Saturday, September 22, 2018

Book-A-Day 2018 #265: Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: Earth's Mightiest Hero by DeConnick, Sebela, Soy, Rios, & Andrade

First up, the consumer note that I wanted but didn't get: this is indeed Volume 1 of the books reprinting the 2012 Captain Marvel series written by Kelly Sue DeConnick. (It contains twelve issues and the second volume has five more.) That was preceded by comics called Captain Marvel (just by Marvel, with various people using that superhero moniker) in 2008, 2002, 2000, 1995, 1994, 1989, and 1968, and followed by further Marvel Captain Marvel series in 2014, 2016, and 2017 (that last one starting with issue number 125, to totally confuse everyone).

So this is nowhere near the beginning of anything. Being a superhero series from one of the Big Two, I shouldn't have to mention that it's nowhere near an ending, either.

But, there's a Captain Marvel movie coming, vaguely sort-of based on this take on the character, so this is the book Marvel is hoping people will buy once they see and like that movie, and this series is also somewhat of a grand-mommy to the recent slew of "diverse" comics from Marvel. (Scare-quotes around "diverse" since a lot of it is just showcasing more women, who the numerically literate among us already know make up more than half of the human race.)

So, anyway: Captain Marvel: Earth's Mightiest Hero, Vol. 1. (I think that's the correct order of the title elements. If not, I have another option in the post title.) These are the comics where Carol Danvers, ex-Air Force test pilot and possessor of strange powers granted her by alien beings (somewhat literally) changes her costume and name, casting off "Ms. Marvel" so it can be used by someone else and Marvel can sell more comics and make more money because she is better than that, and deserves to use the slightly misspelled name of an alien dead guy because blah blah legacy yammer yammer mantle yadda yadda please tell me you're buying this?

The stupid speech I'm referring to above is given by Captain America on pages 8-10 of the first issue here, after they beat up a random bad guy in a museum for I'm sure what wouldn't be a gratuitous fight scene if anyone bothered to explain it. It contains the kind of logic and rhetoric that exist only in superhero comics, and only there because the real reason Carol Danvers is going to become Captain Marvel is that 1) Marvel owns a trademark in that name, and expects that trademark to return it some cold hard cash on the regular and 2) there are several thousand fanboys consumers who will buy anything that says Captain Marvel on the cover, at least for a few issues. Danvers is just the most obvious person to do so.

So Captain Marvel exists as pure trademark-extension, for both "Carol Danvers™" and "Captain Marvel™." Let's stipulate that. And it doesn't have to be all that good to fulfill that mission: Danvers punches someone new each issue, has some supporting cast with problems, bingo bango, it'll last long enough to make us to the next crossover event where everything will change.

But DeConnick is actually interested in people and their relationships -- well, let's not go crazy here; she is to the extent anyone can be in the straitjacket of a Marvel Universe comic -- and so she (and co-writer Christopher Sebela, on issues 7-8 and 10-12 for no obvious reason) has plots that mostly aren't about punching the Villain of the Month, and which tie into Danvers's backstory and history.

Now, again, I don't want to oversell it: it's mostly on the level of a decent made-for-TV movie or passable airport paperback, with the tough female test pilot still yearning to prove what she can do after she's left that world, and her complicated relationship with the older woman who was something of a mentor to her, plus a friendship with another woman who used to be Captain Marvel and the guy who will probably be a boyfriend, eventually. (With added time travel and aliens, obviously.)

The art is also quite distinctive: Dexter Soy does six of the issues, in what I think is a full-painted look and which is brightly surreal in a good way. Emma Rios has a spiky take on more traditional comics pencil-and-ink look (colored by Jordie Bellaire) for two issues in the middle, and Filipe Andrade does the last four issues in a very angular, loose-lined (but with almost chibi faces) style that also goes all the way to color.

This may well have looked like something startlingly different, particularly to pure Marvel readers of 2012. And it is pretty different from most of what Marvel was doing, being actually concerned with women and their emotions. For me, it's slightly more interesting than a standard Marvel comic, but only the same way sandstone is more interesting than a broken piece of concrete -- one is a bit more real than the other.

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