Ms. Marvel (2nd series) #19

Issue Date: 
November 2007
Story Title: 
Puppets – Part 2 of 3

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: 

Phillip Masters has set himself up for retirement in a Chilean villa. He has created a lucrative slave trade with an exclusive selection of super-powered females. For his amusement, he forces his male thralls to fight to the death. Ms. Marvel and her Lightning Storm crew are following investigating the recent attempt to capture the villainess Battleaxe by a group of mind-controlled Chilean soldiers and are headed to Chile. En route, Carol checks in with the newest member of her team Rick Sheridan AKA Sleepwalker to learn more about his motivations for registering. Machine Man communicates with Chile’s infonet and learns of a recent increase in missing persons and rumors of a slave labor camp in the hills near Puerto Maravilla. Ms. Marvel finds the camp where men are collecting loads of clay. She quickly deduces that this is the work of the Puppet Master but has no time to act on this info. She is attacked by her former teammates Tigra and Silverclaw who are under Masters’ control. After a brief tussle, Ms. Marvel is taken down by the poison that laced Tigra’s claws. Meanwhile, Agent Sum, Aaron and Rick Sheridan are doing recon in town when they are spotted and attacked by Araña. With an assist from Sleepwalker, they manage to detain her and find her linked to an outside force that controls her mind. Ms. Marvel awakes to find that she has been brought before the Puppet Master who has happily added her to his collection!

Full Summary: 

