Ms. Marvel (2nd series) #20

Issue Date: 
December 2007
Story Title: 
Puppets – Part 3 of 3

Brian Reed (writer), Greg Tocchini (penciler), Roland Paris (inker), Dave Sharpe (letterer), Chris Sotomayor (colorist), Thomas Brennan (asst. editors), Steve Wacker (editors), Joe Quesada (editor in chief), Dan Buckley (publisher), Greg Horn (cover art), Aaron Lopresti & Jeremy Cox (variant cover art)

Brief Description: 

Ms. Marvel escapes from the Puppet Master’s mental domination thanks to the mysterious “healing factor” that has been affecting her for weeks. Once freed, she discovers that Masters has kidnapped scores of women to sell and feed his need for “entertainment” in his retirement. When Carol attacks him, he uses Stature (one of several super heroines he has nabbed) to defend himself. The Lightning Squad team independently tracks down the Puppet Master who also has Ms. Marvel’s protégé Araña under his control. Araña breaks free of Masters’ mental control when he orders her to kill Carol and the others. Over the last several months, Anya has come to view Carol as a mother-figure and refuses to kill her. When Carol learns that Puppet Master has hurt Anya as well, her disgust crosses over to pure hatred. After insuring that Anya and the rest of Masters’ victims have gotten to safety, Ms. Marvel confronts the twisted villain. He reveals that he has rigged his compound with explosives and intends to kill himself and take any heroes who might oppose him with him! Carol lashes out at the sadistic Masters. When he reaches for the button that will detonate his headquarters she chooses not to stop him, well aware that she will serve the explosion. This makes her realize that her new invincibility may be a curse because it means that you can do anything without true repercussions and accountability. Carol tells her team that she was unable to stop the Puppet Master from killing himself. Though she knows she crossed the line morally, she takes comfort in knowing he can never hurt anyone again. Later, she gets a call from the Beast who has figured out the “glitch” he detected in her recent medical exam. It wasn’t anything wrong with Carol per se; it was a homing signal of some sort being transmitted from her body! His call was prompted by the realization that the signal was being answered from space and whoever was tracking this signal was getting very close! At that moment, Ms. Marvel’s Minicarrier is attacked by the alien Cru!

Full Summary: 

Ms. Marvel lies on the stone floor of Phillip Masters’ office, her hands bound by golden manacles. She mentally resists his mental control but he persists. He gazes down at the clay “puppet” he has created of Ms. Marvel and drones on, ordering her to relax and let him take control. He tells her that everyone fights his “influence” at first, especially those who enjoy the feeling of being in control a bit too much. He leans against her body and Carol’s psyche screams not to touch her anymore.
At that moment, her skin begins to turn blue and the alien voice that has haunted her these past few months speaks on her behalf. It says “Attempted override of construct aborted. A moment, please, while construct reasserts itself”. Carol turns blue-skinned and her eyes glow red as she breaks free of her bonds.
The Puppet Master is surprised by all of this and drops the puppet that was controlling Carol. The alien voice declares that he will be eliminated for his attempts to “take control of the construct”. Masters recovers the clay simulacrum of Ms. Marvel and tries to regain control of her.
Carol’s skin reverts to its normal hue and she makes an effort not to vomit up blood as she did in the other instances where this enigmatic alien presence asserted itself. She proves immune to Puppet Master’s commands and chases after him. He dives into a room to the side of his office and Ms. Marvel is astonished by what she finds there. The entire room is filled with women, all of them in the Puppet Master’s thrall.

Ms. Marvel is enraged and flies after the Puppet Master. She seizes him by the back of his collar and demands to know what he’s done. He claims he’s merely living his life. She demands to know why he’s controlling all these women and what his goal is. He admits that they are for sale. Carol demands that he release them now. He refuses and tells her that he controls more than just these women. As he says this, he draws another puppet from his pocket. This one is of the Young Avenger, Stature. Following the Puppet Master’s mental commands, Cassie comes to his rescue. She smashes through the floor from below at giant size and grabs Ms. Marvel!

