The relaunched or rebooted Captain Marvel title was always an obligatory read for me, being a long-time, major Carol Danvers fan.
But I didn’t approach it with a huge amount of enthusiasm necessarily, having not really enjoyed Captain Marvel comics since the end of Kelly Sue DeConnick’s run. The last time I was fully enjoying things was the 2014 run of Captain Marvel, which I thought was awesome (my old review of it is here) – and which I remember being very annoyed about when it was discontinued before Secret Wars.
The post Secret Wars rebooting, with Carol up in space with Alpha Flight, never really excited me or held my interest: to the extent that I even ended up skipping a whole bunch of issues.
That said, Mighty Captain Marvel #0 isn’t a bad new start-point, at these things go. There are a smattering of nice elements here in this first book; from Carol’s awkward super-star status as an icon (complete with fan-club, fan-fic and posters) to a flashback that adds a little more to the Danvers backstory/mythology, along with some continuing psychological fall-out from the Civil War II storyline.
That said, Carol’s Tony Stark nightmares are perhaps a little heavy-handed – I would prefer some more considered psychological exploration of her actions an decisions in the Civil War II storyline. But I suppose it makes sense.
Better than this, the kiss-and-make-up with Jessica Drew is a genuinely nice moment, as Carol/Jess intreactions usually are (the “I love you Spock”/”I love you Kirk” exchange is knowingly cute too).
Margaret Stohl is a good Carol Danvers writer, who clearly has affection for the character and a good handle on Carol’s dynamics and relationships.
I also really appreciate how the real-world refugee crisis is being echoed or explored in comic-book form, albeit via displaced civilians of extra-terrestrial origin. As someone who has been deeply moved by the refugee crisis (and written about it elsewhere), I respect the writers’ choosing to mirror that real-world crisis in a meaningful way.
Nothing spectacular here, but a mostly solid footing.
The Mighty Captain Marvel #1 gets a little better, expanding more on the alien refugee crisis and Carol’s compassion for the refugees and frustration with bueauracratic inaction.
The juxtaposition here between a very serious story (the refugees and a bounty hunter kidnapping Kree children) and a more tongue-in-cheek element (the ‘Cap’N Marvel’ TV show being filmed) actually works quite nicely, particularly as the two elements are related.
That opening sequence of the fictional Captain Marvel TV show being filmed while our (real) Carol and Jess watch from behind the scenes is very funny (the “Oh Captain, my Captain” line as Carol watches her on-screen alter-ego making out with ‘Hero Man’ is the funniest thing I’ve read in a comic book all month), and we get a really feel for how absurd and unreal Carol’s life is becoming.
I do wonder if this whole thing is a sly little dig at modern Marvel and DC TV show adaptations (I kept thinking of the Supergirl series in particular); but it’s a fun little element, at any rate.
The Mighty Captain Marvel #2 is more of the same, with Carol having to juggle her Alpha Flight responsibilities with the increasingly intrusive TV show annoyance. The Mighty Captain Marvel #3 and #4 aren’t especially great, but there’s something endearing about Carol’s relationship with the Kree child ‘Bean’, which dominates this arc.
Unfortunately – for me anyway – I’m just not that into the whole Alpha Flight thing right now. We get some pleasant dynamics in #4, with Natasha Romanov and Jessica Drew providing fun banter – and we get a fairly poignant wrap-up to the ‘Bean’ story.
Mighty Captain Marvel #5 has us enter Secret Empire territory proper, as we see Carol and Alpha Flight fall victim to Steve Rogers’ well-planned trap to keep them cut off from Earth.
There’s something particularly fun about seeing the story unfold from this side of the divide, having also seen the same event unfold from the other side in other books. Carol’s reaction to realising she’s been ‘conned’ by Rogers is particularly good – but later becomes flat for the fact that we don’t actually get to see her make good on her threat to make Captain America pay for his betrayal.
Still, although the extended Alpha Flight ensemble of characters still isn’t doing anything for me, we do get some good action here as the gang fight to stave off the Chitauri wave. A welcome guest spot from the Guardians of the Galaxy also helps keep things lively.
Mighty Captain Marvel #6, #7 and #8 hold things down, maintaining the crisis without necessarily doing anything special.
There is a good sense here of both the siege mentality (coming under constant attack from the Chitauri) and the sense of isolation (being trapped in space), which is conveyed effectively throughout. There is a strong sense of an endless, futile struggle against a relentless enemy force, which is the vibe that underlies this entire arc.
We also still have Quill and the Guardians around, which helps keeps things feeling lively. But essentially all of this just feels like we’re waiting around for Quasar (Avril) to wake up from her coma and fix everything.
Mighty Captain Marvel #9 might be my single favorite issue in this title so far.
Which, for a book in which nothing really happens, is interesting: Mighty Captain Marvel #9 is a low-key, entirely character-focused interlude set in the immediate aftermath of Secret Empire.
It’s been my observation that Carol Danvers as a character lends herself to those kinds of stories very nicely – which proves to be the case here. This is a genuinely sweet, endearing and interesting little chapter, focusing in on Carol’s state of mind, and enlivened substantially by her friendships with Jessica Drew and Jessica Jones, who provide welcome and fun dynamics.
It occured to me freshly, reading this issue, that the reason I haven’t enjoyed this current Captain Marvel title as much as previous runs is because it has been so plot-focused and so bound up in Alpha Flight: whereas previous runs have been much more inclined towards quieter development and exploration of Carol as a character, as well as her relationships.
Having Jessica Drew here is always fun – there isn’t a buddy dynamic in all of Marvel more endearing than Carol and Jess. But, really, this is all about Carol trying to adjust to her place in life after Secret Empire. With Alpha Flight no more, an earth-bound Danvers is struggling to figure out her purpose now, as well as struggling to process or come to terms with the events of recent months and her part in them.
On both counts, this book does a really good job. It also nicely balances the light-hearted elements (the two Jesses trying to get Carol on a superhero dating app) with the more serious, introspective elements – in particular, Carol’s guilt over the events of recent times and her sense that she should’ve been the one to stop Steve Rogers before everything got so bad.
In particular, her guilt over Natasha’s death I found touching – and her observation that it should’ve been her and not Natasha fighting to stop Rogers is actually something I had thought myself back in Secret Empire. I think I even made the observation in my review that, as brilliantly as Natasha was used in the Secret Empire story, it felt like the story needed Carol here on earth and fighting the fight instead of being stuck out in space.
At any rate, Mighty Captain Marvel #9 is a great little interlude – and the best single issue of this title to date. I want more of this.
On the whole, I’ve enjoyed this current Captain Marvel series more than the previous one – but I still think we’re waiting for a book that can match the quality and consistency of the Kelly Sue DeConnick runs and what was going on with Carol in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
We’ll get there, I’m sure. But I hope it’s soon.
Read more (from THE BURNING BLOGGER OF BEDLAM archives): ‘Just How (Very) Good is the CAPTAIN MARVEL (2014) Series…?‘