Ms. Marvel (2nd series) #18

Issue Date: 
October 2007
Story Title: 

Brian Reed (writer), Aaron Lopresti (penciler), Matt Ryan (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Alejandro Arbona and Tom Brennan (asst. editors), Bill Rosemann and Steve Wacker (editors), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Greg Horn (cover art)

Brief Description: 

A band of mind-controlled soldiers fail in an attempt to liberate a prisoner from the Raft. Ms. Marvel visits the Beast for a “second opinion” on her recent unexplained transformations and the healing abilities that accompany them. He finds nothing amiss but promises to look into it further. Araña continues as a crime-fighter and confronts her father on his irrational anger towards her mentor, Ms. Marvel. Carol’s battle with the villainess Battleaxe is interrupted when more mind-controlled soldiers appear and try and capture Battleaxe. Ms. Marvel easily defeats them and sets about finding out what they were up to. Machine Man and Sleepwalker join the ranks of Operation: Lightning Storm though they are not quite what Ms. Marvel had hoped for. Sarah Day deals with bad press from J. Jonah Jameson and is cornered when he threatens to expose Ms. Marvel’s role in helping Julia Carpenter kidnap her daughter and escape justice. Araña goes missing and is one of several super-powered women to disappear in recent weeks. The captured soldiers lead Ms. Marvel to Chile where the Puppet Master has set up shop. He now uses his clay creations to turn normal people (mostly women) into slaves. His human trafficking includes a select stock of superhuman women including Avengers Tigra and Silverclaw, Stature of the Young Avengers and Dusk a former member of the Slingers. As he shows a new client his wares, a new addition to his collection arrives… Araña!

Full Summary: 

