Today, Patrick and Drew are discussing Captain Marvel 15-16, originally released August 21st and September 18th, 2013, respectively. These issue is part of the Infinity crossover event. Click here for complete Infinity coverage.
Options >> Preferences >> Fog of War: Off
Warcraft II, Traditional.
Patrick: I used to play a lot of Warcraft II, and by most accounts, I was very good at the game. I played both the campaigns, all the expansion packs, even played on-line before that was really a thing. But no matter how much I wanted to challenge myself, I would always, always, always go in to Options, Preferences, and then turn “Fog of War” off. The Fog of War feature would gray-out areas on the map that you had explored but in which you didn’t have any units — you could still make out the terrain but enemy activity would be totally invisible to you. I always wanted to see what was going on. Besides, the metaphorical fog of war would set in anyway — with so much activity it became impossible to focus on all of it. Ironically, if I had just let Fog of War stay on, I could have zeroed in on my own army and really understood what they needed to become stronger. Infinity has been playing the game with Fog of War off, and the spectacle of seeing the whole board lit up at once has been astounding, but the Captain Marvel tie-ins relish the Fog, finding focus and purpose and a very specific time and a very specific place.
The plot of these issues is going to redundant if you’re reading Infinity and Avengers. Hell, entire exchanges are lifted directly from Infinity 1 and Infinity 3. Carol leads one of the two Avengers cruisers during the big first big space battle. Things are looking great until the ambush – and which point, things go south pretty quick. Just about everyone else is able to jump away to safety, but Carol and her crew (Hawkeye, Sunspot, Cannonball, Starbrand, Nightmask, Abyss and Captain Universe) are left in a crippled spaceship that’s sandwiched between the enemy fleet and a black hole. Carol throws everyone in escape pods and detonates the ship, hoping the explosion with propel them clear of the singularity. However, this leaves her alone against the Builder fleet. Turns out, proximity to the black hole maxes out Captain Marvel’s powers, so it’s not nearly as hopeless at it seems.
Looking a little too Phoenix-y for me to be comfortable with this development, Carol fends off the Builders, but not for long. They’re all captured, and we get a retread of that “how did you get these tools?” conversation from Infinity 3, including J’son’s betrayal. As Carol is witness to this, she assumes that a) the Avengers are all dead and b) Earth is fucked. As soon as she’s back in the brig with Hawkeye, Sunspot and Cannonball, they quickly form a last-ditch / suicide mission to destroy the command ship they’re currently held in. Fortunately, not only aren’t the Avengers not dead, but they’re also here to rescue Captain Marvel and her team! They escape just as Starbrand levels the Builder ship.
Throughout this tie-in, Captain Marvel is stuck in a bit of a going-through-the-motions thing. Carol’s memory has been on the blink lately, and all the friendship and comradery that’s going around seems as alien to her as the baddies she’s battlin’. I know, I know — broken memories sounds an awful lot like amnesia — the most tired of serialized storytelling contrivances. You’re not totally wrong.
Ms. Captain Marvel has a history (both recent and ancient) that can make approaching her series for a two-issue stint in the middle of this event more than a little intimidating. Just as Infinity’s Fog of War forces us to focus in on Carol Danvers, this amnesia creates a Fog of War for Carol’s whole life. Sure, we can know about her broken powers, about the love triangle with Hawkeye and Spider-Woman, but that’s all ancillary to this story.
Kelly Sue Deconnick is none too subtle about it. She has Carol’s voice-over directly address the importance of this specific moment with these specific characters early in the issue 15.
On the ground. In the air. In space — once something on this scale starts, you can’t ever see the whole battle, just your little slice of it.
Unfortunately, whatever significance we’re supposed to get out of this little slice is more muddled than anything else. There are a few recurring themes — suicide missions, letting Hawkeye do stuff, rescuing and being rescued by Spider-Woman. But none of these really gel into a single cohesive statement on either Carol Danvers or the war with the Builders.
