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Before Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was Ms. Marvel. In the late ‘70s, she came down with a case of selective amnesia that hid her own actions as the mighty Ms. Marvel from herself and caused a separation in their personas. Since then, she’s undergone a lot of full costume and name changes, from Binary to Warbird to Ms. Marvel once more.
In short, this is a person that took a while to determine what exactly her course in life was going to be, and that changed a few times along the way. That said, we’re here today to examine one of the very strangest identity crises in Carol’s truly bonkers life. That’s right: we’re here to discuss the time she died, got amnesia again, lived a secret life as a writer, and then came back just to throw down with Moonstone.
Carol Danvers, This Is Your (Very Strange) Life
By the time she became the focus of the second Ms. Marvel series in 2006, Carol had already been beyond and back. She had nearly died in the explosion believed to have granted her superpowers, left the Air Force, became the editor of a magazine, got fired, became an Avenger, endured the Marcus story, lost her powers to Rogue, gained new powers after being experimented on by the Brood, killed a bunch of Brood, joined the Starjammers (an intergalactic team of space pirates), had one billion arguments with Tony Stark, underwent therapy for alcoholism, led the Avengers, quit the Avengers, joined the Avengers, and quit the Avengers again. It was... kind of a lot.
Ms. Marvel Vol. 2 was a pretty weird series, and it caught Carol in one of her stranger incarnations. The feeling of being in-between and a bit directionless permeated her dialogue. After everything she’d gone through, the events of House of M had thrown her and caused her to desire a more active and meaningful role in life. This led to her working with a publicist and doing some undercover work, but it didn’t exactly lead to a lot of meaningful moments. This series took place during both Civil War and Secret Invasion, two storylines that saw elements of Carol’s identity compromised. The torn morality of Civil War and discovering her friend Spider-Woman was the Skrull Queen while forming a shaky friendship with a Skrull in the identity of the original Captain Marvel, this was a time of inner conflict and change for Carol.
Eventually, she met up with her ex Michael Rossi, who had worked occasionally with Charles Xavier and the X-Men. In this story, Carol refers to him as the only man she has ever loved (she refers to Mar-Vell as the only man she ever loved later in the series, but she is certainly allowed to change her mind). Rossi turned out to be a snake in the grass, which Carol realized much too late.
The Dark Reign crossover saw a bleaker tone in Marvel as longtime Spiderman villain Norman Osborn took control of much of the Marvel Universe after the fallout of Civil War and Secret Invasion, in which the public’s trust of superheroes was compromised. Osborn did a great many terrible things during this story, but one of those things was to hire Rossi to help him kill Carol Danvers while positioning the longtime villain Moonstone as the new Ms. Marvel. He then, in turn, had Rossi killed.
Due to Osborn’s machinations and Rossi’s actions, Carol hit binary levels of power and more during a fight and ended up quite literally imploding across the city skyline. Among other downsides, this allowed Moonstone to step up as the one true Ms. Marvel.
Karla Sofen joined the Marvel Universe in the mid-’70s as a successful psychiatrist who despised many of her patients and desired more out of life, causing her to align herself with the criminal element. One of her patients was the original Moonstone, a villain who gained his powers from a gem of the same name. Sofen tricked him out of the stone, and thereby became Moonstone herself, delighting in her new power.
Sofen is a notoriously cruel villain, having used her stature as a psychologist to manipulate, hospitalize, and torture her own patients. She had been disgusted by her mother’s desire to sacrifice for her daughter and it is believed that she murdered her mother then set her house on fire to cover her crime.
Moonstone was one of the founding members of the Thunderbolts, a team of villains masquerading as superheroes as part of a long con. Many members of the team would eventually soften and find themselves seduced by the pleasure of doing good. While that does somewhat apply to Sofen, she continued to use her sharp intelligence to manipulate teammates and enemies alike.
Back From The Dead
It’s difficult to explain how exactly Carol Danvers came back from the dead. Loosely, she was reborn when a cluster of beings made of pure energy gathered in the same place at the same time. There is not a lot of incentive to examine that one too closely, so we’ll let it slide. In a call back to the original series, she once more had a divided personality, but more literally as she was now occupying two separate bodies. One was Ms. Marvel, who was more aggressive and violent, and the other was Catherine Donovan, a screenwriter.
When Ms. Marvel and Moonstone in the guise of Ms. Marvel first encounter each other, they immediately engage in a brawl that takes them all the way across the country. They fight in cities, through fields in the midwest, then they end up smashing through the bottom of a commercial jet. It is an epic fight, and when it calms down, it looks for a while that Carol might be the loser. She gets away, but Catherine Donovan is captured.When he realized that proximity between Ms. Marvel and Catherine Donovan caused a spike in Marvel’s power levels, Osborn captured and murdered Donovan. She appeared in Sofen’s psyche, but Sofen eventually forced her out, at which time she merged with Marvel and thus Carol Danvers became a whole person once more. Meanwhile, Danvers took the moonstone from Sofen. Knowing that without it she would slowly die, Sofen begged her to finish the job and kill her. Danvers declined, admitting that although she wanted to she would prefer it if Sofen got her life together and reformed.
War of the Marvels is truly bonkers, even for a Carol Danvers story. This is one that really pulls out all the stops — identity crisis, inexplicable return to life, huge brawl with a nearly identical nemesis, and lots of surprising villainy. This series had a difficult time giving Danvers much in the way of drive or definitive character beats, but it certainly delivered by giving us a knock down drag out fight for the ages. Indeed, at its heart, this is the tale of how Carol Danvers struggled to make sense of how much she had grown away from her old self, and how she began to see that she had long since outgrown the title of Ms. Marvel. It would only be two years later that she finally took on the mantle of Captain Marvel, while Kamala Khan breathed new life into the name of Ms. Marvel. Meanwhile, Karla Sofen’s losing battle with her own amorality continues to this very day.