Friday, 27 September 2013

Marvelling at Captain Marvel #15 and #16

Or the my complicated feelings about the Infinity Captain Marvel tie-ins.
By Kelly Sue DeConnick, Jen Van Meter, Pat Olliffe, Drew Geraci, Andy Troy; Marvel Comics. 

I'd like to start off by pointing out that I LIKED these comics and found them enjoyable to read. The stories fit into the larger context of the Infinity event, focusing on the individual path of Captain Marvel as she pilots and fights and struggles her way through a space battle, all the while delivering some great character moments (and repeating some pretty nifty ones from Avengers). Basically, I got my monthly CM fix, saw some of the shape of Infinity (I am not reading the event itself),  and, most importantly, had some fun while doing it. These are good comics.

(The fact that Captain Marvel #15 and Avengers Assemble #18 told very nearly the same story while each still feeling unique and great is, I think, a pretty solid testament to Kelly Sue DeConnick's skills as a storyteller. Also, her take on Spider-woman is the best: kind of charmingly insecure, loathsomely selfish, and delightfully glib.)

Beyond this point there will be *SPOILERS* for CM #13-16. Read on at your own risk.

But, as good as CM #15-16 are, I feel like they don't really pay service to the ongoing story of the Captain Marvel books. Immediately before these Infinity-tie-in comics we were concluding the Enemy Within event which ended with Captain Marvel essentially sacrificing herself to defeat Yon-Rogg, The Psyche Magnetron made incarnate. To really quickly sum up, Yon-Rogg was using the power of the Psyche-Magnetron to transform Earth into a replica of his homeworld Hala, and Captain Marvel was functioning as the power source for his plot via a link in her brain. Said link manifested itself as a tumour-like growth that spread whenever Captain Marvels used her powers, and threatened to, if pushed too far, burst and damage the tissues of Carol's brain. To save the world and defeat Yon-Rogg, Carol deliberately overused her powers to burst the lesion in her brain to rob Yon-Rogg of his power source. The price of this maneuver was potentially destroying her memories and very identity. And when we left Carol she was floating in space, obviously badly injured, maybe even dead. It was a tremendous cliffhanger.

Was she catonic? Paralyzed? Does she retain her memory? Is she vegetative, or functional? What is her new status quo? And perhaps most importantly, how does all of this affect her relationships with her friends which the series has spent months building?

As a reader I feel like the ongoing storyline of Captain Marvel demands a moment to establish its new status quo. Maybe even a full issue to tell us what the brain-injured Carol is capable of, what exactly she remembers, and most importantly, since its the emotional heart of the series, what Carol understands of her relationships to her friends and mentors and mentees. (Like, cliched as it is, I picture a hospital scene where we see Tracy trying to be too tough, Jessica being hurt and angry (she doesn't strike me as someone who takes rejection well), and the special disappointment instore for Wendy and Kit...) My point is that, for me at least, I care about these things so much more than space-battles in the context of this series and having to wait for all of this information because CM is obligated to have an Infinity tie-in (which was still an enjoyable comic!) feels like a let down.

But! But, but, but, but, but...

I also feel like it's a really good thing that Captain Marvel is obligated to have an Infinity tie-in and is playing such an integral part of the event (I think, I'm not actually reading Infinity itself).  Because being an important component of an event, and being woven more and more into the fabric of the Marvel Universe, is evidence of Carol being important to Marvel on a whole. That this kind of attention reflects the fact that Carol Danvers profile is on the rise and that she is becoming, or has become, a key chunk of the Avengers equation. And I think that is wonderful.

Part of this is simpley that I'm a fan: I think Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers is an interesting character, with an interesting personality, neat powers, some cool history (if we ignore some dumb parts), and a pretty memorable, iconic look. Basically she has the sheer comics machinery to stand with Marvel's biggest characters. Which is important because Marvel needs to acquire, or acknowledge that it already has, marquee women characters. Unless superpowers are some sort of X-chromsome recessive genetic trait (like baldness or colour blindness), really ~50% of heroes ought to be women to at all reflect reality. But also because people, men as well as women, are interested in reading about female characters. Also also it's the right thing to do because everyone deserves to see themselves reflected heroically in comics. And I think Captain Marvel is poised to be as natural a part of the Avengers as Ironman, Captain America, and Thor.

Which, if you want to be mercenary, is also important to Marvel as a division of Disney as a profit making company. Geeky women will spend money on Marvel products, and if my chunk of the internet is any indication, they would buy into a Captain Marvel movie. And into that movies merchandise. (The sales in CM costumes alone!) One of the persistent ideas I hear about Disney's acquisition of Marvel and Star Wars was Disney trying to find properties to market to boys. But, I would make the argument that there are at least as many girls who fantasize about being superheroes as there are girls who dream about being fairytale princesses, and that if they could leverage some of Marvel's more interesting female characters (Carol Danvers) they might have a whole other angle to market intellectual property to girls (which again ~50% of humans/consumers are female). And I think Captain Marvel is currently the most marketable female Avenger to a wider audience.

(Well, Black Widow is too, but I would argue that she isn't a superhero necessarily and would work better in an espionage style movie than a more traditional style superhero like Captain Marvel. Although, I would watch the bejesus out of a Bourne Identity style Scarlet Johansson starring Black Widow film... maybe spun out of Captain America: Winter Soldier...)

So I guess as much as I think Captain Marvel deserves to be treated like Hawkeye or Daredevil (books with A+ creators given the freedom and light continuity duties to experiment), I'm glad that it's a book that has such a mandate to integrate into the broader Marvel Universe.

(This entire essay assumes that the tie-ins were mandated and not a deliberate choice to show that Carol is cut off from her support network by taking her away from her friends and dumping her in space.)

Marvelling At Captain Marvel #13-15: On The Enemy WithinMarvelling At Captain Marvel #12: Demarcating reality and fantasy
Marvelling At Captain Marvel #10: A dramatic contract
Marvelling At Captain Marvel #9: How your brain tells time
Marvelling At Captain Marvel #7: Saving a reporter in distress... AND ITS A MAN!
Marvelling At Captain Marvel #1: An alternate reading order that I liked more

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