In "Ms. Marvel" #1, Carol Danvers set out to be one of the best superheroes in the Marvel Universe and now, three years later, it looks like she's arrived at that pinnacle. Ms. Marvel is leading the Mighty Avengers and fighting on the front lines against the Skrulls' Secret Invasion, and the months and weeks ahead will continue to be eventful for the powerful Carol Danvers. CBR News spoke with "Ms. Marvel" writer Brian Reed about his plans for the title character, which include "Ms. Marvel Annual" #1 -- in stores now -- and "Ms. Marvel: Storyteller," a one-shot special arriving in November.
"Ms. Marvel Annual" #1 teams Carol with an unlikely ally, the Amazing Spider-Man. "They both want to make the world a better place and that's a big thing to have in common, but after that they couldn't be more different," Brian Reed told CBR News. "He's a smart ass and she's straight laced. Also this story takes place after 'Civil War' but before 'Secret Invasion,' so he's an unregistered hero and she's a registered one."
Reed continued, "In the early days when heroes bumped into each other they didn't trust one another so it's a chance to play with that again. And I'm really playing with that on a big scale because Ms. Marvel was really a big face of the Registration movement. It was pretty much her and Iron Man. On the other side, two of the bigger names were Captain America and Spider-Man, so this is really an opportunity to bring those two forces together."
Peter Parker and Carol Danvers may not trust each other, but Brian Reed quickly discovered there was plenty of chemistry between the two heroes. "I'm not kidding, I wrote like 30 pages of dialog for them!" he laughed. "Because often when I write something before I explain what the action is, I'll just write dialog, and with these two the banter just went. I cut out like two issues worth of banter and that spawned an idea for a later post-'Secret Invasion' issue of Ms. Marvel that has Spider-Man in it. They were so much fun to write together that I knew exactly what I wanted to do next with them."
"Ms. Marvel Annual" #1 finds Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel confronting an all-new mechanized menace running lose in New York City. "There's something very robotic happening in New York City. It starts off with a bit of grey goo on a car and goes from there," Reed explained. "These robots are rebuilding themselves to be bigger and better and as Ms. Marvel and Spider-Man go to fight them they realize that punching them isn't going to do anything. As they uncover the reason why this is going on things just get weirder and weirder."
The tone of the annual can best be described as old school action. "It was entirely my writing of late '70s and early '80s Marvel Comics," Reed said. "We've got superheroes being superheroes, quirky personalities, and we blow up a lot of stuff up in the process."
Reed was amazed by the work of his artistic collaborator on the annual, Mark Robinson. "There are literally scenes that when I wrote them I thought, 'I don't know how you're going to draw that.' I may have even apologized in the script," Reed laughed. "At one point, I have these robots building themselves out of scrap parts from around New York. They get bigger and bigger as the story goes on and they're lashed together with everything from an iPod to a car engine; basically whatever they find, and Mark pulled it off. He did some fantastic stuff."
Next Week's "Ms. Marvel" #30 concludes the book's ties to "Secret Invasion" and sends Carol to Ryker's Island for a terrifying confrontation. "There's something even worse than a Super Skrull inside Ryker's Island and the Skrulls put it in there," Reed teased. "As the story goes on we get the sense that the Skrulls created this thing to use as an extra weapon in their arsenal, but they were a little afraid of what it would do to them."
"Ms. Marvel" #30 is a mix of horror and the widescreen action featured in the previous installments of the "Secret Invasion" tie-in arc. "It's Carol meeting the worst thing the Skrulls have to offer one on one." Reed said. "And her realizing that she's not going to be tough enough to take it down, but she's the only superhuman around at the moment."
During the "Secret Invasion" tie-in, Ms. Marvel had to step up her game by tackling numerous Super Skrulls all on her own. For the most part she's handled herself admirably, but in issue #28, Ms. Marvel flew a Super Skrull into space and, disturbingly, took the time to watch him die in the vacuum, something that will be followed up on in upcoming issues of "Ms. Marvel." "[Issue #31] is more of a peek into who is this woman that's been letting supervillains kill themselves and enjoyed watching a Skrull die," Reed said. "We're starting to see some of the underlying psychology to her and we're starting to see some of Carol's damaged goods here.
"She let the Puppet Master kill himself when she knew full well what he could do and that she could stop him," Reed continued. "Issue #32-33 are actually flashback issues to Carol's time in the Air Force and how she became a spy. Once you see that part of her story a lot of other stuff is going to make sense. She went through a very dark place and it's going to get a little darker for her."