A boat transporting four armed soldiers makes its way towards “The Raft”, a maximum security prison for superhuman criminals. Elsewhere, a hand gently pushes a toy boat that bears an equal number of soldiers. The man manipulating these toys reiterates the simplicity of the plan: simply drive the boat as fast as possible.
As the actual boat reaches the shore, the four soldiers spring into action and shoot the Raft guards who rush out to meet it. The unseen mastermind pushes forward four “toy soldiers” reminding them that subtlety is not needed as this is a “smash and grab” operation.
Inside The Raft, alarms sound as more guards arrive to counter this small attack force. The toy soldiers have now been attached to a puppeteer’s handheld manipulative to simulate them descending on zip lines. Simultaneously, the four soldiers make their way down an elevator shaft, their actions clearly guided by the puppeteer. As they reach the lower detention levels, the corridor fills with gas. The puppeteer orders them to don gas masks as they make their way to the prisoner they are there to “liberate”, “O. Midas”. They then set explosives near the prisoner’s cell but are distracted by a third wave of Raft guards. The bomb detonates, killing the four soldiers. The puppeteer tosses the clay soldiers aside angrily and yells that that was not what was supposed to happen.
Meanwhile at the Xavier Institute, Ms. Marvel is having an unexpectedly awkward visit with her friend and former teammate, Dr. Hank McCoy. He reiterates with a tone of incredulity the reason for her visit; she’s concerned because she turned blue. Carol quickly retorts that this probably doesn’t seem like a big deal to him, given that he’s been blue-hued for years. He replies that what is a big deal is that she came to him for help, given the way things were left after her last visit to the Institute. Carol begins to apologize to Hank for what happened and he interrupts and tells her that she should be apologizing to Rogue, considering that it was her ribs that were cracked during that altercation.
Carol changes the subject back to the real reason she’s here. She asks Hank if he found anything out about the blip he noticed on her medical scan during her previous visit. He tells her he found nothing and it was just a malfunction. Carol immediately tells him “No!” and insists that he’s the only one who has discovered anything. He calmly notes that she seems exceptionally worried about this. She replies that she turned blue, her eyes glowed red and she vomited blood. She hesitates for a moment before confiding in Hank that she also heard a voice. She tells him she now has a healing factor that would make Wolverine envious but that it came with a personality… or two.
Hank asks how long she’s been hearing these voices as he recalibrates his medical scanner. Carol admits she heard the voices before but assumed she was just hallucinating due to the pain of her injuries. Beast’s latest scan of Carol shows nothing of concern. He tells her that he’ll review all his scans again and check the device’s source codes to insure they are functioning properly. Carol says a sincere thank you, clearly still feeling bad that the bad blood between her and Rogue has affected her friendship with Hank. He tells her that he’s still upset but that he cares about her a great deal and doesn’t want to stay mad at her. Carol gives him a hug and thinks to herself that she doesn’t deserve a friend like this.
At that moment in Brooklyn, Carol’s estranged protégé Araña is taking down a trio of thugs who were attempting to rob a liquor store. As she easily defeats them, she reflects on all the work that being a superhero trainee entails, cursing Ms. Marvel for her role in drafting her into Initiative-based hero training. She didn’t realize that registering would lead to three nights a week of Combat Theory classes that included charts, diagrams and physics equations designed to help you be more aware of your surroundings when fighting. She punches the final thug and thanks them all for the workout, noting that she really needed to blow off some steam.
As she arrives at the roof of her building, Araña finds her father Gilberto waiting for her. She’s surprised to see him as she had expected him to be away on business for another day still. He admits that he lied to her so he could see what she was up to while he was away. He asks if she was with Ms. Marvel and she replies that she was just swinging around blowing off some steam. He insists she should be resting given her recent injuries. She tells him she’s fine and he tells her that she almost died. He adds that Carol Danvers almost killed her. Anya tells him that it was the Doomsday Man that hurt her and she’s probably be dead if Ms. Marvel hadn’t saved her. He tries to argue back, calling her by his pet name for her “mi arañita”. She cuts him off and tells him to stop calling her that. He replies that Ms. Marvel put her in harm’s way and that she cannot expect him to forgive that. Anya replies that Carol was trying to help her grow up and that all he seems interested in is treating her like a little girl! She swings away, leaving her father behind.
The next day, Ms. Marvel finds herself locked in battle with the villainess called Battleaxe right outside of William Wagner’s restaurant. As she battles the axe-wielding villain, Carol is simultaneously leaving a phone message for William telling him that she stopped by and got caught up in a fight with this villainess who happened to be there.
As she’s speaking into her earpiece, Battleaxe growls and swings a huge axe at Ms. Marvel. Carol dodges and punches Battleaxe, telling her it’s rude to try and axe someone when they’re on the phone. At that moment, a vehicle comes to a screeching halt and a trio of armed soldiers gets out. Ms. Marvel has to fly into the air to avoid being hit.
One of the soldiers shoots an electrified net at Battleaxe who cries out in pain before losing consciousness. Ms. Marvel lands between the soldiers and Battleaxe and demands to see some identification as they are clearly not SHIELD agents. The soldiers do not answer and instead launch a grenade at Carol that knocks her to the ground. They then proceed to collect Battleaxe. Ms. Marvel stops them, grabbing a soldier and lifting him into the air. She tries to question him and notices that his eyes are completely blank. She receives a call from Agent Sum who reports that the new recruits she requested from Maria Hill have arrived. Carol tells him to prepare a cell for Battleaxe and to let the Raft know they are coming. She then subdues the remaining soldiers with a photonic blast.
Ms. Marvel’s superhuman recruits have just arrived aboard Minicarrier 13. They are Aaron Stack (formerly known as Machine Man) and Rick Sheridan AKA Sleepwalker. Aaron introduces them both, referring to Rick as “this fleshy thing” and declaring that they are super heroes. Rick, dressed in a SHIELD track suit, says an awkward hello. Ms. Marvel seems momentarily confused and says “Excuse me?” Aaron replies that his sensors are carefully analyzing her every move, which betray her “poorly hidden lust” for him and that the least she can do is pay attention to what he’s saying. Ms. Marvel asks him to explain to her why she shouldn’t snap him in half. A mechanical tentacle emerges from his chest and presents Ms. Marvel with a manila envelope.
