New to Comics is a segment where I look at various comic books, explaining their background, reviewing them, and breaking them down for readers unfamiliar to the medium. The title is a reference to a former university project that I carried on as its own site for several years before laying it to rest.
This week, after the release of Captain Marvel in cinemas, I’m looking at one of the comics that inspired the new movie (in terms of character – story, less so), namely In Pursuit of Flight by Kelly Sue DeConnick, wherein Carol Danvers drops the ‘Ms. Marvel’ name in favour of ‘Captain Marvel’.
Published by: Marvel Comics
Written by: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Art by: Dexter Soy & Emma Rios
Real Name: Carol Susan Jane Danvers
Affiliation: The Avengers
First Appearance: Marvel Super-Heroes #13 (March 1968)
A headstrong go-getter from a young age, Carol Danvers always dreamed of flying among the stars. Her drive compelled her to advance quickly, and despite the men around her putting her down, she went on to become a successful Air Force pilot, before transferring to work in Intelligence. After she accepted a promotion to Head of Security at NASA she became deeply immersed in the adventures of the alien Kree hero Captain Mar-Vell. During one of Mar-Vell’s battles with his nemesis Yon-Rogg, Carol was caught in the blast of an exploding ‘Kree Wishing Machine’ called the Psyche-Magnatron, which imbued her with explosive energy manipulating powers. With these new powers, she became Ms. Marvel, a powerhouse hero whose refusal to ever back down has taken her down a rough path that has brought her into conflict her fellow superheroes (such as Iron Man in the second Superhuman ‘Civil War’, and the X-Men), alcoholism and identity crises. But after becoming the new Captain Marvel, she takes it all in stride as she hopes to prove herself as ‘Earth’s Mightiest Hero’.
WHAT’s THE STORY?
Although the character of Carol Danvers has been around since the sixties, she only actually became ‘Captain Marvel’ in the last decade. First, she was just plain old Carol Danvers (accomplished, no doubt, but plain compared to the likes of your Susan Storms and Spider-Men). She was a side character. Then, she became Ms. Marvel. Then she became Binary. Then she became Warbird. Then she became Ms. Marvel again. And then finally, in 2012, she became Captain Marvel.
Obviously, the film doesn’t really focus so much on that tumultuous name-changing journey, especially since a) I don’t recall her actually being called ‘Captain Marvel’ in the movie and b) Mar-Vell, from whom the name ‘Captain Marvel’ comes in the comics, plays a significantly different role in the movie (I’ll say no more, in case you haven’t seen it, and then maybe, later on, do a ‘Mar-Vell’ focused comic review).
So when it came to deciding what iteration of Carol Danvers to use in the movies, the people at Marvel Studios went straight to the characters reinvention at the hands of Kelly Sue DeConnick. Prior to DeConnick, while the character had her fans, she never held on to a lengthy comic book run like Spider-Man or Daredevil could, instead cycling through a series of cancelled runs. In a way, that is still the case, but it’s more a because of Marvel constantly restarting all their titles. But that’s a conversation for another day.
WHAT’s THE PLOT?
After helping Captain America take down the Absorbing Man, Carol Danvers finds herself at a crossroads when her new costume leads someone to ask Cap who his new companion is.
Once again faced with the choice of whether or not to continue being Ms. Marvel, or step up and take on the mantle of her deceased friend Captain Mar-Vell, Carol finds herself thrown on a jaunt through time and forced to question what he role in the world actually is. Stranded in World War II, Carol makes new friends and enemies as she begins to discover new revelations about one of her idols.
IS IT ACCESSIBLE?
As far as comic book stories go, this one is pretty comic booky, but it hits all the beats that you’d expect from the start of a new run. Kelly Sue’s writing is easy to get into, and she recounts Captain Marvel’s origin story in an interesting way, while also deftly demonstrating who Carol Danvers / Captain Marvel is now. Her writing, having influenced the film, meshes well with the portrayal of Captain Marvel seen on screen, so those who are wanting to make the jump from screen to book would find it quite easy with this story (plus, it’s on sale on Comixology).
WHAT’s THE VERDICT?
This story is kind of like reading two different comic books.
The first half is focused and poignant. It gives you a good outline of who Captain Marvel is, and gives a broad overview of what her life is like without jumping around too much and trying to focus on too many characters. It’s concise and to the point, delving deep into our hero’s character, and showcasing her immense power. Furthermore, with some Avengers like Captain America, Spider-Man and Spider-Woman making cameos, it also shows what her public image is like and how she fits into the superhuman community.
The art, however, will probably take some adjusting to. It’s not bad, per se, but it feels messy and unfocused. Grungey, even. Some people will dig the way it’s not as clear or bold as some other artist’s work, but personally, I don’t think it meshed very well with the story being told, especially when paired with the clear and vibrant covers by Ed McGuinness and the Dodsons.
The second half, everything is reversed. While the time travel adventure is fun, the further it goes on, the more it begins to unravel. Things become blurred, and importance is heaped on characters who we currently have little investment in. I imagine that some of these characters may show up in later stories, and that they’ll be better fleshed out, but there’s one character here whose motivations I couldn’t get at all, and their point in the story was very unclear. Are they good? Are they bad? I couldn’t tell you.
The art, however, picks up in the second half, as Dexter Soy is replaced by Emma Rios. Again, it’s not necessarily the bold and colourful work of the cover artists, but I think it just conveys the beautiful science-fiction nature of Carol Danvers’ adventure a little bit better.
As a result, my opinion of this comic is split right down the middle. I think it’s an interesting little read if you want to quickly get up to speed with Captain Marvel’s origins and see her take on an adventure that’s a little out of her element, but I can pretty confidently say there are better stories out there. And I don’t mean that as a slight against DeConnick. By all accounts, her run on Captain Marvel is a good one (I haven’t read it beyond this first story), I just don’t think this first story is a good representation of that run.
Because of that, instead of my ‘thumbs up, thumbs down’ rating I previously transitioned to, we’re going to have to go back to the classic ‘star’ rating, as I think this comic is very middle tier. It’s got good bits. It’s got bad bits. Overall, it’s just ‘fine’.