The alien Brood Hunter Cru warned Ms. Marvel in issue #23 that things will get darker for her, and that warning will come back to haunt her soon. "Cru's warning is something that is coming up in the next year of the book," Reed confirmed. "What happens is the book takes a really weird turn at the end of issue #30 and you're going to think that Cru's warning doesn't have anything to do with it and as it turns out, actually it does."
During the dark times ahead of her, Carol Danvers will look back on her "Secret Invasion" adventures with surprising fondness. "The whole reason Carol got her act together at the beginning of the book was because she was the only person involved in the 'House of M' reality who had a positive experience," Reed said. "It turns out 'Secret Invasion' is another positive experience for her. Turns out it was exactly what she needs. We saw a little bit of this in issue #28. She wakes up and realizes the stuff she's been doing is kind of stupid. She realizes, 'I've been going about this all wrong.' And just as she's figuring this out in 'Secret Invasion' we're going to take it all away from her. So what we're going to see post-Secret Invasion is Carol trying to survive without Ms. Marvel. How is she going to pull it off?"
Readers get their first hints of how Carol is surviving in "Ms. Marvel" #31, which hits stores September 24. "Something we haven't seen a whole lot of was Carol's family relationships," Reed stated. "So what I wanted to do was to use #31 as the bridge between the crazy explosions of 'Secret Invasion' and the flashbacks in issues #32-33. I thought starting with family was a good way to do it, because no matter who you are, your family affects the beginning, middle and end of your life. So what we have in #31 is Carol is going back to visit her father, who's on his deathbed. And she's coming to visit for the first time in years.
"Years ago, when Rogue stole all of Carol's memories and she went to live with her parents, she didn't know who they were. And in the years since, she's had the clinical knowledge that 'this is my mom and my dad' but she's not had the relationship with them. Now here's the one time a family needs to come together and she just hasn't got what it takes to do it. It's like if someone told you that Bob Smith in Idaho is dying. You're going to feel bad that he's dying but it doesn't really mean anything to you and that's what she's got to roll with. She knows this guy is her dad and that the relationship she had with him wasn't great. She knows that's her mom. She knows that's her brother, but she's not wired up to process it. And that's a lot of what this issue is about."
"I turned this into my editor Steve Wacker and he goes, 'This is the best issue of 'Ms. Marvel' that never had Ms. Marvel in it,'" Reed laughed. "And like I said, the thing Carol learns in 'Secret Invasion' is how to be Ms. Marvel. And this is the beginning of us taking that away from her. You realize there's something up. In this issue she shows up at her mom's house in a taxi. It's like, 'Why didn't she fly?' We than realize there's something going on that she's not telling anybody about."
Regular "Ms. Marvel" artist Adriana Melo is taking a break from the series for the next few issues, but is using the time to work ahead on upcoming installments of the series. Filling in for her on "Ms. Marvel" #31 is artist Marcos Marz. "His art is gorgeous," Reed stated. "You look at it and think you could publish the issue without dialog. He just nailed it. There's a bit where Carol first sees her father and it's heartbreaking just looking at the pencils."
"Ms. Marvel" #31 also marks the beginning of Reed's use of out-of-order storytelling in the series. "The first time I saw anyone do it, it was Quentin Tarantino and it was like, 'You told that story out of order and it made sense!' Of course it had been done a million times before but that was the first time I really witnessed it. Now with shows like 'Lost,' everybody watches it almost every week," Reed said. "It's something I've done a little in my issues but I really wanted to play with it in telling this leg of her story because so much of her past is effecting her future."
Issues #32-33 of "Ms. Marvel" delve deep into the title character's past. "Issues #32-33 take place completely in the past, so that when we get to issue #34, which takes place in the present, we get a sense of what's going on," Reed explained. "But we're going to see jumps back and forth through time up through issue #40 and by than I promise this will all make sense. We've got it all mapped out. It's all planned."
The two-party story that begins in "Ms. Marvel" #32 flashes back to Carol Danvers days in the Air Force. "Her history was that she got out of high school, went into the Air Force, became a spy, went back into the Air Force full time, worked for NASA, met Captain Marvel and than became Ms. Marvel," Reed said. "So this is going all the way back to that beginning and seeing how she became a spy and that solider that she rediscovered during 'Secret Invasion.'"
