Graphic Reviews: Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel

As I mentioned last week, I wanted to take the picture perfect opportunity presented by the coming arrival of Marvel’s first female-led superhero movie and take a look at Captain Marvel! The movie starring Brie Larsen is out on March 8th (tomorrow) so this seemed like exactly the right time to catch up on a superhero about whom I knew next to nothing. I’ve never been much of a Marvel fangirl so I’ll admit that there’s a fair number of Marvel heroes that I was unfamiliar with before the great round of movies. To be perfectly honest, the Marvel world of comics has long intimidated me. I mean, where do you pick to start? I’ve caught random storylines here or there but can’t claim to have followed any of the major ones. Which is part of why I appreciate the Marvel Cinematic Universe so much. It gives people like me a jumping off point to dive into Marvel comics without having to worry about all the stuff we don’t know. When one of the other Aeither writers sent me a YouTube video talking about Kelly Sue DeConnick’s initial Captain Marvel run from 2012, I figured that would be my own personal jumping off point before I go see the movie. So this week, I read the two Captain Marvel volumes, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight and Vol. 2: Down as well as the Avengers tie-in, Avengers: The Enemy Within which ends that particular arc. All three volumes were published from 2012-2013 by (of course) Marvel Comics. All three were written by Kelly Sue DeConnick with a rotating illustrating team including Dexter Soy, Emma Rios, Filipe Andrade and Scott Hepburn. Without any further ado, here’s a new Cap!

In this Captain Marvel arc, the titular character really gets put through the ringer and readers are given a chance to see both Carol’s past and her hopes for the future. The first volume begins with a gift from an old mentor that has Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel leaping back into the past. This allows DeConnick to present Carol’s past without having to go through the tired origin story format. Readers get to see what started Carol down her path as a pilot in the Air Force and the events that led to her powers and mantle as first Ms. Marvel and then later Captain Marvel. In particular, In Pursuit of Flight pairs Carol with a very similar young, stubborn and adrenaline fueled young woman who will shape both of their destinies. In the second volume, Carol teams up with Monica Rambeau (a previous wearer of the Captain Marvel mantle) to track down the source of a mysterious disturbance out at sea before running into problems of a more personal nature. Is Carol up to the challenge of an enemy she can’t punch her way through? And in the final volume of the arc, Carol faces the repercussions of the discovery at the end of Down and the very real possibility that even the support of the entire Avengers and S.W.O.R.D. team won’t be enough to grant her victory over an old foe. Yes, I’m being vague, but hey, better than spoilers, right? It’s an extremely action packed series that brings Carol through both highs and lows and challenges every bit of her stubborn, unyielding nature.

Kelly Sue DeConnick’s 2012 Captain Marvel run has gathered a lot of praise and to be perfectly honest, I’m of two minds about it after finishing the three volumes. Prior to this run, Ms.Marvel/Captain Marvel had a varied history with some rather regrettable choices by some of the writers. DeConnick’s run changed that and created a new mythos for Carol Danvers, setting her at center stage. As a character, Carol Danvers is exactly the kind of hero I would have loved to see as a kid and one that I immediately fell in love with while reading this series. She’s a born fighter jet pilot, stubborn as hell and filled with what the Brits would call bloody-mindedness. She’ll never back down from a challenge and even when you think you’ve beaten her, she’ll fight to her last breath. She doesn’t necessarily make the wisest decisions (frequently the opposite) but she’s easy to admire and sympathize with. And she’s certainly no wallflower. There were parts of the series where I almost wanted to stand up and cheer for her, when I was ready to declare her my new favorite female superhero. But there were also significant parts of the story where I was confused or just straight bored to tears. This 2012 run sets up a mythos but doesn’t really give Carol room to breathe as her own person outside of the mantle of Captain Marvel. She’s a sympathetic character but she doesn’t feel quite real. And that’s a bit of a disappointment.

It’s also worth mentioning the artwork of the series. I wasn’t necessarily a huge fan of either Dexter Soy or Scott Hepburn’s art. Soy has a very pretty style that picks some interesting techniques that feel more like watercolors or paints than a lot of what I’ve seen from other more realistic styles. He also has an unfortunate tendency towards T&A centric panels and constant pursed lips like an Instagram star. And for all that he has gorgeous pages, he has some damned awkward ones too. Hepburn is not bad but he doesn’t exactly blow your mind either. But Filipe Andrade….I would be so very happy if I never read another comic with his art in it ever again. I am not entirely sure that he understands that while Captain Marvel does have alien Kree powers, she is in fact still human and is expected to have normal human features.

Andrade needs to take some serious lessons in how to draw faces. Because dude….how are you so much better at dinosaurs?!

Overall, I’d recommend checking out this 2012 run by DeConnick to get a good grasp of the new mythos for Captain Marvel. It introduces her character and shows her grit and stubbornness excellently. The story, which is full of confusing time travel and alien machinations, got a little dull and just too out there for me. I did also start DeConnick’s 2014 run which takes Captain Marvel to space and has her teaming up with none other than the Guardians of the Galaxy. Now THAT, I wholeheartedly recommend! For whatever reason, putting Captain Marvel in space with the Guardians really brings out more of her personality and gives her room to breathe and worm her way into your heart. It’s really that series that made me a fan of the character, for all that this one began the journey.

Have any thoughts on this series or Captain Marvel in general? Let me know in the comments! I’m going to see the move on Sunday so I’ll hopefully be reporting back on that next week!

– Cait

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