Plus, as much as I love the idea of recontextualizing action to achieve different emotional effects, I was mostly bored by repetition in these issues. One of my favorite moments in either issue is Carol telling the Gardener “well… at first there was nothing” as a way of answering the question “what brought you to this?” That’s verbatim an exchange we’ve read before. And as much as I like Jonathan Hickman’s characterization of Captain Marvel, I read this series for Kelly Sue Deconnick’s take on her.
There’s also this sort of weird reconcilliation between Jess and Carol at the end, that doesn’t feel particularly earned or particularly impactful.
“Sorry I’m such a badass.” “Good enough.”
Come to think of it, maybe those lines best summarize how I feel about these issues… Drew, am I being to harsh on this tie-in? I feel like it’s so close to making the repetitive story beats interesting, but still doesn’t totally know what to do with all that old information.
Drew: I don’t think you’re being too hard on these issues — this is one of the worst cases of tie-in-itis I’ve ever seen. For fans of Captain Marvel, these issues are pretty far removed from the tone of that series (though it does feel quite a bit like DeConnick’s Avengers Assemble 18, which unfortunately also went over some of these same story beats). For all of its recent high-flying action, Captain Marvel is pretty well grounded by Carol’s interactions with her non-super friends. These issues are a world away from Wendy, Carol’s apartment, or any of her day-to-day worries, which might leave fans with little to hold on to.
Unfortunately, I’m not sure there’s much for fans picking these up for Infinity, either. Like Patrick pointed out, the events here are so tied to what we’ve already seen, there’s not much room for story. I’m a big fan of recontextualizing scenes on a second viewing (Back to the Future II is easily my favorite of the franchise), but DeConnick just doesn’t have much to work with. She works overtime to give Carol some agency, but ultimately, the beats of Infinity require that she be captured, and then require that she be rescued. I’m a big fan of DeConnick’s characterization of Carol, but even she struggles to turn two plot points into a living, breathing person.
The biggest problem — and the real source of the tie-in-itis I mentioned earlier — is that these issues have to be written for both Captain Marvel fans AND Infinity fans, which forces them to go over plot points that are redundant to anyone who is both. Issue 15 walks us through the Battle of the Corridor, and then Issue 16 talks us through it again.
That’s helpful if you haven’t already read through that scene in Avengers 18 and Avengers Assemble 18, but totally redundant if you have. The emotional beats feel similarly warmed-over from Avengers Assemble 18, which oddly requires us to be more invested in Jess than we ever are in Carol.
Carol’s current condition strikes me more as an unfortunate coincidence than anything. Patrick characterizes it as suspiciously amnesia-like, and while it feels like a tired genre trope in the context of this giant story, I know that DeConnick will make it work in the context of the smaller, more personal world she’s created for Carol. As far as Infinity is concerned, Carol is a cog in a machine that happens to have amnesia, in Captain Marvel, the loss of Carol’s memory is a tragic loss of identity, and one that I fully trust DeConnick to explore once this giant event gets out of the way. Unfortunately, having that crisis of identity in the middle of this event means that Carol is kind of lost in the shuffle. That wouldn’t be a problem — there are a lot of characters whizzing around — but for the fact that Carol is expected to anchor a couple tie-in issues. Without her there to center these issues emotionally, these feel like they’re just walking us through details we didn’t know we wanted to know — the Jack’s tattoos of Infinity.
Yeah, these issues aren’t great ambassadors for this series — I’m personally a little bummed that this represents our first coverage of Captain Marvel — but it’s also quite clear that DeConnick’s hands were tied by the machinations of Infinity. I couldn’t help but get excited when I saw the way the letters page not-so-subtley trumpets the return of “Captain Marvel’s Solo Adventure” next month. I can’t wait.
For a complete list of what we’re reading, head on over to our Pull List page. Whenever possible, buy your comics from your local mom and pop comic bookstore. If you want to rock digital copies, head on over to Comixology and download issues there. There’s no need to pirate, right?