Full disclosure: A deeper look at Captain Marvel
When you’re reviewing a series on an issue-by-issue basis, it can be difficult to look at the overall series and judge it on its merits and intentions. I’m just getting into comic reviewing on a public basis right now, so this is a bit of learning curve for me. (I will be reviewing more titles in the fall, when various Marvel titles roll back to #1. Don’t worry: The big boys will be going under the microscope, too.) I chose to start this section of my blog with Captain Marvel for several reasons, the first being that I’ve been looking forward to this book since it was first announced. It has been my gateway back into reading comics on a monthly basis, a way back into the life I grew up with as a kid. I also wanted to read this book because I love Carol and want to support female-led titles; not because they feature women, but because they feature women just as interesting as their male counterparts.
Now, that said, this is a title that I’ve been a little critical of (but not unfairly, I don’t think). It is a young book still finding its readership in a highly competitive market, and it has a lot of hurdles to overcome. It’s a little easy to look at the bright covers, and artwork purposefully reminiscent of feminist iconography, and write this book off as a gimmick. But with just a cursory glance at the interior, this book already proves to be so much more than that. Kelly Sue DeConnick’s stories are heartfelt and Dexter Soy’s art is bold and energetic, commanding your attention. It’s a book about action and adventure, superheroes and sci-fi; it’s also a quiet, introspective book that asks a lot of questions of its hero. Two issues in I feel it is headed in a good direction, just not a direction all fans will appreciate.
Captain Marvel, like Carol Danvers herself, is looking into the past to find a foundation for the future. It’s the story of a woman who has struggled with her identity and her own place in Marvel’s pantheon of heroes, going through changes in costumes, code-names and powers more than a lot of her contemporaries. In DeConnick’s words, Carol is a “crackerjack pilot [who] races to prove [her] dead daddy wrong.” She’s out to prove a lot — to herself, above all else — and find her footing in the world, not just as a hero but as a person. So this is a book about letting go of the past, but also about remembering where you come from. Carol is the sum of her challenges and triumphs, not just the product of her hardships. This book wants to remind us of that, and does it in very quiet, powerful ways.
We see Carol in the warm company of friends, like Tracy and Steve Rogers. We see her in battle, fearless and in control. We see her as a pilot, in her element in Helen’s T6, eager to take risks. We see her questioning her place in the world, unsure of her mantle, her right to the name Captain Marvel. We see her change and grow in subtle strides. It’s only the second issue in, and, no, this is not a typical superhero book. A lot of people may not like that, but I do. So if I’m critical of this book, it’s because I want so badly for it to do well. It’s already sold out of its first issue, and that’s exciting. With any luck, it will find a good readership at the end of this time-travel arc and carry on to tell other, broader stories.
This is a bold chapter in the mythology of an amazing character, and, fingers crossed, I’m looking forward to reading more.