Welcome to “Five Reasons to Read”, a new column that will take a look at ongoing comic series and tell you why they should be on your pull list.
Today we look at Kelly-Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel, which centers around Carol Danvers, who after many years of rocking the “leotard, domino mask and hip-scarf” costume, has updated her look and toys with taking a new name. The book is less than a year old and bringing in a great response from fans and critics alike.
It Actually Shows Character Growth
I tend to judge a book with a solo lead on how much they talk to themselves. Like all of us, these characters need to think about what’s going on with their day-to-day, and all the weird things that are happening around them. Caption bubbles have replaced the thought-balloon as the primary method of conveying this for good reason: it’s getting rarer that the author is speaking to us and more common that the character is.
Hearing Carol’s thoughts about whether she lives up to the Captain Marvel name, or what she thinks of Monica Rambeau – another hero to have the name – is great because it lets me know about her. It also lets us compare notes with previous issues and see her grow as a person, which makes endears her to us and makes care.
There are many books where, despite a singular focus, a character can remain static, flat and boring until it’s cancelled; thankfully, this isn’t one of them.
A Female Lead, Minus The Skimpy
In preparation for this article I actually went back and looked through every issue of Captain Marvel, just to make sure that I had everything fresh in my mind. As I went through the pages, I noticed something: not once was there a feeble attempt to pander to a male audience with cheesecake.
There wasn’t a single trip to the beach, or a scene with her undressed in a clothing store dressing booth. Carol didn’t even take a shower with the mist obscuring her figure! I mean, someone at Marvel has to be blowing a gasket at this: don’t they know that the male 18-24 demographic need boobs to buy books?
Comics are lovely in the sense that if they’re written properly, all the things that you “need” in the book to sell suddenly become less important. Carol doesn’t need naked legs in this book in order to get people to pick it up: instead, we’re treated like fans who want to read something well-crafted.
That wins it innumerable points.
“Hearing conversations happen between “Carol and Peter”, not “Captain Marvel and Spider-Man” make this book great because it satisfies an urge for these characters to be seen as people instead of a set of powers.”Kelly-Sue DeConnick has crafted a series of characters that all seem unique and with their own personalities; rarely are they used to prop up Carol, and the interactions all seem extremely genuine. Having Carol thrown into the past to wartime and beyond really allows certain themes to emerge, as well. We start seeing common currents in these characters, like being generally defiant of authority figures, being bull-headed or just generally reaching for their dreams.
They’re allowed to bounce off of and interact with Carol, letting us see to what degree she possesses those qualities herself. It’s like a giant game of 20 Questions; will she follow that pilot on a midnight raid to an aircraft facility? How will she deal with death? What happens when she’s betrayed?
All great things to establish early, so it frees up time for evolution down the line.
Common Characters, Different Mood
Like many of the other Avengers in the Marvel Universe, you’re going to have some crossover in terms of who shows up. The lovely part of this book is that they’re rarely the conventional team-up, but a nice look at the people behind the masks.
Hearing conversations happen between “Carol and Peter”, not “Captain Marvel and Spider-Man” make this book great because it satisfies an urge for these characters to be seen as people instead of a set of powers. Given enough time, people will stop saying “Oh, she’s the strong woman who flies” and start saying “she’s the military woman who kind of likes flying without her powers”; this is essential for the growth of new characters, and great female ones like Carol.
Addressing Marvel History, and Making Progress
A part of any new series, even with an established character, is a re-telling of an origin story. Not all readers are going to be knowledgeable about Carol Danvers’ story, and seeing where it began gives us context as to where it’s going. Seeing how Mar-Vell influenced this Captain Marvel’s life allows us to put more weight on Carol’s thoughts about whether it’s appropriate to take his name, and, again, lets her grow as a character.
The series also alludes to her past identities, allowing long-time fans to wax nostalgic or the curious to go searching. It gives us a sense of timing and scale, letting us say “well, this is what this person has gone through” without forcing us to read years of back-story. It’s looking to do two things; satisfy long-time fans and bring in new ones without making them climb a mountain first.