Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Captain Marvel Book 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More (#1-6)

"You, me and those freaks back there?  I wouldn't bet against us, Tic" - Captain Marvel

So I'm putting in force my New Years Blog Resolutions a couple of months early.  Those resolutions are:  More female creators. More female characters. More Marvel.  Most of what I know of the Marvelverse is a hotch-potch of what I have seen in the Marvel Cinematic Universe films and things covered in articles on sites like "Comics Should Be Good". I never planned to be a DC lifer over a Marvel Zombie, it's just that when I was reading comics in the 80's, all the writers I liked who wrote for UK comics went to DC and most of them founded what went on to become the Vertigo line.  Also the final kicker?  My local newsagent only stocked DC comics so I never picked Marvel up on a casual pocket-money basis, I was reading Suicide Squad and The Justice League over The X Men and The Avengers.  Anyway, I know a couple of things about Captain Marvel, first of all, there are more than one (and the first one was male and was a pre-emptive grab at the Captain Marvel name when the company publishing the "Shazam" Captain Marvel went under and was bought by DC).  I wrote about the Monica Rambeau Captain Marvel in my look at Nextwave: Agents of H.A.T.E.  This is not that Captain Marvel. This is the Carol Danvers one, who I only know for giving birth to her own rapist and the rest of the Avengers being totally OK with that.  Yuck.  Thankfully, she's being written by Kelley Sue DeConnick now so the taint of that misogynist shit has been thoroughly scraped off her. This first six issue arc does make reference to other stuff that has happened in the wider Marvelverse, but enough context is given that I could figure out what was going on without having to resort to wikipedia.  So thumbs up for that right from the start.  Let us begin.

It starts with Captain Marvel in the company of four diverse aliens.  They are on the Manaciano Outpost.  They realise they are being followed by the "Spartax Secret Police" but Captain Marvel is confident she can deal with them.  They confront a seller saying he's from Torfa, he responds "no one is from Torfa" while Captain Marvel accuses him of betraying it.  Then the Secret Police ask for their IDs.  The seller flees, yelling that they are with the Galactic Alliance and a fight breaks out as Captain Marvel and co. are attacked.  Tic, the green alien gets separated from them, while another grabs the piece of metal they were after in the middle of the melee.  Then suddenly Tic vanishes and events go back to six weeks ago.
Carol off to hang out with Iron Man.
Captain Marvel and Iron Patriot are out superheroing and find a capsule in the sky, it has Tic inside it.  The action then cuts to Captain Marvel now as Carol Danvers in her home inside the Statue of Liberty.  There is a young girl with her who I don't know, who Carol is babysitting.  When the kids mum returns they discuss the fact Carol has been feeling restless for some time now.

Iron Man appears and Carol becomes Captain Marvel.  He fills her in on the alien while they fly through the air. They stop and foil a street robbery, discussing the alien as they do so.  Iron Man says her world was destroyed by "The Builders" and that she was part of a group of evacuees they lost track of.  Iron Man thinks it's time to have a permanent Avengers prescence in space.  It needs to be someone who is an amazing pilot and in need of some solitude.  Iron Man suggest Rhodey and chortles to himself as he flies off leaving a fuming Captain Marvel knowing he's hooked her with the idea.
Breaking the news to Rhodey.
Later Carol and Rhodey are at a birthday party for an old woman.  They slip away for a heart-to-heart chat.  She admits that although she cares very deeply for him despite keeping their relationship a secret, she wants to go into space.  Rhodey is mometarily upset then says:

Rhodey: "You gotta go.  I will be many things to you Carol Danvers but... I'm not gonna be the one that holds you down."

As they embrace Carol asks if he'll feed her cat.  "NO", he says.  Carol later reflects on the fact that while in space, she hopes she'll find her place on Earth.  We then finish with a crayoned page showing Captain Marvel's origins in four panels.  Basically it goes; stumbled across alien artefact, got cool powers, fights crime as part of the Avengers. 
Works for me.
These one page origin stories are a great idea, ever since All Star Superman used one so effectively.  Means you get a superhero that's powered up and kicking arse from the start, not being bogged down in being normal first then figuring out what to do with their newfound powers and so on.  Of course once readers are used to a new character you can go back and revisit that origin, one thing I thought the DC New 52 did right was save every characters origin stories to be told after one year of each series rather than kicking off every title with one from the start.

