Captain Marvel 1

captain marvel 1Today, Drew and guest writer Suzanne are discussing Captain Marvel 1, originally released March 12th, 2013.

All art is autobiographical; the pearl is the oyster’s autobiography.

Federico Fellini

Drew: The notion that art reveals something about the artist is a popular one, and I think is at least part of the reason artists are such alluring figures in our society — who wouldn’t want to be closer to the mind that whose autobiography is the sistine chapel or the brandenburg concerti? What a work of art says about its creator is a fascinating line of inquiry, but I’ve personally always been more interested in what a work of art says about its audience. It’s this other autobiography that is often ignored when discussing (and dare I say creating) a work of art, but I personally think it’s much more important its success. Could I relate to this work? Could I empathize with its characters? Could I understand their sorrows and joys? As a woman holding her own in a male-dominated field, it’s easy to see Kelly Sue DeConnick’s autobiography in Captain Marvel 1, but as ever, this series is really about the fans.

The issue opens with a flash-forward to Carols’s adventures in space — a sequence specifically designed to stimulate our Firefly pleasure centers — but quickly skips back to explaining how she got there in the first place. The reasons are two-fold: 1) she and Rhodey (who she’s apparently been seeing on the DL) just rescued an escape pod from a planet destroyed by the builders, and 2) Tony Stark wants to keep an Avengers presence in space, and is looking for a good pilot to take the first shift. Tony gets cute in suggesting Rhodey, but even without the flash-forward, there’s no doubt that Carol would be answering that call to adventure — she is the hero of this story, after all.

Cleverly, DeConnick lampshades the holy living snot out of answering that call to action, making this issue effectively about seeking new challenges, moving forward, and literally reaching for the stars. It’s an inspiring message, but DeConnick adds a few more details to really drive that point home. To start with, here’s Carol’s introduction to herself — the first moment we get to breathe in an issue that kicks off with a whole lot of action.

LADY Liberty

Holy shit, is that a loaded page. Having Carol recite the inscription on the Statue of Liberty serves as an open invitation to folks out there that haven’t found a home in many of comicdom’s niches and subcultures. She’s effectively asserting Captain Marvel as the home for the poor, tired, huddled masses yearning to breathe free. That the statue depicts a female figure, is read by a female character, and that this scene was conceived by a female writer is no coincidence. I would never assert that this comic is for women (as a man who loved DeConnick’s previous volume, I know that it’s appeal is much broader), but it certainly ingratiates itself to female readers in a way that few series do. Like Carol suggests, it’s one hell of a welcome mat.

Of course, DeConnick takes that a step further, having Carol rattle off a list of dreams that anyone who was ever a kid should be able to relate to. That she then turns to the audience and asserts that she’s just like “you” really drives that point home. DeConnick is taking special advantage of the incredibly personal act of reading a comic book, allowing Carol to turn to each and every reader individually and assure us that she’s just like us, that we’re like her, that she is us, that we are her. It comes very close to being over the top, but DeConnick (and artist David Lopez, who delivers an across-the-board gorgeous issue) plays it with just enough childlike enthusiasm to keep it from becoming maudlin. It helps that Carol is actually talking to an actual kid — Kit, who helpfully adds that we all want to be a superhero, just like Carol. That this issue is dedicated to Aeris (a young fan who basically is Kit [who in turn is basically the entire audience]) drives the inspiring message home (and is enough to warm the cockles of even my Grinchy heart).

Full disclosure time: I may have been particularly susceptible to this issue’s “higher, further, faster, more” message because of where I am in life right now. I hesitate to use the term “quarter life crisis” (because yuck), but this issue is coming at a time where I’m feeling like I’ve allowed myself to stagnate a bit. I’ll spare everyone the mundane details, and I’m sure we can all use the occasional kick in the pants to stop procrastinating and make something of our lives, but I’ll be damned if it didn’t feel like this issue was a little bit written just for me. That extra spark of connection is enough to carry my reaction to this issue from “that’s nice” to “damn it, I need to change something in my life!”

That may be a bit of an awkward place to end, but I’m curious if that reaction is entirely my own autobiography creeping in, or if this issue actually is that inspiring. What do you think, Suzanne? Were you also inspired to action or do I just need to take a cold shower?

Suzanne: Let’s face it, Drew. It’s hard to not let your own autobiography inform the reading experience. The first volume of Captain Marvel felt almost personal — challenging me to reclaim my own choices and history like Carol did in the time-travel story arc. So does the second volume bring the same emotional depth? Its unfair to judge after the first issue, but all of the elements feel genuine to me.

Who doesn’t grow up nurturing dreams about accomplishing something remarkable? Who hasn’t felt that restless itch to achieve more? Those universal themes are what make Captain Marvel so compelling as a book. DeConnick explains Carol’s desire for personal growth in a tender exchange between Kit and her mother.

Kit y gatoI love how Kit’s mom defines the word “restless” for her and in turn reminds the reader about Carol’s disposition.

Thankfully, the new volume brings along old friends like Kit and Tracy and incorporates them easily into the plot. There’s even an awkward moment when Carol and Rhodey sneak off “to talk” and Frank Gianelli looks after them. In my opinion, that’s how writers should treat continuity — like more of an endnote than a thesis statement. Readers are intelligent enough to follow along without loads of backstory on Captain Marvel’s supporting cast. DeConnick also clues readers in that some time has passed and Carol’s relationships have changed since the last issue.

Iron Man essentially gives away the plot of Carol’s off-world adventures. The opening scene has a more cinematic feel — Star Wars world-building meets Captain Marvel punching stuff. I half expected Captain Marvel to walk into a cantina with Han Solo in tow. This transition to larger, more cosmic stories mirrors Carol’s personal progression as well. With her origin established, I’m excited to see Carol interact with headliners (and oddballs) of the Marvel Universe like Iron Man or the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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 DC’s website and download issues there.  There’s no need to pirate, right?

2 comments on “Captain Marvel 1

  1. I really like seeing Tony come back after spending some time palling around with the Guardians and being all “yeah, someone needs to do that, but not me.”

    It’s also interesting to me that there seems to be a renewed focus on the cosmic stuff. Space is such a tricky setting: when the environment is filled with nothing, it’s filled with nothing to care about. I’ve gone off on long rants on this site about not being able to invest in alien worlds and alien races, but that’s ESPECIALLY true when the worlds are as disposable as they are in any crazy outerspace adventure. There are obviously a ton of counter examples, but generally speaking comics lose my interest when they go into space (oh, New 52 Blue Beetle, we hardly knew ye!)

    • You know, I was so enamored of the inspiring message here that I didn’t even consider the series that this sets up. Actually, the fact that we (including Carol) don’t know what her adventures will look like — or if we’ll even like them — fits the theme perfectly. She’s restless. She needs to change, even if she doesn’t know what that change will look like. Seriously though, is that like a super relatable message, or is it actually just me?

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