ADVANCE REVIEW: Captain Marvel #1

By Steve Morris

prv12972 cov ADVANCE REVIEW: Captain Marvel #1

Carol Danvers has never fully clicked as a solo hero, which is strange because in most ways she seems designed to be the star in the spotlight. A blonde-haired, plane-flying, all-American girl, she’s got a simple powerset which makes her visually interesting and still realistic enough to be relatable. Her most recent solo series lasted an impressive 50 issues, but ranged in quality, and struggled to provide much in the way of memorable or defining characteristics. That’s the reason why Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new, revamped take on the character decides to find two big hooks and stick to them. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work, and Carol’s personality sinks almost immediately. The book follows.

It’s a shame, because there are things to like about the issue. Dexter Soy’s art is very similar to Crayton Crain in style and use of page breakdowns, but adds a lot more light and clarity to the story. His use of colour and shade are excellent here, and gives the book a unique tone and style which isn’t seen anywhere else in the Marvel universe. DeConnick gives him a range of different things to play around with too, including a short fight scene, some space flight, and a heroic pose or two. He does seem to have a little too much interest in drawing Captain Marvel’s arse, but I suppose that won’t hurt the readership too much.

The problem is that DeConnick’s two hooks for Carol Danvers aren’t particularly compelling. For all Marvel’s talk about how this is a book featuring a strong female hero, Carol doesn’t get much of a showcase here. Most of the dialogue is concerned with emphasising that she is a woman, and she lives in a man’s world, and men are men, and women are women, and that’s different, and we can never change the status quo. The story is so obsessed with defining Carol as “not a man” that is doesn’t do much to define her as a woman. She’s held down by gender, with a particularly weak internal narrative and no promising plots to steer her into. DeConnick wants her lead to be impressive for being a strong woman, but doesn’t do anything but bog her down in leaden ideas about feminism and gender roles.

prv12972 pg6 ADVANCE REVIEW: Captain Marvel #1

I can provide an example. The very first fight Captain Marvel gets into is against Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man. Who JUST WILL NOT STOP with misogynistic jokes. He’s a constant torrent of abuse, and puts Carol Danvers on a constant offensive. Unlike her old friend Peter Parker, Danvers is immediately on the reactive, rather than the proactive. And hey, how come Crusher Creel is a misogynistic character now? Of all the villains who might be demeaning towards women, why did they choose the one who dates Titania? It’s an early example of the defensive attitudes towards Captain Marvel which tank her personality almost immediately in the issue. She can’t come across as her own person, because she’s busy being the ideal for everyone else to judge themselves by.

The second hook is that Carol is a space pilot, which is an EXCELLENT hook. It works for Green Lantern (and sort of for Batwoman), and ties a wave of patriotism into the character which gives her a boost above any of Marvel’s other female heroes. She is military, and she knows her duty and service. Through the narration we get to hear about Danver’s connection to the airforce, and how she came to be who she is. It’s deftly thrown in as exposition (as is most of DeConnick’s introduction to the character, which is decently written), but then ignored as a possible plot point. She’s a woman and she’s a former pilot. But we don’t get to go anywhere from there.

She simply doesn’t come across as particularly compelling just from these two ideas, or at least these two ideas as presented here. Essentially a one-shot, Captain Marvel #1 doesn’t give readers any idea as to where the story might be going from here. Once you reach the end, you come out knowing just as much about Carol Danvers as you did going in. There’s no development for her, and no defining ideas or characterisation in her. Her new costume makes her a more dynamic and interesting visual, but there’s just nothing going on here. I really wanted this book to be good, because the character has always seemed like she should be much more notable and entertaining than she turns out to be. But she’s just not there yet.

The book is adequate. Yet beyond that, it’s immediately forgettable, and somewhat disappointing.

Comments

  1. Naveed says:

    Besides, expect Marvel to relaunch it in 6 months with the MARVEL NOW! re….vamp.

  2. “And hey, how come Crusher Creel is a misogynistic character now? Of all the villains who might be demeaning towards women, why did they choose the one who dates Titania?”

    Last I checked, a lot of misogynists have girlfriends (or wives for that matter). That’s hardly a criteria.

  3. “Last I checked, a lot of misogynists have girlfriends (or wives for that matter). That’s hardly a criteria.”

    Good thing he wasn’t talking about some generic, nameless girlfriend, then, but about the character Titania.

  4. What if you came into this story not knowing ANYTHING about Carol Danvers, would the story have been better considering all it did tell you, at least superficially, about her?