Phillip Masters sits on the terrace of his Chilean compound flanked by several of the women he has abducted and is controlling, using his mystically-empowered clay sculptures. Behind him, Araña, Stature and Tigra stand glassy-eyed while Silverclaw sits next to him and feeds him grapes. Masters looks down at the patio below where he has assembled several dozen enthralled men to fight for his amusement. In the latest bout, a victor has emerged after pummeling his opponent to death. The Puppet Master reaches into his bag and randomly selects another pair of statues for the next round of fighting.
On the patio below, two men step forward as some others cart off the corpse of the last round’s loser. As the men step forward, one of the non-powered women on the terrace breaks free of Masters’ control as she sees that one of the combatants is her husband. She begs the Puppet Master not to send her husband Miguel to fight. Masters notes that he did not give her permission to jabber on and then asks which man is her husband. She points him out and Masters makes him punch himself in the nose, breaking it. The woman begs him to stop and Masters does. He tells her that having the man beat himself to death is too cruel and instead, he has the second man strangle him. Again the woman begs him to stop this. The Puppet Master smiles and tells her “Give me a reason not to.” The desperate woman offers to fight in her husband’s place. Masters laughs at her and announces her offer to the “audience” below. They boo the suggestion and demand a fair fight… something more interesting. Masters replies that he did not learn Spanish and move there from America to offer “a boring final act.” He came to have fun before he dies.
As he says this, Miguel dies from the brutal beating he has taken and his wife cries out. Masters responds to the crowd’s call for something interesting and dumps out his bag of puppets. He laughs maniacally as all of the men below begin righting each other in a mindless, murderous rage.
Aboard Minicarrier 13, Carol Danvers has a rare moment to relax and unwind a bit. She has found her laptop and is playing Bejeweled to pass the time. Agent Sum interrupts and informs her that they will arrive in Chile in 2 hours. She asks how they others are doing and Sum reports that they haven’t slept and that Machine Man berated him for the lack of vodka in the ship’s stores. She asks how Rick Sheridan is doing and Sum expresses his concerns about Rick. He doesn’t think he’s battle-ready and notes that he seems easily confused. Carol decides to check in on him personally.
She finds Rick in front of a computer looking a bit dazed. She says hello and he asks if he should call her Carol or Ms. Marvel and she tells him Carol is fine when she’s out of costume. She sits down and admits to Rick that she knows very little about him. He’s surprised and assumed that she’d learn all she needed to from his SHIELD file. Carol confesses that they’re rather clinical and read more like a handbook with only the hard facts. She tells him she’d like to hear his side of the story. He asks what she wants to know and she starts by asking which side he was on during the registration war. He replies that he wasn’t on anybody’s side and that he forced himself to stay awake for days at a time so that Sleepwalker wouldn’t get sucked into it. He tells her that he was trying to keep the “goon squads” from seeking him out. Carol points out that she led the “goon squads.” Rick is speechless for a moment but Carol quickly tells him that it’s okay. She points out that she’s been called much worse on the Internet due to her role in the enforcement of the Superhuman Registration Act.
She asks him why he decided to register now. He shares with Carol that the last few months have been weird for him. His girlfriend, Alyssa Conover died after being hit by a car. She made it to the hospital but he was unable to get there before she passed away. The sudden loss left him at loose ends and he needed some direction and purpose in his life. So he decided to register. During his initial interview, he was asked if he had experience and asked if fighting a guy named “Bookworm” counted. The next thing he knew, he was assigned to Operation: Lightning Storm alongside Aaron (Machine Man).
At that moment, Aaron stands on the upper deck of the Minicarrier getting drunk on cheap beer. He extends a sensor from his ear and says “Talk to me, Chile”. He then connects with Chile’s communications on an advanced digital level. A moment later, his telescoping head snakes down to the observation deck and asks Agent Sum to summon Ms. Marvel as he has important information.
A short time later, Aaron briefs the team on what he has learned from Chile. He begins with a short overview of the nation but Ms. Marvel asks him bluntly to get to the important stuff. He calls forth a view screen filled with the faces of reported missing persons from Chile. He explains that the small nation has the highest per capita missing persons rate in the world. Carol asks how that is possible and Aaron replies that he thinks they are about to find out. He has also intercepted rumors of a slave labor camp in mountains of Chile but anyone who has gone to investigate has never returned. In addition, a nearby army base reported dozens of AWOL soldiers in recent weeks, along with ammunition and explosives. Ms. Marvel orders Rick, Sum and Aaron to visit Puerto Maravilla and see what they can learn from the locals. Rick points out that he’s been drinking caffeine and carol tells him that she just needs his eyes and ears and not Sleepwalker’s powers since they are simply on a recon mission. She plans to fly over the mountains to see what she can learn about the alleged slave labor camp.
A short time later, Ms. Marvel finds the slave labor camp in the hills outside Puerto Maravilla. She notes that those working are all men and they seem to be loading a truck with dirt. She lands on the truck and asks why they are digging up dirt with their bare hands. She then notices that all of their eyes are rolled back and glassy, obvious signs of mind control. Carol examines the dirt and realizes that it’s not dirt at all, but clay. It doesn’t take long for her to put two and two together and deduce who’s behind this operation. As she realizes the mastermind behind this she says to herself “Awwwwww, crap. I hate that guy… he’s so creepy.”
