For some reason as of late in the Multiversity Offices, I find myself repeatedly bringing up one point within conversation: I want to read more superhero comics by Brian Reed. I can’t remember what stemmed this (it was probably discussion of Dark Reign or something), but I find myself repeatedly hopping onto Amazon to see if that American Son trade ever came out (it didn’t) or if perhaps there was a comic he wrote that I haven’t checked out (turns out there is – Captain Marvel, humorously enough!). The point still remains: I want to read more superhero comics by Brian Reed.
“What stemmed this, though?” you probably ask. “Was there a particular book that you enjoyed so much that leaves you wanting more?” Yes, there indeed was: Brian Reed’s 50-issue run on Ms. Marvel.
Check behind the cut for some words on why.
At this point for any regular comic book reader – at least with the Marvel Universe – there is no reason why you shouldn’t know the name Brian Reed. He worked with Brian Bendis on the Illuminati mini and the Spider-Woman origin mini, he wrote a few Secret Invasion tie-ins, and he’s done various work with Spider-Man’s universe (if not implicitly the character himself). He’s also currently working on the latest line of Halo books for Marvel, and he has a background as a videogame writer/designer (he worked on the Ultimate Spider-Man videogame with Bendis, which is presumably what brought him to Marvel now). And while I certainly own the majority of what I just listed, none of this was what actually made me stop and think, “Hey – I want to follow what this writer writes!” That was Ms. Marvel.
I had no real reason to care about Ms. Marvel. She showed up on a bunch of teams whose books I read, and I suppose she’d certainly had a long lineage within the Marvel history, being part of a dense space mythos. But there still wasn’t a lot of reasons to actively care; she was there in books I read, so I’ll read her appearances there. However, when Dark Reign happened I found myself more willing to try out books I had never read before, which included Ms. Marvel right as it was taken over by Karla Sofen. I was immediately drawn to the title due to Reed’s characterization and writing, which breathed a lot of life into the characters and gave them a distinct amount of energy within the book. It was a very human wait to write such a super-powered character; it’s hard to relate to characters like Ms. Marvel sometimes due to their over-powered nature and improbable elements. It takes a strong writer to bring them down to Earth while keeping their vitality, and that’s what Reed did.
I know what you’re thinking (or I can guess): based on the trade covers by Greg Horn and preconceived notions of Ms. Marvel, you probably doubt this. You’re not neccesarily wrong in doing so; Ms. Marvel’s ongoing was apparently a bit of a tough sell on the general public. However, the fact that it lasted 50 issues certainly says something about it, and no matter what Greg Horn image is emblazoned on the cover I can assure you the interior art is much more respectful and interesting. It was a book that sought to revitalize the character and her franchise, and as far as I know for those that gave it a shot that worked. Obviously the odds are a bit against her given the stigma and – let’s be frank – her outfit, which has gained ire perhaps on the same grounds that Wonder Woman’s recent wardrobe malfunctions have. However, when the character was originally created by Gerry Conway, he stated that she was a parallel for “the modern woman’s quest for raised consciousness, for self-liberation, for identity,” and that was the singular purpose of Reed’s run. Reed had a lot of fun playing around in the superhero world, but he was writing a character who felt real. She had human relationships with other characters in the pages of the books, she was overwhelmed by odds but rose above them, she had obvious emotion and not in a hackneyed cliche way. While stigma may be daunting, Reed certainly beats all the odds and does for Ms. Marvel the same thing that Sterling Gates did for Supergirl.Continued below
Throughout the pages of the book, Reed spent a lot of time really making sure that Carol Danvers could stand on her own as opposed to just a member of whatever team. He gave her a personal life, developed her roles in stories like Civil War and Secret Invasion and moved her from a bit-part of either story, and even attempted to take her into some darker places with the Operation: Lightning Storm arc that found her working for Tony Stark and attempting to stop supervillains before they can become greater threats at her own personal detriment. Reed even let the book get a bit crazy, throwing in some MODOK embryos, Brood, and even weird alternate/split personalities given physical form (you kinda have to read that one for yourself). There’s even an entire bit in which Ms. Marvel encounters a new character named Storyteller and briefly becomes a pirate; it’s tremendous fun. The book also features a wide and pretty great cast of characters who aren’t used in many other books, like Wonder Man, Machine Man, Arana, Sleepwalker, Jessica Jones before she was Jessica Jones (i.e. before Bendis kicked the character’s appearances in overdrive) and, of course, Noh Var and “Captain Marvel” (the one later revealed to be a Skrull). It’s an ecclectic mix of stories and art that, on the whole, round-up perhaps some of the best times Ms. Marvel has been given – and it ends with so many threads left loose that it’s rather unfortunate the book was cancelled.
I’ll be honest: I’m still waiting for the day Reed announces his new superhero book. I feel like it has to be coming soon, especially given the teaser work that Reed gave to the Protector (currently in the Avengers) in the final issue of Ms. Marvel. I get the impression Marvel is just waiting for the right time to launch a Protector book so I can buy it, but I have no idea when it’s coming. Until then, however, I can assure everyone that Ms. Marvel is decidedly a work to track down in trade and enjoy. It’s perhaps one of the most underrated runs in Marvel’s output from the past decade, and it should certainly give you new respect for a severely underused character.