Outside the compound, Agent Sum, Sleepwalker and Machine Man are dealing with the Chilean soldiers under Puppet Master’s command as well as Ms. Marvel’s mind-controlled sidekick, Araña. Sleepwalker uses his warp-gaze to warp a nearby tree to ensnare Anya and informs the others that the talisman which controls her is inside the house.
As they move towards the house, Stature crashes through the ceiling as she grows to be several stories tall. Ms. Marvel is clutched in her hand and struggling to free herself. Carol wonders how many superhumans Masters has control of as Stature throws her forcefully away. She crashes into the street and Stature follows. As she nears Carol, she stomps her foot on the ground causing a nearby car to be thrown into the air. Ms. Marvel catches the car before it lands on a pair of bystanders. She then throws it at Stature, striking her square in the jaw. In retaliation, Stature picks up a house and hurls it through the air at Carol. She smashes through a window into a bathroom, where the owner is still sitting on the toilet. He cries out in Spanish, struggling to pull up his pants as Ms. Marvel grabs his hand and flies out of the soaring house with him in tow.
Carol ponders how screwy the tactics are when fighting a giant teenaged girl as she deposits the bewildered man safely on the ground. She then returns to the battle and takes Stature out with a single, high-speed punch. Cassie falls unconscious from the blow and lands across one section of the Puppet Master’s compound.

Nearby, the Lightning Force squad has been attacked by Silverclaw and Tigra. As Aaron punches Tigra, Silverclaw dives at Sleepwalker. To everyone’s surprise, she passes right through him! Aaron notes that there was no mention of the ability to become incorporeal in Sleepwalker’s files. Sum agrees and Sleepwalker realizes that his sudden discorporation must means that Rick Sheridan has woken up.
Rick wakes up aboard Minicarrier 13 still stunned from the head injury he received earlier. He tells Doc Farrell that if he’s awake then Sleepwalker will be out of the fight and anything he’s done to help out will fade away as well. At that moment, Araña finds herself free once more as the effects of Sleepwalker’s warp-gaze disappear.
Ms. Marvel joins the battle against Tigra and Silverclaw. She teases her team members asking if she really has to save two “manly men” from a couple of “girls”. She grabs Silverclaw by the hair and flings her high into the sky. Lupe sprouts wings and heads back down to engage Carol. Ms. Marvel grabs Tigra by the tail and tosses her straight at Silverclaw. They collided and fall to the ground in a heap. Aaron notes that he was doing just fine against Tigra before Carol arrived.

Ms. Marvel asks where Rick Sheridan is and Agent Sum tries to tell her about Anya’s involvement in all this. Before he has the chance, Puppet Master emerges from the building and orders Araña to stop hiding and kill them all. She hesitates a moment and Carol is stunned to see her there. Sum explains that they encountered her in town under Masters’ control and came to his compound seeking the source. Again, Masters orders Araña to kill them and get this madness away from his home. He rants that he just wanted to live out his days in peace and did nothing to deserve this.
Carol calmly asks Anya how she got there and Sum tries to convince her that Araña is dangerous right now. Aaron grabs Sum and tells him that he wants no distractions when the girl hits Carol in the face. Anya draws back the machete she is wielding but is still resisting Masters’ influence. He urges her on, demanding to know why she won’t just kill Ms. Marvel as ordered. Anya replies that she won’t kill her mother, she won’t hurt Carol. This breaks Anya free of the Puppet Master’s control. She begins to cry as she realizes that Carol is there. Carol is surprised to hear Anya refer to her as “mother” and realizes that Anya has come to see her as a sort of surrogate for the mother she lost at a young age.

Carol tells the others to get Anya to safety aboard the Minicarrier. She adds grimly “Puppet Master is mine.” Anya begs her to let someone else do it and Carol looks back and says firmly “Stay. Here.” Anya is scared and tells Agent Sum that she’s never seen that look on Carol’s face before. She’s convinced that Carol is going to kill Phillip Masters and tries to convince Sum. Ms. Marvel bursts through a wall and into the storeroom where Masters’ has been holding the women he’s abducted. She finds the assortment of clay statues controlling them and crushes the one of a female police officer. She tells the disoriented woman to smash all the statues she can find and get the other women to safety. Moments later, Aaron sees the women fleeing as he flies Agent Sum and Araña to the Minicarrier.

Ms. Marvel strides into the Puppet Master’s office and ominously says his name. He insists that he’s given up being the Puppet Master and has retired. Now he’s just Phillip Masters. He adds that he’s also the “man who killed Ms. Marvel.” He opens a drawer in his desk and moves to push a button inside. Ms. Marvel zaps him with a photonic blast and asks what the button does. He explains that it’s rigged to a cache of stolen explosives in the basement. Carol grabs him and slams him against the wall. She asks if he really intended to commit suicide. He tells her that it wasn’t just suicide and that he planned to kill whichever heroes came to stop him along with him. He rants that no matter how meticulously he plans, someone always comes to stop the show. He didn’t care who it was this time as long as they shared his “final bow”.