The Carol Danvers readers meet in issue #32 is very cool and confident. "She's one of the Air Force's top test pilots so she's got a little bit of that flyboy mentality, that 'cooler-than-thou.' She's very together," Reed remarked. "At the start of the issue we see her with Tony Stark and they're sort of flirting. Back than Tony Stark was still Tony Stark and she was just a girl in the Air Force. He flirts with her though and she stands right up and doesn't take it.
"I wanted to do this flashback so you understood where she was. So when you look at the last 27 issues before 'Secret Invasion' you kind of say, 'Hey! Here's this evolution of this person.' There was her figuring out who she was and going about it the completely wrong way. And now she's getting back to her roots and this is who she was."
"Ms. Marvel" #32-33 have to do with Carol Danvers's first exposure to the world of espionage. "Really the next year thematically is going to be a spy story for her," Reed said. "Nobody has really explored her spy history. There have been all these cool hints of it and a couple of stories here and there but we've never seen the whole thing. Nobody has really laid down the definition of this is when she became this and why and that's a lot of what 'Ms. Marvel' is going to be about after 'Secret Invasion.'"
The world of espionage is morally murky and the tone of "Ms. Marvel" #32-33 will reflect that. "We see the first time Carol Danvers killed a man and we see how it affected her. We see what it did to her and why she did it," Reed hinted. "Issue #32 is exceptionally dark. It's one of those things that when I wrote it I thought, 'I've got to go all the way on this. I've got to be as dark as possible and I was, I'm not doing a MAX book but I was certainly doing something that was PG-13-plus. It was the first time I was worried about letting my 12-year-old read 'Ms. Marvel!'"
Artist Paulo Siqueira brings to life "Ms. Marvel" #32-33. "I've seen some of his pages. There's a bit where someone suffers a compound fracture, which as you know is when the bone juts out of the skin," Reed said. "It hurts just to look at the picture. It's like 'OWW!'"
November sees the release of the "Ms. Marvel Special: Storyteller" one-shot and allows Reed to return to a character he introduced in January 2007 in the "Ms. Marvel Special-1 Shot." Explained the writer, "His name is Gavin and what we learned in the first story was that he was used in an A.I.M. experiment which tried to recreate the powers of Wanda Maximoff, the Scarlet Witch. Somehow A.I.M. found out about the House of M reality so they were trying to recreate Wanda's abilities. All we know was that Gavin was one of several test subjects and he got loose. That's where we are at the start of this story."
Like "Ms. Marvel Annual" #1, the "Storyteller" special takes place before "Secret Invasion." "Ms. Marvel is searching out A.I.M. cells and beating them up," Reed said. "She finds that A.I.M forces have been monitoring Gavin, the storyteller kid. They've found him before she did. So she goes to find him and he's living on an island in the ocean that he made. He's there with his friends and when we first see them, they're playing pirates. Gavin has created pirate boats and he's got all of the Marvel heroes there and they're all pirates. Clearly he heard the story about when the Fantastic Four went back in time and the Thing became Blackbeard. So he's got all these heroes being pirates and attacking one another and this story is about Carol finding him and trying to help him. We start to learn that things may not be so right with this kid and learn how he became part of this A.I.M. project which gave him his powers."
"Storyteller" reunites Reed with his collaborator on the "Ms. Marvel Special-1 Shot," artist Giuseppe Camuncoli. "This time around I know who I'm writing for and I know what his strengths are and I know what I had done in the first one on accident that he turned around and made really great," Reed said. "Now I can say, 'Here are the great parts!' and write those scenes just for him."
If Reed has his way, "Storyteller" is just the second chapter in Gavin's story. "This has become a really great little side story for me. It was something I didn't think I'd get a chance to revisit," Reed remarked. "And honestly I was just thinking about this story this morning and, if we ever get to do it, I know exactly what the third chapter is and I know how it ties back into the main series."
Reed has chronicled the adventures of "Ms. Marvel" for almost three years now and the character is still as fresh and exciting to him as when he started the series. "I'm still having as much fun as when I started and I think I'm better at what I do now than when I started," the writer said. "It's been a blast. I was pretty sure I was going to get this job and by the end of issue #3 they'd go, 'Okay, thanks! Bye!' And than you're like, 'Okay maybe I'll make it to issue #6! Hey maybe I'll see #12! Okay, what about issue #24?'
"My goal was to always to beat the run of the original series, which was 24 issues. So when #25 hit, I was a happy boy and now it's just about how far we can make this train move. We've got a good little following and we've got stories planned out through issue #40. So we're looking strong and we're looking good."