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Review: CAPTAIN MARVEL #1

Carol Danvers, the current bearer of the title Captain Marvel in the Marvel Universe and the former Ms. Marvel, holds a unique position among all the female spin-off characters created for male superheroes. Unlike, say, Supergirl, Batgirl, She-Hulk, and Spider-Woman, Carol actually long ago surpassed her male counterpart in popularity and importance in the overall Marvel universe. The original Captain Marvel, a/k/a the alien warrior Mar-Vell, had an ongoing series that was relatively short lived, and was killed off back in the early eighties (and shockingly, hasn’t come back to life in all this time). Since then, Ms. Marvel, who was introduced as a human pilot who developed powers similar to the Kree Mar-Vell, became an A-list Avenger, and even forgave them when she was abducted into another dimension with a creepy rapist dude and they all just smiled and let it happen. Yes, that’s a thing that happened.

A couple of years back, Marvel decided it was high time that Carol “graduate” to being the new Captain Marvel officially. Along with the new name came a new costume, one that I’m not crazy about, to be honest, but don’t hate it either. (Mini-rant: I don’t think the idea that by “de-feminizing” a female hero’s costume, you are making the female hero “stronger”- that’s simply equating strength with masculinity when doing that, as if to say the only way a woman can be strong is by emulating a man. While there is nothing wrong with a woman wearing more masculine clothing at all, a woman can still be kick-ass in thigh high boots and showing a little more skin than a man traditionally would. This is also why Wonder Woman never should have pants. End of rant.) Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick launched the new series last year, and although there was strong initial buzz, sales began to taper off, and when no issues of Captain Marvel were scheduled for several months, fans panicked.

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Well, there was no need for panic, because Marvel always had plans to relaunch the series with a new  Captain Marvel #1 issue and a little extra publicity push. The new series opens up with the good Captain on the alien world of Ursor 4, on a desert outpost in the Mos Eisley tradition. Carol is there with a rag tag alien crew (are there any other kind?) and they seem to be evading some kind of galactic authorities while they search for something… which we, the readers, don’t know what it is. But we know it’s contraband of some kind. Of course, a brawl happens, there’s some punching, and Carol loses one of her companions in the melee.

Cut to a flashback to six months ago. Captain Marvel is now living in the head of the Statue of Liberty, which is a fitting HQ in a symbolic way (but also seems like it would be kinda cold up there and there’s not a lot of space. Where’s the shower and the bathroom? Does she have to fly down to the gift shop?) It kind of looks more like she’s squatting there. She’s got a young mother and her little girl (Lt. Marvel) living with her, although not having read the last series, I have no idea who they are and how they ended up in Carol’s orbit, or living with her in the Statue of Liberty, of all places. A little explanation for new readers would have been nice in this regard. Carol is given a nicely written moment during a scene between herself and the little girl, when the girl asks Carol “what did you want to be?,” and she answers, “I wanted to be all the things; an Olympic medalist-astronaut-teacher-veterinarian-storyteller and marine biologist.” It’s never not OK to show young girls that there are no limits to what you can want to be… although Carol should know that the only pretty blonde that gets to be all those things is Barbie.

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During this time, she saves the city from a meteor that is really some kind of spaceship with a young alien girl inside, whom we recognize from the prologue. Iron Man shows up and makes Carol a proposition – he feels the Avengers need a representative in space, like an early warning system…and then promptly suggests James Rhodes, the Iron Patriot, for the job. Of course this just makes Carol want it more, which was Tony’s plan all along (sneaky bastard). And we get to see the beginnings of just how Captain Marvel ended up in space with the young alien girl in the first place. There are other surprises in this issue, at least for me, although I’m not sure how many of these thing were in play already in the previous Captain Marvel series. In this issue we find out which famous male hero Carol is dating, which I won’t reveal in case it’s not something that was known before this new series. But, hey, it was a shock to me!

While this issue is nothing too out of this world, it’s a nice solid superhero book, which is all it needs to be. I enjoyed Kelley Sue DeConnick’s writing style quite a bit; She moves things along and always keeps the funny going at all times, which is always something I appreciate in my superhero titles, which tend to take themselves waaaaay too seriously. I felt the art was serviceable; David Lopez draws a lovely Captain, and I like how he draws people (as in human people), but the opening scenes on the alien planet were kind of boring for me. Alien worlds in comics are your chance to show off what ya got, and there was nothing about this alien world that felt anything but generic. Considering this book will primarily be set in space and alien worlds, that could prove to be a problem down the line.

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Captain Marvel seems like it’ll be a fun series, although I hope they don’t keep Carol out in space forever. My favorite parts of this issue were her interactions with the people in her life back on Earth, so I hope the creative team doesn’t keep her away from home for too long. While there is room for improvement, Captain Marvel seems off to a fine second start.

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12 comments

  • In response to the rant. I think that it makes sense that for a woman to seem more prepped for battle and competent you sometimes need to change her costume, making it more realistic (not necessarily more masculine). If anything you should probably change it to emphasize anything other than her body. It bothers me that while most male superheros can have their entire body protected by a full-body suit, the women must face battles with high heels and/or a great deal of skin exposed. It seems to me that most women superhero costumes put a great deal of emphasis on their body and physique when they should maybe leave some to be imagined and bring some attention to their mental strength.

