joe Danvers) in my eyes.

Anyway, that was…interesting….onto volume 2. I’m hoping for less “WOMAN!” and less obviously sexist bating in dialogue, but I don’t have that high hopes.

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