"Ms. Marvel" #49 opens up with an image of a mushroom cloud, but even with that explosive start, this comic feels endlessly empty and inert. It's all shine and no substance.
When this series began -- and for the first eighteen months to two years of its existence -- I appreciated Brian Reed's exploration of a superhero trying to be something more, trying to live up to the potential she knew she had -- after the glimpse of that better version of herself in "House of M" -- and knowing that, even with all her flaws, she could improve. The struggle of Carol Danvers trying to live up to her own expectations, combined with relatively run-of-the-mill-but-slickly-presented external conflicts, made for a couple of years of worthwhile comics.
But the thematic thread was lost somewhere in the midst of the series, and then it dodged over into "Dark Reign" territory where the much more interesting and insidious Karla Sofen took center stage.
Carol Danvers is back in the title role now, but it's all airy nothingness. It's conflict without that sense of internal struggle that drove the series originally. It's a comic about a giant explosion, some fisticuffs with a chubby, bearded old guy, and a whole lot of Mystique. Not "mystique" as in mystery, but Mystique as in the shape-shifting sometimes-hero-sometimes-villain who tends to float in and out of various X-titles.
And even Mystique isn't very interesting in this comic. She offers a slice of hope that the series might become interesting, what with her apparent connection to the raging Captain Mar-Vell look-alike that's been bopping around. But all we really get from Mystique this issue is bland dialogue or shameless exposition. She narrates her every move to the reader. Or maybe she's recording it for posterity. But probably not.
"I guess a shapechanger can be herself for only so long," she says, before changing into a more "normal" form. Then she declares, to no one in particular: "I need to check the dead drop anyway." And continues in that mode.
It's clumsy writing from Reed throughout the issue -- too declarative, too lacking in subtlety -- and with Sana Takeda and Ben Oliver's alternatively cloudy and garishly painted art on the pages, it's just not a comic worth reading. Not right now.