Travelling Man's Blog


Review: Captain Marvel Volume 2 by Travelling Man

Volume 2: ‘Down’

Written by Kelly Sue DeConnick (Issues 7-12) and Christopher Sebela (Issues 7-8, 10-12)

Art by Dexter Soy (Issue 7 and 8) and Feilipe Andrade (Issues 9-12)

Colours by Dexter Soy (Issue 7), Veronica Gandini (Issue 8) & Jordie Bellaire (Issues 9-12)

Lettering by VC’s Joe Caramagna

Covers by Jamie Mckelvie & Jordie Bellaire (Issues 7 and 9), Dexter Soy (Issue 8) and Joe Quinones (Issues 10-12)

Published by Marvel

£10.99

One of the things it’s been a real pleasure to see Marvel do over the last few years is elevate the status of a couple of their long-standing characters. Hawkeye springs to mind but Carol Danvers is arguably a better example. Marvel have slowly but surely been putting Carol further and further into the spotlight for years and, with Kelly Sue DeConnick as her wing woman, Captain Marvel has finally made it all the way to the big leagues and her own solo title. I’d argue, using PowerPoint if necessary, that this and Hawkeye are the two best books Marvel put out right now and this second collection, co-written by Christopher Sebela, writer of the excellent High Crimes, demonstrates why.

The first story deals with Carol being called out to New Orleans by Monica Rambeau, who has also used the title Captain Marvel. Monica, best known to some readers from her appearance in NextWAVE: Agents of Hate, is investigating a rash of disappearances in the fishing boat community and, when she finds a submerged graveyard of aircraft, calls Carol to help out. This, in itself, is a perfectly smart, fun superheroine story that deals with the fallout (literally) from the sort of battles that take place on a daily basis in the Marvel universe. There’s a nice amount of science, and science fiction, mixed in too and in plot terms it’s practically a textbook study of how to do a two issue story very well.

What makes it sing are the characters. DeConnick has repositioned Carol very smartly as an aviator first and a superhuman second. She’s not a jock, but she is a woman whose life was changed by her military training and who defaults back to that a lot of the time. It gives Carol a cheerful, two-fisted pragmatism that means she approaches the fantastic events of her life in a completely different way to everyone else in the Marvel universe. The X-Men would have taken twice as long and had heated debates over what to do about the situation. Carol and Monica, who shares her mindset as well as her name, work out where to punch the problem and then, go one better and that’s where this story gets exceptional. The last few pages close a circuit that almost no superhero comic ever bothers to, not only picking up on the aftermath of events but showing the two lead characters working out how they can help and then doing it. People are still dead, damage has still been done but the Captains Marvel still leave the situation in a better position than they found it. There’s no ‘thank you, citizens!’ as they fly away from a smoking crater, just two women rolling their sleeves up and helping out where they can. It’s one of the most honestly heroic things in the last ten years of mainstream comics and the fact the book hasn’t garnered more praise for it is criminal.

It’s also really, really fun to read. Carol and Monica banter in a relaxed, completely natural way that’s equal parts affectionate and mildly snarly and DeConnick gets a lot of great material over Monica’s mild professional offense that Carol’s using the name now. They make a hugely fun double act and I hope Monica stops by again soon.

The second story takes a different, very personal tack. Starting with a call from Tony Stark it follows Carol through a day that takes in an interview, a dinosaur-based team up with Spider-Woman and the sudden, crushing news that she may have a tumour in her brain and flying makes it worse. Suddenly, a woman whose whole identity is defined and shaped by the idea of flight is told she can’t and the effects are both massive and completely believable. Carol takes the hit square, sits down hard, dusts herself off and gets back to it firstly because she’s trained to and secondly because denial is a river that takes about four issues to cross. Besides there’s still constant near-love interest Frank Gianelli, everyday superhero stuff like saving subway trains, helping out the people in her apartment building and dealing with increasingly brutal attacks from a new Deathbird to deal with. So Carol tries to muscle through and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t but she always gets back up, because that’s what she knows how to do.

There’s a lot going on in this story, which leads directly into the Avengers/Captain Marvel crossover title The Enemy Within, but anyone thinking it doesn’t stand on its own would be mistaken. The entire story is built around Carol bulling her way through the problem and welcoming Deathbird’s attacks because nothing clears the brain like a good, meaty fight. Underneath the action, and the wonderful dialogue though is a very real fear. She’s had her wings clipped, she’s superhuman but still mortal. This may be a problem she can’t punch. Having had family members deal with cancer I’m overly sensitive to how I’s dealt with in fiction and I’ve rarely seen it done better than it is here. As the story closes we don’t quite know what the thing in Carol’s brain is. We do know she’s worried. We are too. That’s a level of subtlety and engagement that so few books manage but here, DeConnick and Sebela manage it again and again.

If there’s a sticking point for the book, it will be the art. Dexter Soy’s work in the first arc is excellent, combining fluid motion and scale with a nicely muscular take on character and real subtlety of expression. Felipe Andrade’s work on the back four issues is incredibly kinetic and fluid to the point where some of the fights put me in mind of Aeon Flux. It’s great work, but some people may have trouble marrying it to the pragmatic way that DeConnick and Sebela write Carol. Regardless, stick with it because the artistic side of the book, from Soy and Andrade’s artwork to Soy, Gandini and Bellaire’s colouring and Joe Caramgana’s lettering is great.

Carol Danvers has taken a while to get into the spotlight but she absolutely deserves to be there. Not just because of her superheroic lineage or her training, but because she’s one of the most complete characters in the Marvel universe. Carol’s, weirdly given her love of flying, a grounded, pragmatic figure who comes at her life with equal parts compassion, humour and bravery and it’s a pleasure to see her written so well. Great job, Princess Sparklefists. Keep doing what you’re doing.

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