The action jumps forwards to Two Weeks Ago, Captain Marvel is in her small spaceship and being confronted by some hostile aliens.  Also her cat Chewie is trying to sleep on the console and not helping matters.  She states that she is an Avenger on a medical transport misson to the planet Torfa.  The aliens are Haff mercenaries and get an update from their client to kill her.  She does some fancy flying, but when her ship gets hit, she activates an space helmet as part of her costume and goes out into space to fend off the aggressors.  Suddenly one of the mercenary ships explodes and they reluctantly withdraw.  Captain Marvel is confused as she didn't do that, but then The Guardians Of The Galaxy appear having arrived to lend a hand.
Is it a cat or a Flerken?  Poor Chewie.
They link up their ship to her ship via a tube and they walk down it, with Captain Marvel saying that all she is transporting is a "Nowlian girl in a coma".  So she has no idea why this provoked an attack. Chewie the cat appears and Rocket Raccoon freaks out and shoots at it, "you have a Flerken aboard your ship!" he yells.  While he and Captain Marvel argue about Chewie's species, Tic wakes up.

Now they are aboard the Guardian's ship, Captain Marvel manages to keep Rocket Raccoon from killing Chewie who returns to Captain Marvel's ship.  They then get to discussing Torfa.  Apparently it's a "poison planet".  The original inhabitants fled when they started getting sick, two hundred years later the Galactic Council relocated the refugees from the planets wiped out by The Builders on to Torfa and what do you know, they are getting sick too now.  The Galactic Council want to relocate the healthy ones, but they won't leave their sick behind.
Tic awakens.
Starlord says it's the one time he's agreed with his "dear old dad" Spartax (who sounds like some evil overlord), and that the Torfans needs to be evactuated.  Then a shakey Tic appears pointing a gun at him, and goes to shoot him, but Captain Marvel easily disarms her. Tic climbs into the airlock tube and shuts it down, and drives off in Captain Marvel's ship.  Captain Marvel flies out of the Guardians ship ready to give chase, saying "no one steals my Flerken cat!"

As I share my life with a grumpy old black and white cat called Biff, making a character a cat lover is basically a sure fire way of making me fall for them.  I do know if someone tried to catnap Biff he'd make them regret it very quickly!  Unfortunately the ship is faster that Captain Marvel.  Starlord offers her a ride, but then Captain Marvel's ship returns and fires on the Guardian's ship.  Captain Marvel tells them to hold their fire, "because she's a kid and she's confused."  Also her cat is aboard.

Captain Marvel gets close enough that her helmet is able to remotely override the controls. She returns to the interior to confront Tic.  She and the Guardian's question her.  She wanted to kill the son of the Spartax king who is trying to get them off their planet, so "he would feel our pain".  Starlord says she might have got a thankyou note from J'son instead.  Also what would he want with a poison planet?  Maybe he is trying to relocate them to save lives.  Then Captain Marvel scolds Tic for a "cowardly attack" on the son of her enemy and Tic bursts into tears.
Wonderfully expressive faces, I love the art in this book.
Starlord and Captain Marvel leave Tic petting Chewie and discuss the fact that the Torfans are buying into a conspiracy to get them off the planet for an ulterior reason.  Starlord says in the week and a half it'll take to get to Torfa maybe she can gain Tic's trust.  The action then jumps forwards a week and a half and to "Settled City, Torfa".  Captain Marvel disembarks and greets a large horned alien thus:

Captain Marvel: "Hi.  Captain Marvel of earth.  The Avengers and the Galactic Alliance."

The alien punches her in the face.  Tic calls him Gil and tells him she's with her.  Gil gives Tic a big hug then when Captain Marvel repeats she is with the Galactic Alliance, he punches her again.  So Captain Marvel wrestles him into a sleeper hold and asks to speak with the leadership.  An old female alien appears called Eleanides, Tic enthusiastically greets her saying she has a "champion".

Tic: "Go ahead Captain.  Tell them!  The Avenger is here.  Everything is going to be all right."
Eleanides is dubious.
Eleanides dismmisses the representatives of the Spartax Empire that were negociating with them and asks Captain Marvel to walk with her.  She asks Captain Marvel why she came.  Captain Marvel says to bring Tic back and to help out.  Eleanides points out she brings no medicine, no ships, no troops or weapons.  She is grateful for the return of Tic:

Eleanides: "But you are here still because in your arrogance you believe you have some unique understanding of the complex situation in which we find ourselves today.  You believe with a few well chosen words you will somehow make it clear to me that the longer we stay in this place the further we endanger the health of our people.  Is that so?"

Captain Marvel frowns and says nothing, realising the truth of what Eleanides says.  Eleanides says that abandoning their sick would sentence them all to death.  Is Captain Marvel OK with that?  Captain Marvel says she isn't and Eleanides says she might have use for her after all while showing her a huge room full of sick aliens.
The Council of Torfa.
Eleanides brings Captain Marvel before the council of all the various species that make up the Torfans's population.  Captain Marvel tries to speak but is shouted down.  Then a representative of the horned aliens speaks up for her saying the Avengers deserve respect for helping them escape The Builders.  But another one, wearing an enviroment suit says his species can't live anywhere else and the healthy should just leave them to die.

Captain Marvel suggests rigging their ships up so they can all leave together, but Gil shows her their shipyard it's practically empty with a few junked ships.  Gil tries to provoke Captain Marvel some more,  she says he can take a swing at her "but it's not going to make you feel any lesss doomed."
My favourite four panels from this book, so good.
Then another alien pops up accompanied by Tic, he's another one in a suit - a Sentimault - and his name is "B-Bop".  Another alien also appears, a female one with squid-like tentacles for hair, called "Ja Kyee Lrurt" or "Jackie" for short.  She's their chief engineer and defence minister.

Then the Haff mercenaries do a hit a run stealing parts from the shipyard.  Ever since the Alliance withdrew its patrols they've been preying on the Torfans, and they don't have working ships to chase them in.  But Captain Marvel tells Tic, Gil, B-Bop and Jackie they can go after them in her ship instead.

Meanwhile Eleanides is speaking with a projected hologram of J'son.  She is begging him not to force them to leave their sick behind as Torfa is in his space.  He roars:

J'son: "There is no higher authority.  I am not just your leader, woman.  I am your god!"

While Captain Marvel and her merry band steal back their ship parts and go looking for more, J'son says Eleanides has three days to oversee the relocation of the healthy or he will order an attack on the planet and wipe all of them out, "because it is my will!"
J'son being a right bastard.
Captain Marvel's group finally catch up to where this book started on the Manaciano Outpost, they stride out confindently with Captain Marvel thinking what can possible go wrong as one of Spartax's secret police watches them from the shadows.

The action then jumps to after Tic is captured by the Haff.  Captain Marvel hurls the piece of green metal away in frustration, then suddenly notices it is undamaged.  She blasts it with her full power and it gets not a scratch on it.  "I think I know what all this is about" she says.  In the meantime, Tic is in a large ship hanger with other prisoners, she uncovers a cart full of similar green metal pieces, and she and another Torfan realise it's not steel...
The plot device!
We then finally get the truth revealed when we cut to J'Son angry that his vibranium is still stuck in sub-space somewhere (vibranium is like adamantium only even stronger, I think Captain America's shield is made from it).  The vendor says it's not J'Son's vibranium until he pays for it.  J'Son says it's his as sure as "that pissant planet it came from is mine."  He then threatens to wipe the vendor out, the vendor points out J'Son doesn't have his vibranium enhanced fleet yet.  But he finally folds in the face of J'Son's anger and agrees to deliver the vibranium.  J'son then orders an attack on Torfa saying he changed his mind about giving them three days to evacuate.

Meanwhile Eleanides is breaking the news to the council that the healthy will have to leave, much to their distress.  Then Captain Marvel and the others arrive and break the news that they lost Tic, but that they don't think she is dead, just a prisoner.  They then tell her they know what has been happening.  "Vibranium sickness" is what is afflicting the population.  It's why the place was declared a poison planet before.

Eleanides is confused.  She says that there is no known source of vibranium left in the galaxy and they have no vibranium mines that she knows of.  But Captain Marvel shows her the piece they recovered and says if Spartax reinforced his ships with it, his fleet would be unstoppable. 

B-Bop, says to the other Sentimault there that it must be their people doing the mining as their exo-skeletons render them immune to the poison.  The other Sentimault confirms this is the case saying it was for the good of their own people to make a deal with Spartax even if it meant betraying the other Torfans.
Eleanides has no time for this shit.
Eleanides then calls off the evacuation and orders that people start being treated for vibranium sickness.  She and the others walk out to be confronted by J'son's envoy and soldiers saying the entire planet is under arrest.  Eleanides sends Captain Marvel away saying she has no duty to be there and to "tend to the business of the Avengers". 

So Captain Marvel boards her ship in frustration.  Then she realises Eleanides was giving her a coded message and she wants her help.  A planet is being subjegated by another, sounds like Avenger's business to her.  So Captain Marvel flies out and faces down the Spartax fleet with a badass boast.
"Now make yours".  So cool.
J'son asks if his fleet commander "fear the flying Earth girl?".  His commander says, "no more than the elephant fear the gnat."  Back on the ship where Tic is being held she and the others with her decide to do something about the situation.  Before we can find out what, we're back on Torfa where the Spartax troops are pushing a crowd of Torfans around.  Eleanides says:

Eleanides: "Emperors do not stay Emperors when word gets out they slaughter children."

But the Spartax commander on the ground says because they refused to leave the posion planet "no one will know or care."  Back in space, Captain Marvel says the one thing she can give the people of Torfa is time as she attacks the Spartax ships.

Eleanides says she told her to leave, Captain Marvel also says she asked her if she could live with the death of her people on her conscience.  "Can you work a bit of diplomatic magic?" she asks Eleanides.  Eleanides calls B-Bop who has discovered the vibranium mine.  She tells him to evacuate it and the area around it as fast as he possibly can.

She asks Jackie how many of their fighthers are air worthy.  Jackie says two now, so Eleanides orders her and Gil to get them in the air.  Before Jackie leaves her girlfriend tels her "you come back to me."  And they have a snog, "Always and forever" responds Jackie, hooray for space lesbians!

Of course they could be monogendered like the Asari, but I'm still claiming this one for the gays!
Eleanides then orders everyone there to sit down, then she sends some coordinates to Captain Marvel.  Captain Marvel says as soon as she leaves to go to them the Spartax forces will come down on them like a hammer.  But Eleanides says she has sent replacements.

Jackie: "One warrior goddess and one comically oversized goat at your service!"

Gil:  "Hey I resemble that remark!"

Jackie and Gil with some fancy flying, keep the Spartax forces occupied while Captain Marvel heads to the vibranium mines.  J'son's hologram appears giant sized to the large group on the surface of Torfa.  He says they all should have died when they Builders destroyed their worlds and he can take what he pleases from their planet.
J'son is thwarted, hah!
Captain Marvel then blows the vibranium mines up rendering them useless for at least 200 years.  J'son is enraged by this saying he'll destroy them all now.  Then Tic butts in.  She and the other prisoners overcame the Haff keeping them prisoner and now thanks to their networked ships, J'Son is broadcasting to the whole galaxy.  J'son admits defeat but says he won't forget this to Captain Marvel and the Spartax forces withdraw from Torfa.

The final page shows Captain Marvel sneaking away from the celebrations, but Jackie catches her.  Captain Marvel says she hates goodbyes, but Jackie thanks her and Captain Marvel departs with a photo of her, Eleanides, Jackie, Gil, Tic and B-Bop pinned up in the cockpit.
D'awww.  The end.
I really enjoyed this!  Maybe I have spent too long immersed in the grimdark of DC's New 52, Oldboy and Garth Ennis's Punisher, but having a breezy, fun, unabashedly heroic superhero doing proper superheroic things without horrible and tragic consequences felt suddenly refreshing to me.  DeConnick manages to set up Captain Marvel as having some doubts about her place in the universe but finding herself out in space by being challenged to step up and help save an entire world using her intelligence and raw power.  Her motley crew of alien friends are given more character in the space of six issues than I've read in entire runs of other comics (*coff* Demon Knights *coff*), I hope they reappear at some point along with Eleanides, because that lady is badass.  Putting Captain Marvel is space was a great idea because it frees her from much of the Earth-bound Marvel continuity and so makes an excellent jumping on point for newbs like me. The art by David Lopez is great as well, crisp, bright with bags of character it does exactly what it needs to, to complement the writing.  I also like Captain Marvel's superhero costume, it's modest and practical and there are no endless boob-butt poses many female characters get saddled with, she's drawn with a trim and realistically female figure. Really I was predisposed to like Carol Danvers just for being a cat lover, but her personality both fierce and kind when each are needed makes her very attractive and I shall definitely be getting the next trades in the series now along with other Marvel series I have had recommended to me in a similar vein like Hawkeye and Ms.Marvel.  So while this blog will probably still remain somewhat slanted towards DC because I think next year is going to bring the first set of trades from the DCYou that look pretty cool, there will be more for Marvel fans to enjoy as well.


  1. Those sound like excellent resolutions :-D It is a shame, though, that male creators outnumber female ones in comics.

    I like Tic. She looks bad-ass.

    I love that council scene :-D

    I like Captain Marvel's asymmetrical hip-sash. It just makes her costume.

    And so everything was all right, thanks to the space lesbians :-D

  2. Yes, it is hard to find stuff by female creators, I have a few female artists lined up on my schedule now as well. I shall definitely be putting Captain Marvel 2 and 3 on my Xmas list too.

    The costume is good isn't it? The hip sash is decorative as far as I can see, but you're right it gives the costume an excellent finishing touch.

    It's brilliant how DeConnick and the artist David Lopez give us such fun characters in such a short space of time, I liked the horned guy Gil the best, but they are all cool.

  3. The only hero with a non-decorative costume is Batman. And even he could stand to lose the cape.

  4. Batman needs the cape! It makes him look more um.. Batlike. Without it he'd look like a bulkier version of Nightwing. There is a Batman without a cape though, the future Batman from Batman Beyond, he does look pretty cool I admit.

  5. cool, yeah if you are coming to marvel as a newer reader the marvel NOW stuff is definitely the place to start. ms.marvel is probably my favourite but i like captain marvel as well!

  6. I've heard nothing but good things about Ms.Marvel, even that it's success led to to DC revamping Batgirl into a similarly toned comic and as far as I can see that then resulted in the full on DC revamp we got this year. So I love Ms. Marvel even before I have even read it!