Suzanne: Have you ever turned on Fox News or MSNBC and listened to the political pundits’ commentary? You’d hear them prescribe the cure for deep-seated political issues like the Israeli/Palestinian conflict in a five-minute sound bite. But can they really appreciate the complexity of these conflicts from an outside perspective? That’s not even considering the emotion, levels of tragedy and loss the people involved experience. In the last issue of Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers walked into an entrenched political situation wrapped into a public health crisis. The people of Torfa live on a poison planet; people are getting sick and dying and will continue to do so unless they leave. Yet Carol manages to check her assumptions (thanks to Madame Eleanides) and learn from the people of Torfa. And by learning I mean going to other planets and stealing from intergalactic pirates.
The issue opens with Carol addressing a council – known as the fellowship – who are conflicted by the decision at hand. Do they leave their sick behind and trust that the Galactic Alliance will help them establish themselves on a new planet? Or do they remain on Torfa and search for a cure to the illness? Decisions like these are never simple, and Kelly Sue DeConnick incorporates different voices and political perspectives during their council. Carol takes several missteps but eventually comes up with a potential solution. She suggests using a ferry rig to create a Ring World with their fleet; this would transport all of their people (healthy and sick) off planet.
Unfortunately, their fleet looks more like a scrapyard than a ferry rig. Turns out, intergalactic criminals called the Haffensye have been stealing their supplies and parts for their spaceships. In true Carol Danvers fashion, she jumps into her ship with a bunch of misfits and goes to planets Ursor 2 and Ursor 4 to steal back what’s theirs. Does she quite know what she’s getting into here? Probably not. It’s easy to love Carol’s impulsivity and free-spirited nature. Meanwhile, talks between Madame Eleanides and Emperor J’Son of the Spartax could make the Middle East look calm and peaceful.
From this point, DeConnick introduces readers to a completely new supporting cast. It’s a treat for those of us who miss Carol Danvers’ friends like Wendy Kawasaki from the last volume. More importantly, each character feels like they contribute to the greater dynamic (and heart) of the series. They are equal parts alien and familiar, from Gil’s gruff exterior to Jackie’s sassiness. And don’t forget the token space creature – a sentimault called B-329. David Lopez does his fair share of heavy lifting here with some physical comedy between Carol and Gil. Little details like Jackie’s alien dreadlocks touching Carol’s hair as they shake hands add to the tone of the book. Compared to the previous volume, this book already feels more visually consistent than the rotating (gorgeously talented) artists of Dexter Soy, Emma Rios and Filipe Andrade. My only quibble is the coloring on a few of the pages. Lee Loughridge’s tendency to use warmer tones like yellows washes out panels that could feel more dynamic.
It’s hard for me to imagine starting this series as a new reader. Despite only being four issues in, there’s a considerable amount of backstory from the previous volume that adds context to Carol’s adventures. But Captain Marvel retains certain characteristics whether she’s punching dinosaurs on Earth or stealing spaceship parts on Ursor 2. I like seeing her react to elements outside of her wheelhouse as an Avenger.
Spencer, what are your thoughts on Carol’s new supporting cast? Do you miss her Earth friends like Jessica Drew and Kit? Did you have any insights on the conflict between Madame Eleanides and Emperor J’Son?
Spencer: You know, Suzanne, I think J’son wants to do the right thing, and I think J’son even thinks he’s doing the right thing, and that makes his conflict with Eleanides and her people much more interesting. It would be easy to just dismiss J’son as a total douche and move on, but, while his douchebaggery is certainly legendary, at least in this situation there’s more to him, as even Captain Marvel herself seems to understand:
Much like Carol, I’m sure we all remember J’son’s catastrophic attempt to negotiate with the Builders back during the days of Infinity. While there were certainly some shady motives behind J’son’s decision (he specifically wanted to spite Earth), he was still trying to save his planet and his people, even if he did so in an underhanded, bone-headed way.
Likewise, I think J’son — at least initially — approached this situation with the best of intentions. While it’s entirely possible this whole relocation attempt has been some sort of Heisenberg-ian attempt to manipulate the people of Torfa, it seems more likely that J’son wanted to do the right thing and help these people; the problem arose when things didn’t go according to J’son’s precious plan.
See, J’son’s fatal flaw is that he thinks himself a god. When plans don’t go his way, when people disagree with him, he becomes livid, and even worse, he becomes rigid and unyielding, sticking to his plans no matter how unfeasible they may be. I can understand Madame Eleanides’ explanation that, after all the loss they’ve suffered through, her people would rather die together than again be separated, but J’son can only see this as an insult to both himself and to the “mercy” he’s extended to Eleanides’ people. The most important person in J’son’s world is J’son, so even his best intentions can quickly turn dark and dangerous.
He’s a fascinating contrast to Carol, who in many ways has the same goal as J’son initially did: to rescue the people of Torfa. Yet, while J’son lets his ego become more important than the wishes of the people he’s supposed to be trying to save, Carol stands back, she stops and listens to the people of Torfa so that she can figure out the best way to help them.
Boy, let me tell you, I am so glad Carol handled things this way. It would’ve been easy for this story to slip into some sort of “white savior” garbage, but DeConnick’s too good for that, and instead she gives us a hero who doesn’t impose her will on these people, a hero who at least tries to get a full understanding of the situation and then creates a plan that will bring about what they want, not what she wants. Carol’s actually got more in common with J’son than anyone would ever want to admit — she’s loud, headstrong, and stubborn, just as he is — but it’s her compassion that sets her apart. J’son’s no sociopath, but deep down at the center of it all, what he cares about the most is himself; Captain Marvel is selfless, and that’s what makes her the hero of this story more than anything else.
Anyway, Suzanne, I was only an intermittent reader of DeConnick’s previous run on this title, so I don’t have a ton of attachment to Carol’s supporting cast back on Earth, nor am I privy to all the context those issues add to this story. What I do know, though, is that I too love this new supporting cast. They’re lively and full of personality, and they way they play off each other and off of Carol is absolutely charming. I hope they’ll stick around, because they bring a lot of fun to the book.
While the personalties and voices DeConnick gives these new characters are an absolute blast, artist David Lopez is just as essential in bringing them to life. I’m in love with his designs on the alien characters, which are often both adorable and hideous at the same time, and all of which display a remarkable variety of features and body types. Perhaps his greatest strength, though, is facial expressions, and it’s through Carol more than any other character in the book that Lopez shows just exactly what he’s capable of.
There’s just something about Lopez’s faces that works for me; they look real without being photorealistic, they’re remarkably expressive without becoming rubber-like or cartoony, and they always suit the character. While Jackie, for example, is a little more subtle with her feelings (she smirks a lot), Carol is as bombastic as they come, spending much of the book either screaming at the top of her lungs or smiling a smile that could probably power the entire East Coast by itself. Her intense expressions match her intense emotions, and the same goes for the rest of this issue’s cast.
It’s obvious how much thought Lopez puts into these designs, and how much thought DeConnick is putting into this storyline to make sure that it’s complex and respectful and not just something that Carol can punch and zap her way out of. If they can keep this same level of quality through to the end of this arc, then it should be quite a finish.
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?