“Our papers” he says before telling Carol that he now wishes to drink heavily and test the minicarrier’s floors by falling unconscious on them. Carol begins to reprimand him and make it clear that he can’t just walk onto her ship and behave this way. He cuts her off and tells her that he isn’t impressed with her ship as his previous ship came equipped with Tesseract zones and a mini-fridge. He asks if she has a mini-fridge. Ms. Marvel asks if she’s having an argument with a robot. Aaron dismisses this and announces that he is going to his quarters to assemble his “signing incentive”. When Carol asks he replies that he fought against the Registration Act and only joined up because Maria Hill made him a tantalizing offer. He leaves telling her to call him when there’s hitting to be done.
Carol is clearly thrown by this exchange and asks Rick Sheridan what that was all about. Rick makes it clear that he just met Aaron twenty minutes earlier and that he’s been terrified by the guy ever since. Carol offers her apologies as she shakes Rick’s hand. Carol notes that Aaron said his codename was Sleepwalker and Rick explains that that’s the name of the alien from the Mindscape dimension that emerges when he falls asleep. Carol glances to Agent Sum and asks him to remind her to set up a meeting with Maria Hill. She then gives the order to head to the Raft to drop off Battleaxe and the mind-controlled soldiers she apprehended.
At the Daily Bugle, Sarah Day confronts editor J. Jonah Jameson with his latest cover. It features a photo of Ms. Marvel kissing Wonder Man with the sensationalist headline “WHILE COPS DIE, MS. MARVEL SMOOCHES”. Sarah asks why he did this and he sarcastically replies that they were making out when they were supposed to be saving lives. Sarah replies that she thought that the two of them had a truce to which he replies that she merely hired more lawyers than he had in response to his article about the New Avengers. She points out that he called her clients “murderers, heroin dealers and terrorists”. He corrects her and points out that he said “alleged ex-terrorist”. She tells Jameson that she cannot have people thinking that Ms. Marvel is a cop-killer. He shoots back that nobody even remembers the police involved once they see the accompanying picture and that thanks to this article, half the Internet is looking for a video of Ms. Marvel and Wonder Man “getting it on”. He adds that they want to know if Wonder Man lives up to the name.
Sarah asks if this is a vendetta against Carol for something she did back when they worked together. He tells her that’s nonsense and that he hates all super heroes equally. Sarah gives up and tells him that if they can’t talk it out she has no problem handing this over to her lawyers. He tells her that’s good since he’ll need a lawyer’s help in phrasing the article where he reveal show Ms. Marvel aided and abetted a known felon, helping to kidnap a little girl in the middle of the night. Sarah asks what he’s talking about and he leans back in his chair, smiles and says “Julia Carpenter.”
Elsewhere, Gilberto Corazon contacts SHIELD to report that his daughter has yet to return home. He was given this number when she registered and entered the Initiative’s training program and told to call this number if he suspected she was in trouble. The SHIELD rep notes that she did not attend training earlier. He then asks Mr. Corazon if his daughter knows Cassandra Lang or Cassie St. Commons. Gilberto says that those names aren’t familiar. The SHIELD agent then asks if Anya has mentioned taking instruction from Greer Grant. Again, Mr. Corazon says that that name isn’t familiar to him. He asks why these names are important and asks if there’s something wrong that Anya may be part of. The SHIELD agent tells him that there’s nothing and he’s sure everything will be fine. However, the agent is reviewing images of other missing super-women and adds Araña to the list.
Aboard the Minicarrier, Aaron Stack is fuming as he looks for the right welder to complete the assembly of his “signing incentive” which appears to include a hand suggesting it may be a SHIELD-issued Life Model Decoy (LMD). He stumbles upon the holding cell holding Battleaxe and the unknown soldiers who tried to capture her.
Ms. Marvel is there meeting with the Raft warden, SHIELD Agent Tarver. Aaron hides the artificial hand behind his back as Ms. Marvel tells him that she’s a bit busy at the moment. He asks why they are holding members of the Chilean army and she is surprised to hear this. He asks if she had really arrested these men without knowing who they are. Agent Tarver adds that he was just about to tell Ms. Marvel that these men are dressed just like the ones who attacked the Raft earlier that day.
Intelligence had identified them as Chilean army. Aaron notes that he identified them based on the soil particles on their boots which are from the Chilean coastline, if the SHIELD geological databases are to be trusted. He then gets right in Agent Tarver and asks rudely if they are to be trusted. Ms. Marvel steps in and tells Aaron to back off. Tarver notes that those who attacked the Raft blew themselves up before they could be questioned. The explosion was part of a plan to liberate Oubliette Midas. Aaron interrupts to provide some additional details. He explains that she went by the codename Exterminatrix and had a penchant for “Cosmic Jihad”. Agent Sum has clearly never heard of her to which Aaron glibly replies “Google is your friend”. Aaron adds that the real question is why the Chilean army was after a psychopath like her.
Tarver explains that she’s been sedated since her capture and they aren’t about to wake her to get her input on this situation. Carol notes that there’s no obvious connection between Exterminatrix and Battleaxe to which Aaron begins to list the commonalities from their bad codenames to the more obvious fact that they are both women with extraordinary abilities. Carol sees his point and suspects that whoever was after these two women may have targeted others. She apologizes to Agent Tarver for dumping these prisoners on him in a hurry and orders that they set course for South America immediately. Outside, Agent Sum runs into Rick Sheridan who can’t find his quarters. Sum tells him to rest up as they are heading to Chile. Rick asks what’s there and Sum replies that knowing Ms. Marvel, he’d say trouble!
At that moment in Puerto Maravilla, Chile, Phillip Masters (better known as the Puppet Master) welcomes a potential client to his new castle retreat. Masters explains that he’s dropped the name Puppet Master and after years of battling the Fantastic Four has retired to Chile for a nice quiet life. He now considers himself an “art dealer” specializing in “interactive art” that can fulfill your every desire. He leads the client to a showroom that is filled with a diverse selection of attractive young women from around the world. He note that he also has male stock but keeps them busy doing manual labor until an interested buyer comes along since they are in less demand.
Masters shares with the client that he found a new source for the specially-enhanced clay that allows him to create miniature statues that control his “puppets”. This clay is stronger than what he has used in the past and has enabled him to have greater control over his “art”. Buyers are given the statue that corresponds to the “work of art” that they purchase. Masters asks if the client sees anything he likes and then realizes that this buyer is interested in something more unique. Masters leads him to a special room where he keeps his more unique and expensive “stock”. Inside are Dusk, Silverclaw, Stature and Tigra. Their eyes are all glazed over. Masters points out that they are the genuine article and that they are quite difficult to come by. He adds that he lost two of his acquisition teams that day in pursuit of more specimens such as these. As they speak, two soldiers return with a large crate. He is pleased and tells the client that what his teams bring back is sometimes a complete surprise. Masters pries open the crate with a crowbar. Inside is the unconscious body of Araña!

