Captain Marvel v1: Higher, Further, Faster, More

Captain Marvel #1 Cover

*Note: This was a review written by me for a previous website.

It was just under two years ago when Marvel launched a new series starring Carol Danvers, now taking up the Captain Marvel mantle, which had previously been held by men  Rumors at the time suggested Captain Marvel might be making an appearance in Avengers 2, but as we get closer to that movie’s release date it looks like that particular rumor did not amount to anything.  The series was written by Kelly Sue DeConnick,who was also writing Avengers Assemble, and drawn by Dexter Soy.  It was essentially a grounds-up reboot for Danvers which tried (mostly successfully) to jettison a lot of the baggage that had built up around the character after decades of convoluted continuity.  The character was boiled down to just two things: her history as an Air Force pilot (retired) and a superhero with a rather generic set of powers (flight, strength and power blasts).  The piloting side really came to the forefront, and most of the core plot was built around her desire to prove herself as a hotshot pilot without the aid of her powers.  It was, in many regards, a fitting tribute to the early female pilots who helped start the aviation industry as a whole, and who built a name for themselves during World War 2.  It also had some really muddy, hard to follow art, which made it hard to recommend.

In January this year that series was cancelled with issue 17, and a new series — also called Captain Marvel — was launched in May.  Kelly Sue DeConnick stayed on as the writer, but she was joined by David Lopez on art.  Lopez brings a more traditional style to the book which, while perhaps not amazingly impressive on its own, is at least easy to follow and enjoy.  DeConnick has justified the relaunch, to a degree, by moving Carol past her piloting desires and pushed her to explore the vastness of space.  Some of this may be from a company mandate to get her on to the Guardians of the Galaxy (who guest star in a few issues in this collection), but for the character it actually works.  Most pilots would love to test their skills in space, and it is a natural progression for Carol — who did, after all, get her power from aliens to begin with.

The first issue of this book dedicates itself to giving Carol the push she needs to begin her journey into space.  A mysterious object breaches the Earth’s atmosphere and is on a collision course with Manhattan.  Carol and Iron Patriot (James Rhodes) intercept it and discover that it is actually a life pod containing an alien, named Tik.  It is decided that Carol will return Tik to her homeworld, and then explore the universe a bit.  Carol has been feeling antsy lately, anyway, and with Iron Man having just returned from his stint with the Guardians, it is decided that having a continued presence with the Guardians might be a good idea.

This book does actually have the Guardians make an appearance, too, with Rocket, in particular, making a bit of a splash with Carol.  This issue is mostly played for laughs as Rocket is insistent that Carol’s pet cat, Chewie, is not actually a cat, but in fact a “flerken”.  We are never told what a flerken is, but Rocket considers it dangerous enough to shoot on sight — which Carol is none too pleased with.  Honestly, this was my favorite issue of the collection for its humorous moments and the interactions between Rocket and Carol.  There is also a fun space battle at the beginning, t0o, which evokes some of the more fun moments from the original Star Wars movies.  This was the issue that sold me on this series as a whole.

The remaining four issues are then dedicated to Carol returning Tik home and confronting some harsh political realities of being an Avengers diplomat.  The world that Tik is from was destroyed during the Infinity crossover, and the entire remaining population repatriated to a new world in the Spartax Empire, which is led by J’Son, the father of Star-Lord.  Now they are getting sick and, believing the world to be toxic, are being forced to move again.  They are less than keen on the idea of moving again, especially since it will mean leaving their sick behind.  J’Son is rather adamant that they should leave, which naturally makes Carol curious.

In the early parts of this story there are some interesting conversation points that hint that this might take a more adult approach to the delicate world of politics — the leader of Tik’s people has some interesting opinions on how exactly an Avenger is supposed to help in this case — but by the end of it things just boil down to an extended fight.  I suppose I cannot really fault the book for that since this is a superhero comic after all, and the genre does have certain expectations attached to it.  Unfortunately it kind of flags up the point that superheroes are not much use in diplomatic affairs or issues regarding sickness, hunger and poverty, but then promptly forgets that by having the resolution involve Carol punching things.

If only the real world were quite so easy; it is always a massive headache when comics try to address it.  On the one hand it is important to draw attention to real world issues to raise awareness, but on the other hand it looks kind of silly when you have to rationalize why superheroes can do nothing about these problems.  In Carol’s case that is easy — she just hits things real hard and will not be too useful in fighting world hunger — but for a genius like Tony Stark or Reed Richards?  That is just Monday’s crossword puzzle.  Over in the DC universe Batman had his back broken in half by Bane, but was able to be rehabilitated by technology that can help nobody else, apparently (it certainly did not help Barbara Gordon, who spent decades in a wheelchair while Batman was able to walk again in a few months).  It is one of the biggest problems facing comics writers today, and this book unfortunately is unable to give a better answer than any other we have seen so far.

But let’s ignore that for now, seeing as this is supposed to be escapist entertainment and all, and focus on the actual story at hand.  The plight of Tik’s people, the Nowlanians, is pretty well done, and there is a good balance between their pride and how beaten they are.  They refuse to accept the reality that staying on this planet will inevitably result in their extinction, but there is a certain nobility to their stubbornness.  That is, of course, ignoring the fact that it is pretty obvious that their problems are artificial in nature.  No one seems to pick up on this, though, until Carol stumbles along, which does make them seem kind of stupid.  J’Son may be presented as something of a savior here, but anyone who is remotely familiar with him (as pointed out by Star-Lord and a few others) would know not to trust him in the slightest — anything he does is for his own benefit.  For a race that is otherwise fairly intelligent and resourceful, the Nowlanians come across as terribly naive in this regard.

All things considered, the story holds together well enough, but there are definitely some hiccups here and there.  For instance, I am not entirely convinced that two small, cobbled-together starfighters would be able to thwart the entire Spartax navy (diminished though it may be) in pitched combat.  Sure they can use the reluctance of the Spartax crews to accidentally hit their own ships (as is helpfully pointed out), but one hit and either fighter is gone.  Plus, why do the Spartax not have fighters of their own?  Surely some form of carrier ship must have survived given the size of their fleet.  Part of their plan also involves destroying the item that the Spartax want their planet for, but since it cannot actually be destroyed they can only bury it.  Carol notes that it will take them “another 200 years to get it back”, but that does not even begin to make sense.  At our current technology level it would take a few years, at most, to build a mine capable of reaching the item again — the Spartax far eclipse us on that front, so I highly doubt it would take them more than a few months to dig there if they really wanted to.  Unless Carol did something really special I do not think her tactic will be all that effective.  Then again, J’Son seems to take the threat seriously so maybe there is something to that (though he can be quite dumb sometimes).

Bumps aside this is a good, enjoyable relaunch of Captain Marvel.  I may not be convinced a re-launch was strictly necessary given how recently the series launched in the first place, but DeConick does a good job of pushing this book in a new direction to help justify the change.  Her writing certainly makes giving this book a look a fairly safe bet, and I am looking forward to seeing more of her take on the Guardians of the Galaxy (if she could take that book over from Brian Bendis I would be thrilled).  The blurb for issue 7 also implies that we will be seeing a resolution to the question of whether Chewie is a cat or a Flerken, so that is something to look forward to, as well.  All told, this new series is a good sci-fi adventure for anyone craving a bit more Marvel space action after that excellent Guardians of the Galaxy movie.


You can get Captain Marvel v1 at Amazon.

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