Friday, 1 May 2015

Marvelling At Captain Marvel #10-14

Or a roundup of cool features from recent issues of Captain Marvel
by Kelly Sue DeConnick, Warren Ellis, David Lopez, Marcio Takara, Laura Braga, Lee Loughridge, Nick Filardi, and Joe Caramagna; Marvel Comics

Captain Marvel is another comic I can count on to always be good. It's also a comic that is frequently pretty seamless: it features amazing dialogue, fantastic acting artwork, and clear functional storytelling. It's a comic that does all of its constituent jobs well, but often in a way that is quietly great. Less elaborate flourish, more solid workmanship. Which makes writing about the comic a little difficult sometimes. 

That said, Captain Marvel does feature some pretty clever choices, so I've rounded up some of my favourite comics moments recently in Captain Marvel here.

There will be *SPOILERS* for Captain Marvel #10, #11, and #12 specifically

Captain Marvel #10 makes good use of infringing on comic gutters for fun storytelling effects. The more obvious of these choices is for emphasis: we see Spider-Woman break panel borders with her body and see her energy blasts surge over boundaries and seemingly out of the page. This makes her the focal and emotional centre of the page and makes her blasts seem especially powerful and important. It's a straightforward approach but it makes this page exciting and interesting. 

Captain Marvel #10 has more adept and interesting games to play with the gutter spaces between panels. The story of the issue has amoral (or maybe outright evil) genius Grace Valentine launch a quest of vengeance against Captain Marvel and her allies by mind controlling a horde of New York rats. So much of the story revolves around hundreds and hundreds of rats (a ratatouille of rats?) overrunning New York and invading the subleased Statue of Liberty apartment of Carol Danvers. In a really clever and adorable bit of comics, many of the gutters feature little rats peaking out from between the panels. On the one hand this is just kind of fun, but on another it really emphasizes the feeling of being infested with rodents. There are so many rats in Captain Marvel #10 that they are even appearing in the parts of the comic that it should be impossible for them to be in. It's a really effective and fun choice.

Captain Marvel #11 has a great two page sequence that does some interesting, comics rule breaking things. The sequence, which sees Carol Danvers drugged unconscious by the Toxic Doxy and then regain consciousness captive is delivered in a very effective way. After Carol is dosed with the drug, there is a break between the normal structure of the comic, which functions as a sort of visual shorthand for reality, and Carol herself. We see the background panels become repetitive and strrreettcchhhh as the moment drags out, while meanwhile Carol falls, along with some collapsing panels, out of the plane of the page and faints into a white, roiling zone perpendicular to the normal structure of the comic. Then we get a well placed page turn, giving a clear break between events, before returning to Carol as, golden coloured and still surrounded by the panels of fainting, she oozes back into the page and reality. Which on a purely visual level is pretty interesting.

It is also super evocative of the experience of being sedated to the loss of consciousness. I've only done local anaesthesia once in my life, but I can remember the way time stretched, growing dim and fuzzy, before suddenly I was thrown from reality and rendered oblivious before, even fuzzier, I slowly swam back to reality. The way this sequence dilates time, literally casts Carol out of the universe of the page, and then gives a clear, quick feeling discontinuity between story sections wonderfully encapsulates that experience. It's a really smart stretch of comics.

This double page spread from Captain Marvel #12 is also pretty cool. Obviously it has a giant Space Tardigrade, aka Space Water Bear, which is totally rad. More things in life should feature Water Bears, particularly giant Water Bears. It's also a cool spread because it quietly does a lot of smart comics things to make a pretty dense composition work really well. The page is double page spread which immediately imparts a sense of size and majesty to the Tardigrade and puts the rest of the events in relation to this noble space monster. The rest of the key storytelling items are arranged on the page in a long continuous curve starting at the Space Water Bear's eye catching mouth and sweeping across the page. This allows readers to quickly parse the story elements and experience them in a fast feeling order. This sweeping arc of smaller panels is also interesting in how it plays with panel position and size to impart motion and proximity in a clear way. While swinging across the page we see Carol's spacecraft start big and "close" and shrink as it travels "further away" while the space between panel moments increase as the ship accelerates. Conversely we see the HUD display of the enemy base/refinery grow larger as the ship dwindles, signifying that the spaceship and the story are approaching the base. It all comes off as a tremendously smooth and organic page, but when you break it down this sequence introduces a cool new setting, a new situation, and some stage direction very clearly. And, you know, giant Space Water Bear.

Captain Marvel is another absolute horse of a comic that does its normal comics business very well and sometimes also manages to make some really clever comics.

Post by Michael Bround

Marvelling at Captain Marvel #9: a rhyme map of a rock and roll space opera
Marvelling at Captain Marvel #4: Joyous collaboration.
Marvelling at Captain Marvel #3: When joke and story telling collide
Marvelling at Captain Marvel 17: A meta-fandom salute
Marvelling at Captain Marvel 15-16: On tie ins
Marvelling At Captain Marvel #13-14: On The Enemy Within
Marvelling 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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