  • Yeah I gotta say I call BS on the woman showing skin thing. Let me be clear, I love women and seeing their skin. Women are great. But I always have found their outfits as superheroes completely laughable. With the exception of tough skinned heroines like She-Hulk who I might buy would want to show some skin if they wanted (I really don’t know She-Hulk as a character to know if that is in character or not); on the whole I’m going to say it is completely and utterly impractical.

    Of course their is suspension of belief, even for male characters whom we are to believe wear clothes that aren’t obliterated in explosions. But a lot of female heroes go into battle wearing almost nothing anyway. Honestly it’s just stupid. The only thing on Wonder Woman’s costume that makes sense is that hopefully the metal across her chest is heavy enough to stop her boobs from becoming a nuisance. Or maybe she is considered a tough skinned hero.

    Blegh I don’t know where I am going with this. I remember writing off most female heroes in my teens as nothing more than fantasy material for self completing, they never seemed well written and the costume thing never made sense. I never did reinvestigate it when I grew up.

  • I’d like to point out that a great deal of the male heroes have costumes that also put a great deal of emphasis on their bodies. So many of the guys walk around in skin tight suites with all their business hanging out for all the world to see. We can see every little bump and bulge they’ve got. Those X-men Suits don’t leave much up to the imagination. And have you seen Spidey running around? And the girls do seem to be covering up a bit more. I, being a female myself, love seeing that these women superheroes can be kick-ass and just as tough as the boys but look amazing all while. I didn’t feel anything was taken away from the Scarlet Witch mentally when she was wiping out the mutants just cause she looked hot doing it. The point was still made.

  • Uh, there is a huge difference between, say, Spider-Man or Cyclops wearing something that defines his muscles but otherwise completely covers his epidermis, and Ms. Marvel wearing a glorified racer-back bathing suit with boots and a sash. One is a form of body armor that happens to look good. The other is sexy-time for the fanboys that doesn’t do squat but reveal whether or not Carol Danvers shaved her legs or had a Brazilian this week. That the reviewer can’t see this says much, none of it good.

  • author

    I don’t see how ANY of the classic superhero costumes are “body armor.” They are spandex, or whatever BS version of spandex exists in the Marvel/DC universes. Not a SINGLE superhero costume makes practical sense in any kind of real world way, and that’s fine, because they’re fantasy. We are all willing to suspend disbelief that Spidey’s costume, because it covers more, is armor of some kind, but it’s not. And while I think there is a point where it goes too far (Vampirella, New 52 Starfire, the redesign of Star Sapphire) I don’t see anything that much more sexual about the old Ms. Marvel costume, especially as it used to be drawn, where it was less like butt floss.

    in western culture, women are “allowed” to wear less than men. Formal wear for men covers them from head to toe, and for women it is often far more revealing. Just look at any given Oscars ceremony. These women don’t look “slutty” just because we see cleavage or bare backs and arms. Superhero costumes are their formal wear, and in my mind the same rules apply. Impractical? Maybe, but no superhero costume is practical.

    I should also point out, I wish more male superheroes took a cue from Namor and wore less too, but that would freak out the homophobic fanboys a bit too much, so I doubt it will ever happen.

  • I suppose on a subjective level I always translated super hero costumes like Xmen 90’s outfits into colourful versions of their movie costumes. I imagined them being of more substance. Which is all in my head.

    But I think I agree with a previous poster that Spiderman’s skin tight suit is not as sexual as say Psylocke’s legless ninja outfit with thigh high leggings. Now that I think about it her whole 90’s outfit really is made to look like plastic lingerie.

    Maybe that’s all subjective, being a straight guy I can’t realistically comment on what men/woman find sexually provocative in male super hero outfits.

  • “I don’t see how ANY of the classic superhero costumes are “body armor.” They are spandex, or whatever BS version of spandex exists in the Marvel/DC universes. Not a SINGLE superhero costume makes practical sense in any kind of real world way, and that’s fine, because they’re fantasy. We are all willing to suspend disbelief that Spidey’s costume, because it covers more, is armor of some kind, but it’s not. ”
    – Eric Diaz

    >Google>”Unstable Molecules”>

    http://marvel.wikia.com/Unstable_Molecules

    A short copypasta reveals:

    History
    A synthetic material created by the famous scientist Reed Richards which can be altered easily and adapt to a certain environment, allowing them to be incredibly resilient to drastic changes in heat, cold, pressure, density, dirt, etc. making them ideal for use as superhero costumes.

    Capabilities
    ….
    The third generation of unstable molecules was able to let Spider-Man change his costume’s coloring and markings, allowing him to switch between his future foundation outfit and his regular outfit.

    M’kay.

  • Back in my teens I used to make the same argument: “the guys’ bodies are all unrealistic sexy proportions too!”

    As an adult, and fine art major, I understand things differently now.

    Comic books are still very much under the male gaze in society. Yes, the men have buff physiques and tight clothes, but there are key differences that still make costumes like 90’s Psylocke and Danvers’ former Ms Marvel costume sexist.

    The men’s bodies are aspirational: we (meaning hetero males) are meant to want to look like Spidey or Cap or Colossus. The women’s costumes are sexy *for the men*.

    Ever since I bought Avengers Annual #10 as a kid (1st appearance of Rogue and a major Carol Danvers story) I’ve been a Ms Marvel fan. I was elated when they changed her costume to this current Captain Marvel one. This is a woman’s costume that’s less about male fantasies and more about being a traditional (similar to male) superhero. As DeConnick once pointed out, you don’t go to a funeral in a thong. But this uniform fits right alongside Captain America or Thor. It’s telling that it could be adapted for a male character just by removing the sash.