    I appreciate your review, your expectations may be a little skewed by your knowledge of and expectations for this character. The book may come off differently to a reader who has no idea who Danvers/Marvel is, say, one of those new readers that we’re always getting down on DC and Marvel for not catering to.

  5. Carol, please lose that gawd-awful sash…

  6. Mikael says:

    I was all set to buy this book – and then Marvel insisted on double shipping it. To me, that’s overkill. Especially on a low tier book like this. So I’d rather send them a message by not supporting it at all.

  7. Scratchie says:

    Is it just me, or does the magazine’s “Captain Marvel” logo look like they took one word from each of two other logos? (Too busy to go look it up.) Or was it just pasted together sloppily? The “thickness” of the letters doesn’t match. Was the old logo like that?

  8. blacaucasian says:

    “I was all set to buy this book – and then Marvel insisted on double shipping it. To me, that’s overkill. Especially on a low tier book like this. So I’d rather send them a message by not supporting it at all.”

    I don’t understand.

  9. Wow, that Dexter Soy art is some of the worst I’ve seen in a Marvel comic in quite some time. The art alone will sink this book.

  10. Oh, and the coloring. That’s off-the-chart bad, too.

  11. Joe S. Walker says:

    Saw the preview at CBR, thought the art was hideous and not helped by being swamped in motion blur, the ugliest and most pointless computer effect yet devised for comics.

  12. @blacaucasian Because Marvel has developed this nasty habit of selling you two issues per month for some of their titles. For some people that’s OK but for those who budget their comics expenses it can get quite expensive.

  13. Looks like it, but isn’t *quite* the same. Interesting to see that sort of thing.

  14. Scratchie says:

    @Ron, thanks for posting that. It looks like it’s definitely *based* on that logo, but it’s not actually the same thing. The actual font in the word “Captain” is different (the letters look “bolder” in the old logo), and the thickness of the 3d-effect is visibly different in both words compared to the old logo.

    The word “Captain” is “thinner” than the word “Marvel” in the old logo, but the fact that they’re both “thinner” in the new logo, (and the difference in the outline of the font) makes it look “off” in the new logo (to my eyes, anyway).

  15. otistfirefly says:

    >>>>Most of the dialogue is concerned with emphasising that she is a woman, and she lives in a man’s world, and men are men, and women are women, and that’s different, and we can never change the status quo… She’s held down by gender, with a particularly weak internal narrative and no promising plots to steer her into…. but doesn’t do anything but bog her down in leaden ideas about feminism and gender roles.>>>

    Well, isn’t that normal for feminists? I mean, it sounds like a typical reaction to a ‘brokeback pose’ cover here at the Beat!!

  16. Why is Cap green and monstery? And what’s with the thigh-bag deal-y?

  17. Paul Houston says:

    I think the interior art is good, it’s that cover which is just awful. Ugly ugly ugly.

  18. John Warren says:

    Crusher Creel has a history of being a misogynist. Read AVENGERS #183 if you doubt it.

    “Unlike her old friend Peter Parker, Danvers is immediately on the reactive, rather than the proactive.”

    Huh? Since when has Spider-Man been proactive?

  19. Dear Todd says:

    Cool beans for the Marvel cosplayers. Female Cyclops in a sports bra. Du génie pur et simple!

  20. with comics these days one has to give a book two or three issues to get a real feel if one enjoys the direction of the book and decides to continue to collect the book. i’ll be giving the book a chance, if by the third issue they have failed to interest me in purchasing subsequent issues, then it’s buh-bye to capt.marvel. i hope not tho’, it’s a great character that has a lot of potential.

  21. The coloring is really muddy and doesn’t help the art at all.
    If I was actually inclined to pick up this series (I thought Brian Reed’s run on Ms. Marvel was pretty good), that art/coloring would definitely dissuade me.

  22. Shawn Kane says:

    I am a huge Carol Danvers fan but if they want to do her justice in her own title, give her a big name artist not some guy who draws Undead Captain America. That’s one of my problems with Marvel Comics these days, the house of Jack Kirby, Steve Ditko, John Buscema, and John Romita now uses many artists that are more interested in their particular take on a character rather than drawing them on-model.

  23. I was ready to pick this up, but the art killed it for me. Issue three already has a different artist, so either he’s been replaced, or it’s a fill-in.

