So, what's the point of a Marvel annual these days? It can't be to highlight a longer story than can be told in the regular monthly title, because the annuals are shorter than the average comic book arc. It can't be to tell an "important" story, because annuals always sell less that their regular-series counterparts, and less readers would see it. It's (thankfully) not because all the annuals tie into a lame crossover event, like "Atlantis Attacks Again," or something. From the way it looks, these Marvel annuals are just expensive, slightly longer, fill-in issues. Sometimes it's with a different writer than we get on the normal series (as in the recent "Ghost Rider Annual") and sometimes it's with a relatively new artist (as we see in both the recent "Ghost Rider Annual" and this "Ms. Marvel Annual" -- and they even share that very same new artist).
"Ms. Marvel Annual" #1 definitely feels like a fill-in issue, like an inventory story that's been on the shelf for a while. It's out of current continuity, for one thing, taking place before "Secret Invasion," back when Ms. Marvel was all about maintaining the Initiative status quo instead of fleeing from green-chinned baddies. Being an inventory story isn't necessarily a bad thing. It could, in theory, result in something timeless.
Not here, though.
Here, we get a very Spider-Man-centric story involving robots and transforming robots and robots that are actually variants of some rich guy, and, oh yeah, more robots. There's nothing wrong with that, either. Who doesn't like robots? But the whole issue just falls into one cliched trap after another. First we get Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel fighting (because that's what superheroes do before the inevitable team-up). Then we get the endless banter from Brian Reed's Spider-Man (who, by the way, is extra-annoying in this story, and looks like the Ultimate version of the character instead of the mainstream Marvel one). Then we get robots, and an escalation of more robots, then we find out who's behind the robots, and. . . well, it's all just sort of tedious, isn't it? It's just such a by-the-numbers story that I can see why it ended up in a throw-away annual, whether it was always intended as such or not.
The comic isn't a complete disaster. I liked some of the strangeness of the bad guy, with his multiple robotic selves. I liked Mark A. Robinson's art, with his Skottie Young/Chris Bachalo vibe, especially when he really got a chance to cut loose on the splash pages. I liked that Reed deflated his own, uptight version of Ms. Marvel through the antics of Marvel's Bugs Bunny: Spider-Man. But even though some of the details made the story bearable, it's not a great comic overall.
Other than the hideous and embarrassing Greg Horn covers, I've enjoyed the "Ms. Marvel" series. Brian Reed has done a good job with the character, and I'm always looking forward to seeing more from him. But this one's just not worth the four bucks.