First Impressions – CAPTAIN MARVEL #1

There once was a character that existed for purely legalistic purposes. He had a distaff counterpart. The former died, the latter flourished. Now she assumes the name of that character. And people rejoiced at the return of Captain Marvel. I guess.

This new series involves the emergence of a new Captain Marvel. As such, we’ll first need to talk about the original Captain Marvel. Both of them.

Way back in the Golden Age of Comics, creators Siegal and Schuster created one of the most popular characters in comics history, Superman. Given the character’s popularity, inevitably companies put out their own based on the Superman model, and none were more successful as Fawcett’s Captain Marvel. I could go on about what he’s about, but all you need to know is that he was a little boy that transformed into the hero. This struck a cord with children exactly how you think it would, making him the Transformers of his day and at one point making him more popular than Superman.

I’m getting to the point as quickly as I can by the way. Be patient.

Naturally DC waged legal war on Fawcett because what constituted copyright infringement in comics hadn’t yet been hammered out at this point. The battles went on until superhero comics were on their way out at the end of the Golden Age, and Fawcett agreed never to publish Captain Marvel stories again. Time passed, superhero comics came back in popularity, and the up-and-coming Marvel comics realized that the name ‘Captain Marvel’ wasn’t owned by anyone. What remained of Fawcett held the rights to the character of Captain Marvel (forthwith bought up by DC and revived), but the name remained unowned. So Marvel made their own Captain Marvel, damning the Golden Age Captain Marvel to forever being called in print as SHAZAM.

I find Marvel’s Captain Marvel to be fascinating from a business and historical standpoint. Regardless of the quality of his comics, the main reason Marvel published him was to keep the name. Meaning he’s a constant in comics (or rather the franchise is) more out of obligation than out of iconography because Marvel’s Captain Marvel has never been popular.

His female counterpart Ms Marvel however has been popular. Very much so.

Originally a supporting character, Carol Danvers gained superpowers from an explosion that crossed her DNA with that of the Kree warrior Mar-vell (the original Captain Marvel). She had her own solo series by Chris Claremont – aka the guy responsible for anyone knowing who the X-Men are – which was unfortunately cut short just as he was getting a handle on her character. Then a bunch of other stuff happened, including that time she got mind controlled and basically raped by some villain only to give birth to the guy who raped her (so long a story), or that other time she hung out with the Starjammers with a rediculous costume, or that time she became alcoholic. Wouldn’t you at this point?

Anyway, then House of M happened which is an entire discussion unto itself. All you need to know is Ms Marvel wanted to become a legit hero for reals, and most recently she became basically the premier Marvel superheroine. Just go read recent issues of the Avengers if you want to see her in action. And now she’s gotten a new costume as seen here and her appearance in Avenging Spiderman.

CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 presents us with Carol in her new costume fighting alongside Captain America against Absorbing Man, a big dumb guy trying to steal moon rocks from a museum. Why moon rocks, you ask? For Moon Powers of course! And I don’t care how silly that seems to the two captains present, this is comic books. I wouldn’t be in the least bit surprised if Absorbing Man did gain moon powers from a moon rock.

At the end of the fight, bystanders fail to recognize Ms Marvel as Ms Marvel because of the costume, prompting Captain America to suggest she finally adopt the name Captain Marvel. What I like is how, despite the original Captain Marvel being not very popular, his death and legacy is given the weight it deserves. I mean come on, he’s fought Thanos and was the first comic character I know of to die of cancer. Hell, in the Death of Captain Marvel storyline, he basically did both at the same time!

It’s complicated. Go read the Death of Captain Marvel. It’s fantastic.

So roughly a third of this issue is the fight with Absorbing Man (cool and funny in its own right), and a third is spent with Captain America and Spiderman convincing her to take the name Captain Marvel. What’s the remaining third? Old woman theater! In all seriousness, Carol spends time with an older woman undergoing chemotherapy (not during the chemo thankfully) who I presume is one of her supporting characters, as well as in a flashback with another older woman who acted as Carol’s inspiration during her air force pilot days. Both scenes are decently sentimental, making me feel for characters I’ve never seen before.

I think the only problem with this issue is that it wraps things up so well I don’t particularly feel compelled to keep reading. There’s no hook is what I’ve saying, almost to the point where this could easily be a one-shot and it would work just as well. I might keep reading past this, but I don’t think I’d be all that sad if I stopped here because, as a way of transitioning the character into her new identity, it serves its purpose in this one issue.

If you liked Ms Marvel or just love the Avengers, you owe it to yourself to read this issue at least. In fact, I cite CAPTAIN MARVEL #1 as required reading for anyone who follows the Avengers. If like me you don’t have a particular interest in following them, I still recommend it. And while you’re branching out into the wider comic landscape, pick up some of the old Captain Marvel stuff. They’re collected a lot of them in Marvel’s Essential Collections, as well as a number of other trades.

Oh and check out DC’s Captain Marvel under the SHAZAM brand. Not the stuff in the pages of Justice League though. That’s not very good.

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2 Responses to First Impressions – CAPTAIN MARVEL #1

  1. Great review and thanks for the refresher on the Capt Marvel saga I vaguely remember hearing about it.

    Oh could Absorbing Man stealing the moon rocks be based on real life? There was a guy who stole some moon rocks to impress his girlfriend. There’s a book about it called Sex On The Moon by Ben Mezrich.

  2. Pingback: First Impressions – CAPTAIN MARVEL (2014) #1 | Sequential Smart

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