Captain Marvel 1

captain marvel 1
Today, Ryan D. and Mark are discussing Captain Marvel 1, originally released January 20th, 2016. 

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Ryan: For some time now, one of the largest recurring themes when it comes to Ms. or Captain Marvel is the legacy of the character. The character of the Captain has undergone numerous iterations through the years until the mantle came to rest permanently — or, as is often the case in comics, for now — upon the capable shoulders of the weathered and tested Carol Danvers. This issue heralds in the next chapter of the character, offering her  a new platform and new responsibility as the first line of defense for the Earth. While Captain Marvel has, of late, played important roles in large cross-over events and team-ups, this issue is wholly her own, though it also features a swell cast of supporting characters. While Carol is hoping that her new post will offer her a new purpose, can this creative team solidify her status as legend while respecting the tradition that comes with being Captain Marvel?

Carol Danvers begins the issue punching incoming asteroids before a quick flashback to a conversation with War Machine, Lt. James Rhodes, establishing the vague circumstances of her new position. Before long, Danvers arrives 250 kilometers above the Earth in geosynchronous orbit above the S.H.I.E.L.D. Triskelion and goes almost straight into her duties. Herein lies one of the challenges awaiting Captain Marvel; her role has expanded past the tried-and-true punch/banter combo to being a protector, soldier, and diplomat. Her second in command, Lt. Commander Abigail Brand, who possesses years of experience when it comes to maintaining relations with alien races, insistently reminds our protagonist of her responsibilities, such as the important yet seemingly mundane meeting with the Eridani delegation, in disapproving fashion. Brand may be the most dynamic of the ancillary characters due to her hidden motivation to play second fiddle to Capt. Marvel, and plays an important foil to Carol and a wonderful exposition machine for the audience. I look forward to Danvers and Brand invariably finding begrudging mutual respect for each other as the series continues.

Much of the fun here takes place as Carol meets her colleagues. First and foremost is Eugene Judd, better known as the cult hero Puck from Alpha Flight. If you haven’t been paying much attention to your Canadian superhero squads, you may also take a moment to say “Didn’t they all die back in New Avengers 16?” You would be correct, but many of them are back (because COMICS, that’s why). At least Puck has a cool explanation: seen with Logan in Hell, he battled his way up to the temporary ruler of the Inferno, even defeating Ba’al before returning to the land of the living, and now, spaaaace. Writers Tara Butters and Michele Fazekas imbue Puck with a special charm, while acknowledging the pain that comes from his mystical case of achondroplasty which shows that the two did their homework whilst mining for playable dramatic characteristics in what could come off as a flat character. Aurora and Sasquatch, who are both…totally adequate choices, round out the group of muscle assigned to this team, but it is the smaller characters being given voices that interests me, particularly the Ensign and also Science Officer Lt. Wendy Kawasaki. While these two Red Shirts could very-well just blend into the miasma of the story, I am glad the creative team seems intent on giving them meatier roles and distinguishable characters.

The art in this title seems to me the largest variable in a solid first outing; it strikes me as hodgepodge. Sometimes Kris Anka depicts people as lean, angular, and beautiful, with colorist Matthew Wilson lending some very poppy reds and yellows. At other times, however, the art appears chunky and oblique, with details succumbing to blandness, especially if the characters depicted are not seen in the immediate foreground.

These panels should show you exactly what I mean in regards to how Anka conflates diminishing perspective over distance with a loss of clarity and sharpness. This style reminds me a bit of John Romita Jr.’s husky depictions of heroes on such events as World War Hulk, which honestly turns me off in a big way.

If there is one place where Anka’s art is on point, however, it is in his illustrations of our titular heroine. Carol’s body suit is form-fitting, but practical, and a far cry from her skimpy spandex from back in the day. Even her body type has been altered — in my opinion, for the better — from the buxom beauty with the long blonde hair to one which resembles maybe a high-level CrossFit athlete, who focuses more on functional movements based around strength than looking jacked. Anka also draws her under gravity well, in the sense that she always looks rooted in a way which befits someone with her power level, both in rank and physical prowess. You can see how kinetic he wants this Captain Marvel to appear:


You can see Anka drawing this punch with as much authority as can be mustered, with the entire body thrown into the strike despite it being thrown in space. While her mouth looks a bit awkward to me, I love Anka’s choice to depict her in what I seem to recall from Art History as being figura serpentinata, full of torque and force.