  24. Synsidar says:

    I wonder how much Carol Danvers is like a stunning model who is told by everybody she sees that she should be an actress. “But I don’t know how to act,” she tells them. An agent tells her, “You can be in movies that don’t need you to act.” So she tries a couple of films, has some scenes that have her showing skin, running around, looking distressed, and needing help, all while looking stunning, but the reviews and viewers’ reactions are scathing. So she gives up acting.

    Danvers wasn’t set up for success. Her origin, as I recall it, was contrived. Her set of powers, particularly being able to absorb energy, is difficult to use well. She’s never had a good supporting cast. The obsessive need to fight crime isn’t there, and shouldn’t be, since she grew up without a power. If your average Joe or Joelle acquired a power accidentally and couldn’t use it profitably, or as he pleased, he’d probably want to get rid of it, rather than have it take over his life. If there was a poll, the storylines she’d probably be best remembered for are having her powers stolen by Rogue, and being raped by someone who wanted to be her son and lover both.

    Danvers might be an excellent example of someone who could be useful, as a civilian, as part of a supporting cast, but shouldn’t be a title character. Practically all of the ideas for storylines are either forced or plot-driven.

    SRS

  25. Snikt Snakt says:

    I always thought she was a lousy character. I only found her interesting when she was BINARY, which was Phoenix-lite. Other then that, she was cannon-fodder IMO.

  26. I might check it out if reviews are good and I can flp through a page or two at the comic store sometimes this week but all I’ve heard is the “ace pilot turned superhero” hook and I find that a little weak. But I hope it’s good.

  27. Torsten Adair says:

    Hmmm… Ms. Marvel was originally perceived to be a Supergirl archetype.

    Given her military background, she now seems like a female Captain Atom.

    An interesting take would be her military service. Having taken the government’s side during Civil War, what connection does she have with the federal government? With SHIELD?

    Of course, that would also suggest “Diana Prince” parallels.

    What’s her relationship with Maria Hill? Did they clash in the past?

    As for supporting characters, what sort of “normal” life does Carol Danvers have?

  28. #CaptainMarvel is trending on twitter. Not the real one, mind you … ;)

  29. Synsidar says:

    As for supporting characters, what sort of “normal” life does Carol Danvers have?

    Nothing, apparently, since the initial idea for the Reed Ms. Marvel series was to have her work on becoming the world-famous celebrity she’d dreamed of being in the House of M reality. That idea bombed, naturally, and Reed and his editor failed to come up with anything better. It might have been natural for people at Marvel to think that, well, she’s ex-military, so fighting people to uphold principles will come naturally to her, but that assumes that members of the military fight easily. They fight when they have to, or they’re nuts.

    I wonder how many ideas for characters start with a sketch of him or her in costume and the creator thinking, “Wow, that looks cool. What should I name her? What can she do?”

    SRS

  30. There was a good Word Balloon interview a while ago with Kelly Sue DeConnick, about her take on the character. It’s worth a listen. There are some interesting historical discussions in the interview as well.

    http://ifanboy.com/podcasts/word-balloon-podcast-dc-vps-kelly-sue-deconnick-art-baltazar-franco/

  31. SteveA says:

    I’ve not read this yet, and I might still give it a couple of issues but I think this is another example of where Marvel could have borrowed a page from DC. By that I mean, junk the parts of her origin that are clunky, not applicable to the 21st century, or make any writer’s job a huge pain, slim stuff down and see what happens. Don’t call it a reboot, make up something with the cosmic cube, or some weird power beam, whatever helps you sleep at night, but use it to build a strong and interesting character that we want to read about.

    There have been some great suggestion in the comments so far. Where are her supporting characters? Where are her rogue’s gallery? What is it she is fighting for? She’s a little bit like Cap, as someone with a military background. but also she went against him and the others in Civil War. So there’s conflict there straight away. What about SHIELD? How does she feel about them? Who is she working for? What if she was recruited by SHIELD? Is she still an Avenger and how does that fit in with the rest of her life?

    I would prefer to see a rich, interesting character, that has a clearly defined goal or mission or ethos, so that from issue 1, you know what it is about and it doesn’t limp along. They tried the celebrity angle, it didn’t work. So what next? The whole intergalactic, space thing doesn’t appeal. Is she sort of a Green Lantern / Nova cross now? Maybe that should have been the story, create a new SF space book, similar to Nova. What if she was recruited to be a member of the Nova Corps? Just spit balling, but I’d rather it was one thing, an earth based superhero, or the other, a SF intergalactic warrior, not both. Make her interesting and man, woman or asexual alien, people will want to read about the character. I want this comic to do well, because I am interested in the character. The character’s gender does not feature into any part of my buying decision process when I look at getting a new comic.

