(Marvel Comics, 2014)
Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artwork by David Lopez
Color Artwork by Lee Loughridge
If you heard a strange sound Wednesday it was probably the huge collective sigh of relief heaved by the droves of Captain Marvel fans when this book finally, actually showed up on the racks of local comic shops around the world. It seems series writer Kelly Sue Deconnick and Marvel worked in cahoots to keep the masses of loyal fans in the dark about the future of Carol Danvers and her return in a solo book after the New Marvel Now shake up. It seemed precarious at best if not downright bleak, had Captain Danvers seen her last issue in an eponymous series? The answer, a resounding Nevah! Captain Marvel is back and perhaps better than ever, Deconnick is at her Star Wars referencing, witty bantering best in this first issue of what turns out to be more of a continuation of previous plot threads and story elements than a full-on re-boot, which is fine with me because if it ain’t broke don’t fix it and Deconnick is very obviously far from broke. If you need further proof of that fact after reading this phenomenal first issue I suggest you pick up Pretty Deadly, her ethereal horror/western at Image, which is sure to knock your shoes and socks off.
As I said this book is not a re-boot in the traditional sense and due to that fact it is not completely new reader friendly, anyone coming to the series for the first time could benefit from a bit of backstory. First of all, the character Captain Marvel has a bit of a convoluted history. The original Captain was a Kree named Mar-Vell who has the extremely dubious distinction of being one of the very few Marvel characters who has died and stayed dead, that is to say since his demise in the early eighties, he has yet to return to the 616. The origin of Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel is very charmingly and succinctly summed up in a final page addendum credited to the equally charming Kit aka Lt. Trouble, the daughter of a friend who is sharing living space inside the Statue of Liberty’s head with Danvers at this time. Yes I said inside the head, now perhaps you see what I mean about new readers needing a bit of initiation? Anyway, after the death of Mar-Vell, Danvers aka Ms. Marvel, who was a pilot in the USAF and after developing these Kree-like alien powers (see Kit’s explanation) was given the nod to be the new Captain Marvel, complete with a new and very much improved costume and official Avengers membership. There has been lots of debate over the new costume, perhaps second only to Superman’s new uniform but if you ask me and since you are reading this you kind of did, I am on board 100% with our female characters, be they good or evil, donning much more practical battle attire. Let’s face it, how effective is a person going to be in combat wearing stiletto heels and a corset? I ask you do we need to sexualize every woman in comic books to make them engaging characters. Or is it enough to write smart, strong and incidentally attractive females who contribute much more to the narrative than a pair of pendulous orbs stuffed impossibly into an ill-fitting metal brassiere. In my opinion, as a rule, clever trumps cleavage. Everytime.
This issue is written in an out of sequence time line, beginning with a glimpse of events some six months in the future. The Captain and a band of merry alien misfits find themselves on the Mos Eisley inspired outpost world of Ursor 4, possibly a more retched hive of scum and villainy, its desert atmosphere calls to mind the arid planet of Tattoine and its inhabitants are no less surly. The Spartax Police seem to be the equal of the Imperial Stormtroopers in every unpleasant detail, this does not bode well at all for our heroine and her traveling companions who are exceedingly anxious to avoid any Imperial entanglements, let’s say.
Now, six months prior, we join Carol and her roommates inside the head of the Statue of Liberty, which for all intents and purposes appears to be a rather comfy living space, lots of, ahem … headroom, ok I know, but I couldn’t resist. Deconnick does an absolutely wonderful job with the relationship between Danvers and Kit; they seem to share a favorite aunt/niece kind of chemistry. One of the highlights of this issue is a scene the two share in which Kit asks Carol what she wanted to be when she was her age when she grew up. The dialog is poignant and tender without being sappy. It is a heart-felt moment shared by two actual people with feelings and emotions, there is depth in this dialog that goes on for miles. It is around this time that Deconnick nimbly ties the disjointed timeline together. Captain Marvel and Iron Man encounter a sort of derelict space capsule that appears to be an escape pod. In the drifting craft the pair of Avengers finds an alien woman, one who we have been introduced to in the opening pages as one of Cap’s travelling companions on Ursor 4. After dealing with the problem at hand, Tony offers Carol an opportunity to spend a year in space manning a kind of distant early warning satellite. However, in classic Stark fashion, Tony offers the position to Rhodey to entice Carol to want it all the more. The proposition is extremely attractive to her and she needs no further enticement to jump at it, Carol is still very much on a journey of self-discovery, as readers of Deconnick’s previous Captain Marvel series can attest, this is a big part of the character’s personality. She would welcome the solitude and the chance for some real introspective thought, Danvers is not exactly comfortable in her own skin; she’s restless and yearns to know herself on a deeper level. Carol Danvers, as a woman and as Captain Marvel, is very much a work in progress. Deconnick crafts such a complex and nuanced character by putting her through hardship after hardship and coming out the other side a better person. This is an endearing, likable character full of complexities and life. Her interactions with the people in her life present her as someone we would all like to know, despite the inherent complications of having a super-hero as a friend.
As a first issue, this may not be a perfect introduction to the character but, when dealing with a character as complex as Captain Marvel it would be a tall order to do that in a single length issue, however Deconnick does a fantastic job of starting new readers off at the beginning of a story arc that promises to be full of changes to the series’ status quo while continuing to delve into Captain Marvel’s back story. Deconnick’s energetic pace and tendency to keep things light as well as her ability to effectively use humor to show the human side of these characters are just a few of the reasons this book is so darn good. She is so adept at maintaining the balance between a serious super-hero book full of all the genre specific elements we love and a fun, entertaining action-adventure story full of human drama. This book is a multi-faceted, tremendously textured story about characters we can’t help but like and more importantly care about.
Visually, David Lopez matches the tone of the narrative beat for beat. His subtle and sometimes delicate imagery works wonderfully with Deconnick’s story. Lopez’s character designs and realistic approach to anatomy are maybe not what you would expect in a super hero series but, this is not your typical super hero series. I think his work is so well suited for this book because it is so grounded in reality. His faces are emotive and genuine, especially when rendering Carol’s eyes, and his lines are clean allowing the facial features to speak volumes in a single panel. Lopez’s approach to page composition is a bit on the traditional side as well but, again I find it a very well suited match for the tonal quality of the narrative. Lee Loughridge is becoming a colorist that I am beginning to appreciate more and more. The colors on this book are dynamic without being over powering; Loughridge’s subdued palette is another spot-on choice for this book.
Overall, Captain Marvel #1 is an absolute joy to read, to look at and to appreciate in all its myriad charms. Deconnick gives this character a strong but endearing voice, great dialog, briskly paced action and engrossing plots further make this book a must read and if you let this one get away shame on you. This creative team is a perfect fit from top to bottom, the synergy that seems to exist is a singular event and I for one hope this is just the beginning of a very long run for them. (5/5)
Shawn is an aspiring writer/ artist who has been reading, collecting and living comic books for over 30 years. He lives in Baltimore with his wife, their son, lots of cats, dogs and other various finned and furry friends.