Last issue, Ms. Marvel confronted hypnotized Chilean army troops in New York City. The men were revealed to be kidnapping super-powered women. Ms. Marvel, along with new Lightning Storm operatives, Machine Man and Sleepwalker, figure it out that it is the Puppet Master behind the scheme.
The Puppet Master has set up a wealthy lifestyle for himself and his captured women. He pits a local woman's overmatched boyfriend against a muscled thug. Puppet Master controls the women and his minions through his clay sculptures. Despite pleading on the part of the woman, her boyfriend is killed. Arana looks on with the Puppet Master as he sets off a massive brawl among the men he has enslaved.
Meanwhile, Operation: Lightning Storm is en route to Chile on board Minicarrier 13. Carol's laptop activities are interrupted by Agent Sum. Machine Man and Sleepwalker, despite their eccentricities, are ready for battle. Carol interviews Sleepwalker in order to learn more about him. Apparently, Sleepwalker kept himself up during the duration of the superhero Civil War so as not to get involved. During that time, Sleepwalker's girlfriend died in a taxi collision. The event prompted Sleepwalker to register. Hence, he is now part of Carol's team.
Elsewhere, Machine Man berates Agent Sum for not calling him by his preferred name, Aaron. Nevertheless, he informs Sum that he has important information for Ms. Marvel. Chile has the largest per capita rate of missing persons in the world. Chile's military reports that a sizable contingent of their soldiers have been reported AWOL and there are rumors of a slave labor camp in the mountains. Carol decides to send Sum, Sleepwalker, and Machine Man into a town to investigate while she performs recon over the mountains.
Carol's patrol reveals a construction crew collecting clay. She connects the dots and realizes that the Puppet Master is behind the chaos in Chile. The construction crew turns hostile and without warning a controlled Tigra attacks Ms. Marvel. They proceed to have a throw-down. Silverclaw, another controlled super-powered woman, backs up Tigra. Carol steels herself for another fight but realizes that Tigra's claws had poison in them. Ms. Marvel goes unconscious.
The rest of Lightning Storm investigates the city of Puerto Maravilla. Machine Man critiques the trio's disguises in his own unique fashion. Their conversation at a local watering hole is interrupted by the controlled Arana. The trio underestimates the girl's fighting prowess. Machine Man's head is ripped off while Agent Sum is knocked to the ground. However, Arana's attack on Sleepwalker leaves him unconscious, thereby transforming him into his alien super-powered alias. He manages to subdue Arana and figure out she is being controlled semi-mystical energies. The trio's efforts to contact Ms. Marvel prove fruitless. Ms. Marvel is being held by the Puppet Master. Before she can fight back, the Puppet Master reveals a new sculpture of Ms. Marvel. She is quickly controlled by the villain.
This arc is beginning to leave a sour taste in my mouth. The supporting cast's interactions are fine but Ms. Marvel seems terribly uninteresting in this issue. Perhaps, it was the shameless attempt to get Ms. Marvel and Tigra into a catfight. Or maybe it was Carol's seeming inability to act like the A- class superhero she is supposed to be (she does lead the Mighty Avengers right???) However you look at it, this issue just really wasn't all that good. The issue does start out intriguing enough. I liked the interplay that Carol shared with Rick (aka Sleepwalker). She is portrayed as a woman of action in decisively going to Chile. However, things start to go downhill once Carol confronts the construction crew and Tigra. I almost feel as if Tigra is being overused as a plot point. To date Tigra sold out the Anti-Registration side in Civil War, has had an "affair" with Hank Pym over in Mighty Avengers, and been nearly beaten to death in New Avengers. And now she is being mind- controlled by the Puppet Master. Enough with the cat bikini lady Marvel! Although I do have to admit I loved Greg Horn's cheesecake cover (it's the testosterone talking).
A more serious problem is that Carol shows absolutely no tactical skills in her fight with Silverclaw and Tigra. This lady is supposed to be the field leader of the best superhero team in the Marvel U. I certainly did not see any of that in this issue. Reed also seems to be downplaying Ms. Marvel's photon powers. She's got super-strength but it'd be nice to dust off those super powers and show everyone why Ms. Marvel is a force to be reckoned with. Did Reed forget that this lady fought the Collective and Brood? And in this issue she gets defeated by two C-class superheroes controlled by a B-Class villain in the Puppet Master. I'm not sure I agree with how this all turned out.
In fact, I enjoyed Ms. Marvel's supporting cast even more than the titular character. Machine Man is just crazily hilarious. The scenes between Sum, Machine Man, and Sleepwalker shows that Reed can make the lesser known denizens of the Marvel U shine. Arana appears once again and fights the supporting cast. Her character is never really tapped into – rather Reed uses her just for a fight. I am expecting that she play a major role in the finale of this arc next issue. Otherwise, her appearance is no more useful than say Silverclaw.
Finally, the Puppet Master makes his presence known. I have no idea why he is collecting all these women and indirectly wreaking havoc on the Chilean military. Nor do I really care. Issue #18 set up an interesting premise but I can quickly see where Reed is going and I don't like it. Perhaps the Puppet Master should not have been dusted off. At this point, any sort of explanation for his motives would prove to be extremely enlightening.
You almost always have a problem when your title character is outshined by her supporting cast. A once intriguing arc is turning out to be terribly misguided and is anchored by immature male fantasies involving Tigra and Ms. Marvel.