  32. b.t.t.c. says:

    “The story is so obsessed with defining Carol as “not a man” that is doesn’t do much to define her as a woman.”

    Of course. That’s par for the course in Marvel circa 2012.

    I’m old enough to remember when there was a female BLACK Captain Marvel around during the Reagan era. She was well-liked and easily accepted by fans, and she appeared in numerous comics that sold more in one month than half of Marvel’s titles now sell COMBINED.

    But what’s that? Oh, right, “In no way, shape, or form must we ever acknowledge that any non-white male person or character ever had it better in the past, especially not when a Republican was in office — because we must always be obsessed with labels and politics and attribute everything to the mythical idea that we are all always progressing towards a better world for all people, always, as long as we become increasingly over-obsessed with gender and race, constructing ever more elaborate and impossible-to-fulfill rubrics for is or isn’t racist/sexist vs. what is or isn’t in some way helpful and inspiring to hypothetical female readers who we assume NEED to be inspired and influenced by fictional characters. And we must not just have great characters who ‘happen’ to be all sorts of different sexes and races, but we must micromanage everything from a heavy-handed/top-down/guilt-trip/champion-this-change-or-feel-emotionally-blackmailed process. And so therefore there could NOT have been a successful BLACK female Captain Marvel ALREADY, thirty years ago, since it is only NOW that Marvel is obnoxiously politicizing everything always.”

    Unsurprisingly, iFanboy’s advance review gave this four-stars.

  33. Monica Rambeau, right?

    Wow, why do I remember that? o_O

  34. Sphinx Magoo says:

    Not to dogpile, but her new costume seems reminiscent of the Miracleman/Marvelman Family costumes. Possible crossover potential there…?

    Actually, seeing this misogynist angle to Crusher Creel makes me want to see how she kicks his butt. Maybe a good toss into the East River will cool him off!

  35. @b.t.t.c.:

    Wow. That rant makes no sense. You really think that’s the thinking driving Marvel to go with Carol and not Monica for the title? And that’s why they’re launching this title?

    What you’re saying makes even less sense given that there’s nothing to indicate Monica Rambeau’s time as Captain Marvel has been retconned away. That got referenced multiple times in NextWave, which is modern-era Marvel. And she’s shown up in series since then.

    Also, the thirty years ago thing makes no sense in-continuity, given how Marvel Time works.

    And the sales thing is kind of silly. It was a different comic market back then.

  36. @Sphinx Magoo: I’ve heard that comparison as well, but I think DeConnick has said the idea was to make her costume more of a flight suit.

    And it fits in with the sorts of costumes some previous Captain Marvels have had:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Captain_Marvel_29.jpg
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Phyla-Vell.png

  37. Michael Churchill says:

    I’d letcha know what I thought of it, but Diamond decided I didn’t need the copies I ordered.

  38. Rikk Odinson says:

    Ms. Marvel/Captain Marvel is my 9 year old daughters favorite comic character of all and while she would have rather had her stay Ms Marvel ( she likes the old name and costume ) she was really looking forward to this book and she loved it when I brought it home for her yesterday.
    Sorry that she doesn’t resonate for all you old men and angry feminists BUT she does matter to a young girl. A young girl that might even grow up to become a life long comics fan because of Carol Danvers so, IMO, this book is wanted and it is a success.

    As much as Marvel annoys this mid-40’s comics fan, they are doing all right by my kids and that’s what’s really important. Not the opinions of jaded old fans.

  39. Charles Knight says:

    Very strange first issue – it reads almost like the sort of filler issue you get between runs – I certainly wouldn’t pick up the second issue based on what is in the first.

Trackbacks

  1. […] Steve Morris, The Beat: “She simply doesn’t come across as particularly compelling just from these two ideas, or at least these two ideas as presented here. Essentially a one-shot, Captain Marvel #1 doesn’t give readers any idea as to where the story might be going from here. Once you reach the end, you come out knowing just as much about Carol Danvers as you did going in. There’s no development for her, and no defining ideas or characterisation in her. Her new costume makes her a more dynamic and interesting visual, but there’s just nothing going on here. I really wanted this book to be good, because the character has always seemed like she should be much more notable and entertaining than she turns out to be. But she’s just not there yet.” […]

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