All in all, I appreciate this first issue, which also happens to be the first comic ever written by Butters and Fazekas, who gained their street cred by scripting Marvel’s TV series Agent Carter.  The voice of the comic is colloquial, endearing, and human. While the art style distracts me at times from really loving this book, the end reveal promises an interesting arc forthcoming which may call Carol Danvers’ place in the legacy of Captain Marvels into question. Mark! Are you feeling like you could be invested in this patchwork outfit posted at Alpha Flight Space Station? Do you think that Captain Marvel can still be relevant now that Kamala Khan stands tall as the premiere Marvel heroine? And am I being overly nitpicky about the art?

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Mark: No, I don’t think so. Now, let me preface this next bit by saying that all comic book artists are clearly talented or they wouldn’t be working, and that I recognize that anything they produce is going to be immeasurably better than anything I can do. Let me also say upfront that I am a broken record pretty much any time I write about an issue’s art on Retcon Punch. But with all preambles aside, the ever-shifting faces of our heroes here bother me. Some of it is the way Anka uses lack of detail to portray perspective, but sometimes it’s just that faces are hard to draw. It’s actually more noticeable here than on titles with what I consider “bad” art, because Anka is generally on point. When things here are only slightly off it has an “uncanny valley” affect on your brain. Something just doesn’t feel or look right. All that said, this is a very strong design for Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel and when Anka and Wilson nail it they really nail it.

But what does it tell you that outside of the image of an asteroid being punched to smithereens that Ryan already included, I didn’t find anything other than the cover to be worth sharing.

Captain Marvel

I have not read a Captain Marvel book for a long time. I usually find Carol Danvers to be pretty boring, frankly. A less fun Green Lantern, with no real defining characteristics or personality. Yes, she’s absolutely smart, brave, strong, determined, and handsome. Which is all great! …It’s just inherently boring to have a lead character with no distinguishing character traits other than her gender. Fazekas and Butters’ Captain Marvel 1 doesn’t fix that — Danvers is still as competent, beautiful, and utterly milquetoast as ever — but it does make the smart decision to surround her with a potentially interesting cast and a potentially interesting central mystery.

Being only passingly familiar with previous Captain Marvel comics and anything Alpha Flight, there were pages where I couldn’t believe they were introducing yet another new character to the story. We don’t get much time to flesh out many of them, but Fazekas and Butters make good use of a quick moment when we learn Commander Brand turned down the job of Captain. It goes unexplored for now, but it adds much needed shading to what was otherwise a fairly one-note character up to that point and promises more interesting things from Brand in the future.

I don’t want to sound too down on this one. This is a solid first issue, one that serves Carol Danvers’ existing fans well. Yes, I’m left wanting more from Captain Marvel as a character, but I recognize not every comic book and superhero needs to appeal to my tastes.

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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?

One comment on “Captain Marvel 1

  1. I first became familiar with Kris Anka on a site called Project Rooftop, a very cool site that posts people’s redesigns of superheroes. And I believe that is where Marvel found him, as he got his start doing redesigns for things like X-Force (something he continues to this day, giving a wonderful update to Jamie McKelvie’s Captain marvel design, even if I miss the helmet). I have a feeling that this may explain some of Anka’s issues (especially, unlike Babs Tarr, I don’t think he has ever had something similar to Cameron Stewart mentoring him as he starts doing actual interior art). The thing that quickly jumped out to me was how the introduction of Alpha Flight at the start was done on panels that made it hard to see the faces of who were being introduced. Kris Anka is great at what he does, and the cover and the punching the asteroid are proof of that. But I believe he still has a lot to learn about interior art.

    The story itself was alright. It really does feel like the work of TV writers, with an issue that feels less like Issue One and more like ‘first segment before the commercial break’. It just sets up the story, without feeling like there really is a story itself.

    The characters are the real issue. I think Puck works great, being a really likable presence in the story. Others, though, I didn’t care for. I agree with Mark that I’ve found Captain marvel as milquetoast, and the book doesn’t do much to really dispel that notion. As much as Captain Marvel is one of those redesign successes like Hawkeye, it almost feels like there needs to be another redesign to fully define her (or at least, a strong cinematic depiction that can fill all the blanks her character still has).

    Brand, though, is a character that feels really wrong. Quite simply, Brand is never a character that I see as working well within an institution. Even as she has always ran SWORD, she has never been a team player, and is more likely to just yell at the delegation than to try actual diplomacy. Her being so professional and proper just doesn’t sound like the Abigail Brand I’ve read before. I mean, could you imagine the Abigail Brand of Siege being like this?

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