Carol throws him onto his desk and derides him for kidnapping all these women and hurting Anya. She calls him a “sick @%$#&!” and watches as he moves towards the button that will trigger the explosives. She thinks to herself that she could have easily stopped him but instead she chose to let him solve all of her problems. The compound explodes dramatically the second he pushes the button. Moments later, Ms. Marvel emerges from the flames unscathed. As she walks away, she realizes that being indestructible and healing from any wound no matter how grievous comes with a price. She realizes that when you’re invincible you can do anything because “who is going to stop you?”

Later in the Minicarrier’s conference room, she lies to her team and tells them she couldn’t stop the Puppet Master and didn’t realize what he was doing until it was too late. She shares the good news that all the women Masters was holding got to safety and his figurines are useless now that he’s dead. The women, along with the super heroines that the Puppet Master controlled, are all receiving medical attention and will be returned home the following day. Carol thinks to herself that she killed a man that day. It is not the first time in her life as she killed when working as an intelligence operative. But for years now, she’s tried to bring the bad guys to justice rather than dishing out justice herself. She accepts that letting the Puppet Master push that button when she could have stopped him was the same as killing him herself. Anya thanks Carol for saving her and for everything she’s done. Carol thinks to herself that at least the Puppet Master will never hurt anyone again.

Later that evening, Carol receives a call from Dr. Hank McCoy AKA the Beast. He explains to her that he’s figured out what the strange reading was that he detected weeks earlier during a routine medical examination. He tells her she’s fine and that there’s nothing medically wrong. She tells him that she turned blue twice again that day and she doesn’t think that’s “nothing”. He explains further and tells her that she’s not even aging or shedding skin cells or hair. He adds that this healing factor goes even beyond that of Wolverine.
She asks what the ping was that he detected. Hank reveals that the ping wasn’t something wrong with her but some sort of transmission! The ping he detected was some sort of data being relayed from her body and that data is being repeated again and again. Carol asks what sort of transmission it is and Hank says that he doesn’t know but can only think of a couple of situations in which transmitting the same data over and over would be useful. Carol fills in the blanks and realizes that it’s either a distress call or some sort of homing beacon. Hank agrees. Whatever is keeping Carol in a perfect state of bodily health is trying to get back home. Carol tells Hank that she is picking up a matching version of the signal in low orbit. Hank concurs and tells her that the reason he called is that the signal from space has been getting stronger all day.

Hank is about to tell her that whatever is sending that signal is getting close when something slams into the Minicarrier from put of the sky. Sum and Aaron can’t help but notice the massive impact and race towards the hull breach which is centered in Ms. Marvel’s quarters. Inside, Carol finds herself confronted by the Brood-hunting alien known as Cru and suddenly everything makes a lot more sense.

Characters Involved: 

Ms. Marvel

Aaron Stack/Machine Man, Rick Sheridan/Sleepwalker, and Agent Sum (All Operation: Lightning Storm operatives)

Puppet Master/Phillips Masters

Araña, Silverclaw, Stature, Tigra, Persuasion/Purple Girl and other unnamed “puppets” of Phillip Masters



Dr. Farrell

Unnamed Chilean citizens

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.

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.

MS. MARVEL writer Brian Reed was asked on his online blog if the purple-hued woman among the Puppet Master’s collection was intended to be Purple Girl from ALPHA FLIGHT. His response was “Ummm... suuurrre. Yeah. Why not?”

Araña’s lost her mother, Sofia at a young age and has been raised by her father Gilberto. Ms. Marvel has forged a mentoring relationship since recruiting her into the Initiative training program in MS. MARVEL #7. This relationship has played a big part in her viewing Carol as a surrogate mother.

Carol has had numerous painful personal experiences involving mind control. In AVENGERS (Vol. 1) #200, Carol was kidnapped, mentally manipulated and raped by Marcus Immortus. The full details of this were revealed in AVENGERS ANNUAL #10. In addition, one of Carol’s closest friends Jessica Jones was mind controlled for an extended period by the Purple Man. The months of psychological abuse she suffered at his hands was a key factor in her retirement from life as a super-heroine, as revealed in the ALIAS series. These incidents have clearly shaped Carol’s attitude towards mind-controlling villains like the Puppet Master. This is especially true when the sexual abuse and exploitation of women is involved as clearly depicted in this story arc.

Issue Information: 

This Issue has been reprinted in:

Written By: