I think I've mentioned this before, but I figure it bears repeating: I think Robert De La Torre is doing a pretty good job as artist on Warbird, though some of what I like can probably be credited to Palmiotti as the inker. I know some people aren't enamored of his anatomy, but I think he does well with faces and action scenes, so that pretty much works for me. Which brings us to the what I'm contemplating today.
I've noticed that Carol looks older without her mask on than she does with it. There are some lines on her face. Personally, I think this is appropriate. Carol isn't some teenager, or young twenties girl, she's an older woman. Not Agatha Harkness old, but I'd bet she's early 30s. And when you consider her life up to now - infused with Kree DNA, mind-controlled, spent time in Limbo, gave birth to man she thought she loved (that's creepy just typing it), Starjammer, depowered, alcoholic, all manner of superheroic adventures in between - it hasn't been an easy early 30s. She should show some signs that she's been through ordeals. Of course, by that logic, I guess Peter Parker should look like he's in his early 50s, but that's a discussion for another time.
When she puts on the mask though, the lines are less noticeable. To me at least, she looks younger. This could be from a couple of things. First, the mask probably covers some of the lines, and I think it visually overwhelms the ones around her eyes that you can still see. If you look at her when she's doing the superheroing, you can still see lines around her eyes, but the mask draws attention away from them.
Secondly, I think she smiles more when she's Ms. Marvel, which I believe helps. And I think it ties in to the power of masks. I think for the characters, suiting up and going out to fight crime is a sort of Fountain of Youth. I mean, it certainly seems like a kid's idea, that you can put on a funny outfit, run around hitting people, and that'll make the world a better place. It doesn't really mesh with how things really are, even in a comic book world, as Ultimate Foggy Nelson pointed out to Ultimate Spidey. It's more complicated, and Carol knows that. She knows all about how the world isn't black-and-white, it's grey. But when she does the Ms. Marvel thing, she can forget about that for awhile, retreat to when things where simpler.
I think it even shows from issue to issue. I'd swear the lines are less noticeable in #5, when she's helping Dr. Strange fight the crazy and evil Warren Traveller, then in #6, when she's been drafted to round up non-compliant heroes like Prowler and Arana. One fight, it's very easy to decide who is right and wrong, the other? Well, in theory people who break the law are bad, but like I said, Carol's a mature woman. She knows it's not that simple. She just doesn't much like being confronted with it. Or maybe this is all subconscious on my part.
But I think the simple act of putting on the mask and going out to fight crime, it feels good. It's hard, but Carol seems to enjoy it. She certainly enjoyed beating down Stilt-Man. And I'd say from some personal experience, when you're enjoying yourself, you feel younger. Who knows? Maybe Carol has some power that unconsciously manifests when she dons the mask, and subtly de-ages her, an expression of what she's feeling when she goes out.