Characters Involved: 

Ms. Marvel
Aaron Stack/Machine Man, Sleepwalker, and Agent Sum (All Operation: Lightning Storm operatives)
Puppet Master/Phillips Masters
Dusk, Silverclaw, Stature, Tigra and other unnamed “puppets” of Phillip Masters
Sarah Day
J. Jonah Jameson
Gilberto Corazon
Guards at The Raft
Staff at the Daily Bugle
Unnamed street thugs
Agent Tarver and other unnamed SHIELD agents
Unnamed Chilean citizens and soldiers
In newspaper photo only:

Wonder Man

Story Notes: 

Carol injured Rogue in MS. MARVEL (2nd Series) #10. The two have a complex and painful history as described fully in their Spotlights.
Battleaxe is a former member of the Unlimited Class Wresting Federation and the female wrestling group called the Grapplers. After a stint in the UCWF, Battleaxe continued her life of crime, clashing with Captain America on several occasions. She first appeared in THING (1st Series) #33.
Aaron Stack AKA Machine Man is an android created by Dr. Abel Stack. His powers, appearance and character have evolved a great deal since his introduction in 2001: A SPACE ODYSSEY #8 (1977). Most recently, he appeared in the NEXTWAVE series. In the pages of this highly satirical series, Machine Man insisted on being called “Aaron” and took on a new attitude that was quite demeaning to humans. He also showed a penchant for drinking large quantities of alcohol. There has been some controversy and inconsistent editorial comments regarding the NEXTWAVE series place in Marvel’s continuity. Aaron’s appearance here is further proof that the NEXTWAVE series did indeed occur within the canonical Marvel Universe.
Sleepwalker first appeared in SLEEPWALKER #1. Rick Sheridan is a normal college student who shares his body with the essence of the Sleepwalker, an alien entity that patrols the Mindscape. When Rick is asleep, Sleepwalker is free to act using his superhuman strength, ability to fly and his reality-bending “warp gaze” to right wrongs and stop evil-doers.
Sarah Day mentions that Carol and J. Jonah Jameson once worked together. Jameson hired Carol to serve as the editor of WOMAN magazine, a publication connected to the Daily Bugle waaaaay back in MS. MARVEL (1st Series) #1. He later fired her in MS. MARVEL (1st Series) #22 after months of trying unsuccessfully to stay on top of her job while functioning as Ms. Marvel.
Cassandra Lang is the daughter of deceased Avenger Scott Lang, the second Ant-Man. She fights alongside the Young Avengers as Stature.
Cassie St. Commons is the mysterious crimefighter called Dusk who was a member of the Slingers before the group disbanded.
Greer Grant is none other than the feline Avenger called Tigra!
Oubliette Midas AKA the Exterminatrix first appeared in the Marvel Knights MARVEL BOY Limited Series penned by Grant Morrison and released in 2000.
The Puppet Master has been menacing the Fantastic Four since FANTASTIC FOUR (1st Series) #8 (1962). He recently returned to a life of crime after a lengthy period of “reformation”. He was last seen working with the Mad Thinker during CIVIL WAR.

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