Ms. Marvel: The Woman Who Fell To Earth collects the remaining stories from the first phase of the heroic adventures of future Captain Marvel Carol Danvers, culminating with one of the most controversial stories of the early ‘80s.
Feeling more confident in her role as a heroine, Ms. Marvel tangles with the amphibious villain Tiger Shark, unaware that the shape-changing Mystique is targeting her, setting her against the armored threat Centurion, an encounter she survives thanks to new allies the Avengers. A confrontation with Kree agent Ronan the Accuser reunites Carol with Mar-Vell, the original Captain Marvel. Ms. Marvel adopts a distinctive new costume in time for an encounter with a society of lizard people in the New Mexico desert, then has a re-match with alien powerhouse Deathbird, before she teams with Vance Astro to deal with a mind-controlling villain and the return of an old friend she’d feared dead. Carol is embroiled in an adventure with Spider-Man and Doctor Strange to face the threat of the Silver Dagger. Poker night with the Thing, Nick Fury, Beast and Wonder Man leads to a confrontation with a renegade military unit. Ms. Marvel confronts the lethal Sabretooth, before a personal tragedy puts her on the trail of Mystique and her new Brotherhood of Evil Mutants.
Ms. Marvel’s successful stint as a full-time Avenger ends with a bizarre “pregnancy” that arises out of nowhere and comes to full term within a couple days. Her “son,” Marcus, grows to adulthood in hours and reveals he’s the son of Immortus, the master of Limbo, who had transported Carol to Limbo, romanced her and implanted his essence inside her so he could be reborn on Earth. After the machine necessary for Marcus to stay on Earth is destroyed, Carol impulsively elects to go back to Limbo with him. But only a few months later, the Avengers learn Carol had returned to Earth without telling them, when Spider-Woman rescues the catatonic Carol from a plunge off the Golden Gate Bridge. That puts the heroes on a collision course with Mystique and the Brotherhood, including the power-stealing Rogue who accidentally absorbed Carol’s powers and memories permanently. Partially recovered, Carol lashes out at the Avengers for not having realized that Marcus was using mind control against her and had violated her. A mid-80s coda saw Carol, now reborn as the space heroine Binary, learn of Mar-Vell’s death.
Writer Chris Claremont really hit his stride with the character in the stories collected here. In her own book, Carol/Ms. Marvel grew into a commanding, confident hero, able to stack up against some heavy hitters in the Marvel rogues gallery. Claremont kept some tinges of the self-doubt of earlier stories, but showed Carol working past it. Even as she became more comfortable in her heroic role, Carol’s career and romantic prospects experienced ups and downs, combining for an entertaining series. Of particular note for X-Men fans is the debut of Mystique. Claremont teased a personal hatred Mystique bore for Carol/Ms. Marvel, but that wasn’t resolved in the initial run.
Because just when the book was finally on track, Marvel abruptly pulled the plug after the 23rd issue. The already completed 24th issue sat in the archives for well over a decade, before Marvel ran it in one of its anthology series. Marvel even commissioned Claremont to write a proper concluding chapter (an unofficial 25th issue for the original run), where he tied up some loose ends and provided an explanation for Mystique’s vendetta against Carol.
After her solo series ended, Ms. Marvel became a full-time member of the Avengers cast. And despite meshing well with the team and drawing positive fan response, Marvel editorial decided that, as the company moved into the ’80s, the ’70s style feminism with which the character was identified was dated and mandated her removal from the book. That was a disappointment, not just for losing a strong character, but because Claremont and other writers really had moved away from the “straw man” feminism of the earlier issues of the series (for the most part). But worse than losing the character was the way that she was written out.
Industry vets Jim Shooter, David Michelinie, George Pérez and Bob Layton all got “credit” for the plot that outraged fans. The Marcus story had been intended as some kind of “grand romantic” plot, yet the various men involved in writing and editing the story failed to realize that a sequence where Marcus “won” Carol via abducting her, subjecting her to romantic and psychological pressure and finally giving her a “boost” via mind control wasn’t romance, it was rape. Worse, the “happy” ending saw Carol leaving her life behind to run off with her rapist.
Claremont, who’d put so much effort into developing Carol’s character, channeled his outrage and his clout as the writer of Marvel’s top-selling book to demand the next Avengers annual to address the injustice. It’s notable as the first appearance of Rogue and for broadening the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants beyond the X-Men sphere. It’s also the genesis of the close friendship between Carol and Spider-Woman Jessica Drew (a bond that’s gotten a lot of play in recent years). Claremont did some fantastic work with the story; the Avengers/Brotherhood battle was exciting and unpredictable, while Carol’s anger-fueled confrontation with the Avengers was some of Claremont’s best dramatic writing. He thereafter reclaimed the character, making her part of the X-Men’s supporting cast and remaking her as Binary.
The artists represented in the collection are a mix of Marvel bullpen regulars of the era (Jim Mooney, Carmine Infantino, Mike Vosburg) with some notable heavy hitters. Claremont’s Uncanny X-Men collaborator Dave Cockrum contributed two issues, but more notably re-designed Ms. Marvel’s costume, debuting the black one-piece with the lightning bolt emblem that became the character’s iconic look for many years. Detours into Marvel’s various team-up books brought contributions from legends-in-the-making Howard Chaykin and Frank Miller. Pérez brought his flair to the time-bending Avengers story that was intended as Ms. Marvel’s swan song, doing some strong visual work even for a tale with a flawed premise. The team of Michael Golden and Armando Gil contributed some jaw-dropping work for the Annual, conjuring up some amazing pages that brought out the drama and emotion of the story. It’s a good cross-section of where Marvel’s house style was as it moved from the late ’70s into the ‘80s.
Ms. Marvel: The Woman Who Fell To Earth is an important collection for fans of Carol Danvers. It includes some key milestones that went on to have a significant impact on the greater Marvel line, making it of interest to both devotees and more casual fans.