At that moment, the workers stop collecting clay and begin to say “Ms. Marvel”. They advance on her en masse. She shoves one of them away and takes to the air. She notes that in the past, the Puppet Master couldn’t control this many people at once. At that moment, a female figure lunges at Ms. Marvel forcing her to the ground. Carol turns and is shocked to see that it is her fellow Avenger, Tigra!
Tigra grabs Carol by the hair and pulls her closer. She then strikes with her claws, raking them across Ms. Marvel’s cheek. Carol thinks to herself that unlike the workers, Tigra is an Avenger and a highly trained fighter. As she blasts at Tigra with a photonic burst she smugly thinks that she worked for the CIA once upon a time and was taught to fight dirty. She kicks Tigra who is momentarily stunned. She takes the opportunity to talk to Greer and asks what is going on and if she recognizes her.
She never receives an answer as she is attacked from behind by Silverclaw! Carol gets to her feet and tells them that while a girl-on-girl fight may be a dream come true for some, she’s not interested in fighting them. Silverclaw draws on the aspect of an anaconda and her arm transforms into a snake-like coil that ensnares Carol. Silverclaw declares “I have you!” but Ms. Marvel simply flies up into the air. As she rises, she feels herself becoming woozy. She asks what’s happening and realizes too late that Tigra’s claws must have been poisoned. Silverclaw releases her and she falls unconscious to the ground below as she utters the words “Guess you fight dirty, too.”
In Puerto Maravilla, Aaron, Rick and Agent Sum are undercover, trying to gather information from the locals. Aaron is wearing a ridiculously large mustache. Rick notes that he doesn’t think that disguise is going to work. Aaron points out that the baseball caps that Sum and Rick are wearing are hardly going to distract from the presence of a white and Asian man in the company of a robot in an area where everyone is a native.
Sum replies in fluent Spanish that he just arrived on a boat that morning and is looking for what’s happening about town. Aaron answers in Spanish and tells Sum not to speak at him in Spanish as if he wouldn’t be able to understand him. Rick doesn’t speak Spanish at all and is just confused by their exchange. All three are too distracted to notice that Araña just walked by carrying a bag of groceries. She, however, recognized Agent Sum, despite the hat and Spanish.
The three enter a bar and are debating their next course of action when Aaron is struck from behind by a flying chair flung at him by Araña! Sum comments that the plan seems to be a good one but has yet to see Anya. Aaron IDs her from the files and Sum is shocked to see her there. She lashes out at Aaron with her bola and he catches it. She yanks it towards her, pulling him off his barstool and crashing him into the floor. Sum strikes an offensive pose and orders her to stand down. She replies “Masters says to kill you next” as she wraps her bola whip around Sum’s neck.
Rick pulls a gun out and hesitantly tells Anya to back off. Aaron rises and manifests an enormous blaster from his chest cavity. He tells Rick that if he’s going to draw a weapon, draw a proper one. He then fires at Araña, blasting her through the wall! Sum reminds him that this was supposed to be a covert mission and Aaron replies “Oh, pish posh. It’s more fun this way.” Rick asks where she went and Aaron replies that he hit her with non-lethal ordnance. Rick points out that it put a hole in the wall and Aaron adds that he said “non-lethal” not painless. At that moment, Araña’s bola again circles Aaron’s neck. He exclaims “Irritating!” as she swings around him to kick Agent Sum. She then pulls on the bola, yanking Aaron’s head off his body! She then subdues Rick with a single blow from her “spider-bola”.
As Rick loses consciousness, Sleepwalker rises from his body. He tells Araña that Rick is merely subdued and she should hope the same is true of the others. He directs his warpgaze at the ground which rises like tentacles to ensnare Araña in a concrete grip.
With Araña contained, Sum notes that he can’t remember the last time he was hit that hard as Aaron reattaches his head. Sum greets Sleepwalker and comments on the impressiveness of his warpgaze. Aaron examines Araña and determines that her mind is surrounded by semi-mystical energies. Sleepwalker adds that she is under the control of an outside influence that they cannot break from here. Aaron suggests a few good punches might work, but Sleepwalker explains that a talisman controls her and that with his extra-sensory perceptions he can follow the connection.
Sum suggests that they get someone from the Minicarrier to get Rick to safety and keep him sedated so that Sleepwalker will be free to act. He asks Aaron to contact Ms. Marvel but Aaron reports that he is getting no answer. Sum finds this concerning and asks where she is.
Ms. Marvel has been shackled and taken to the Puppet Master. She wakes up and calls out his nom de guerre. He tells her that it’s just Phillip Masters now and that he’s retired. He shows her the clay construct of her that he has crafted of her and tells her that she is not retired but about to embark on a new career. Her eyes glaze over as he welcomes her to his collection!

Characters Involved: 

Ms. Marvel
Aaron Stack/Machine Man, Sleepwalker, and Agent Sum (All Operation: Lightning Storm operatives)
Puppet Master/Phillips Masters
Araña, Dusk, Silverclaw, Stature, Tigra, Miguel and other unnamed “puppets” of Phillip Masters
Unnamed Chilean citizens
In Flashback:

Rick Sheridan
Alyssa Conover
Unnamed officials and potential recruits at the Superhuman Registration office
On a computer screen:

Joaquin Pirera, Jose Ibanez, Eduardo Infante, Michelle Romero, Salvador Rodriguez and other missing persons from Chile’s database

Story Notes: 

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 quire 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.
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.
Bejeweled is a popular, downloadable puzzle game produced by PopCap Games. Players must create chains of different types of sparkling gems at an increasing level of difficulty.
Bookworm was a small-time villain and foe of Sleepwalker with the power to conjure physical manifestations of anything he had read. He first appeared in SLEEPWALKER #4.
Puerto Maravilla is a fictional city on the coast of Chile in the Marvel Universe. There is a real city called Puerto Maravilla in the northern region of Chile’s eastern neighbor, Bolivia.

Issue Information: 

This Issue has been reprinted in:

Written By: