Review: Captain Marvel #1
A guest post by Megan Byrd.
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artist: Dexter Soy
A debut issue is a challenging beast in comics; this is doubly so for a book that is re-introducing an established character to old and new fans alike. It is a delicate balance between showing what we know to be true while still offering a fresh perspective. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy bring us a first issue that attempts to reconcile the needs of all readers, and it is not always successful. Though the focus may shift between keeping old and new fans interested, one thing that is unwavering throughout is the voice of Carol Danvers, and that’s definitely something new. The character formerly known as Ms. Marvel, though having been introduced over forty years ago, has had a rocky road through obscurity. She’s been in Avengers, Defenders, and X-books, with long absences in between. Though she’s had a larger presence in the the Marvel U since the early 2000’s, her biggest claims to fame are still a fight that gave Rogue her powers and a story line where she gives birth to her rapist (only in the silver age). With two ongoing series spanning thirty years, why hasn’t the female namesake of Marvel stuck? Ask any casual reader to describe the character of Ms. Marvel and they will probably describe her various costumes, her job titles, or the aforementioned moments of her history. That’s not to say there haven’t been writers that have done her justice, but no one version stands out as definitive amongst a wider audience.
Some of Marvel’s more easily defined characters make cameos in this premiere issue. In the first moment that we see Carol, she’s fighting alongside Captain America against third rate villain Absorbing Man. The scene is a page or two longer than is necessary, especially considering the total lack of suspense; after all, there is no doubt in the reader’s mind how this will play out. It is a means to an end. Besides offering gratuitous butt shots (from both characters!) the scene exists to show the repartee between Cap and Carol, all while the former soldiers barely break a sweat. The cameos continue back at Avengers Tower as Carol enjoys a sparring session with Spider-Man. Everyone offers Carol their opinion on her taking up the name of Captain Marvel after a reporter on the scene of the fight fails to identify her as Ms. Marvel in her new costume (is this a meta reference to Carol’s under-the-radar status on and off page?). The story takes a hard left into “character history” as Carol briefly recaps her origin for the audience, then moves on to “supporting cast introductions”. It is no surprise that the most revealing moments, the ones where we see the clearest impression of who the character is and what makes her tick, are when she is alone in space. The inner dialogue reveals her conflicted identity as she questions her own accomplishments, and yet she’s still confident, cocky even. Parts of these qualities shine through during her interactions with other characters in the book, but they aren’t nearly as compelling and feel like the legwork of an introduction. The lone pilot in space also appears to be more inspiring to the artist, newcomer Dexter Soy. The more complicated fight scenes and quiet character interactions feel jumbled on the page, whether they are in double page spreads or nine panel layouts. Soy tries it all, and yet the only moments that really impressed me were the simplest ones with Carol on her own. The style of his work is distinctly digital; it works best when it is allowed to open up and breathe in larger panels. At moments the page begins to feel claustrophobic when the large brush strokes of digital inking compete for space. I would also bet money that this book looks better in digital format as the muted color palette would show more variance on a backlit screen. There is potential for growth, but here’s hoping DeConnick and the editors will recognize his strengths and play towards them.
Overall I want to see more from Carol Danvers, and less of everything else from this first issue. Now that we’ve been reminded that she’s an Avenger, seen her caring civilian side, and gotten a glimpse of her past, here’s hoping DeConnick will move forward towards new challenges (and a lot more space). I won’t shy away from saying that a different artist would increase my overall interest as well. Establishing the voice of a character is a greater achievement in one issue than establishing the overall direction of a book, and I’m willing to stick around a few issues more while this series finds its feet.
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Megan Byrd is a photographer by day and comic book blogger by nights and weekends. You can read more of her thoughts on comics at http://comicbookcandy.blogspot.com/ and follow her on Twitter @ComicBookCandy