By Steve Morris
Carol Danvers has never fully clicked as a solo hero, which is strange because in most ways she seems designed to be the star in the spotlight. A blonde-haired, plane-flying, all-American girl, she’s got a simple powerset which makes her visually interesting and still realistic enough to be relatable. Her most recent solo series lasted an impressive 50 issues, but ranged in quality, and struggled to provide much in the way of memorable or defining characteristics. That’s the reason why Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new, revamped take on the character decides to find two big hooks and stick to them. Unfortunately, this approach doesn’t work, and Carol’s personality sinks almost immediately. The book follows.
It’s a shame, because there are things to like about the issue. Dexter Soy’s art is very similar to Crayton Crain in style and use of page breakdowns, but adds a lot more light and clarity to the story. His use of colour and shade are excellent here, and gives the book a unique tone and style which isn’t seen anywhere else in the Marvel universe. DeConnick gives him a range of different things to play around with too, including a short fight scene, some space flight, and a heroic pose or two. He does seem to have a little too much interest in drawing Captain Marvel’s arse, but I suppose that won’t hurt the readership too much.
The problem is that DeConnick’s two hooks for Carol Danvers aren’t particularly compelling. For all Marvel’s talk about how this is a book featuring a strong female hero, Carol doesn’t get much of a showcase here. Most of the dialogue is concerned with emphasising that she is a woman, and she lives in a man’s world, and men are men, and women are women, and that’s different, and we can never change the status quo. The story is so obsessed with defining Carol as “not a man” that is doesn’t do much to define her as a woman. She’s held down by gender, with a particularly weak internal narrative and no promising plots to steer her into. DeConnick wants her lead to be impressive for being a strong woman, but doesn’t do anything but bog her down in leaden ideas about feminism and gender roles.
I can provide an example. The very first fight Captain Marvel gets into is against Crusher Creel, the Absorbing Man. Who JUST WILL NOT STOP with misogynistic jokes. He’s a constant torrent of abuse, and puts Carol Danvers on a constant offensive. Unlike her old friend Peter Parker, Danvers is immediately on the reactive, rather than the proactive. And hey, how come Crusher Creel is a misogynistic character now? Of all the villains who might be demeaning towards women, why did they choose the one who dates Titania? It’s an early example of the defensive attitudes towards Captain Marvel which tank her personality almost immediately in the issue. She can’t come across as her own person, because she’s busy being the ideal for everyone else to judge themselves by.
The second hook is that Carol is a space pilot, which is an EXCELLENT hook. It works for Green Lantern (and sort of for Batwoman), and ties a wave of patriotism into the character which gives her a boost above any of Marvel’s other female heroes. She is military, and she knows her duty and service. Through the narration we get to hear about Danver’s connection to the airforce, and how she came to be who she is. It’s deftly thrown in as exposition (as is most of DeConnick’s introduction to the character, which is decently written), but then ignored as a possible plot point. She’s a woman and she’s a former pilot. But we don’t get to go anywhere from there.
She simply doesn’t come across as particularly compelling just from these two ideas, or at least these two ideas as presented here. Essentially a one-shot, Captain Marvel #1 doesn’t give readers any idea as to where the story might be going from here. Once you reach the end, you come out knowing just as much about Carol Danvers as you did going in. There’s no development for her, and no defining ideas or characterisation in her. Her new costume makes her a more dynamic and interesting visual, but there’s just nothing going on here. I really wanted this book to be good, because the character has always seemed like she should be much more notable and entertaining than she turns out to be. But she’s just not there yet.
The book is adequate. Yet beyond that, it’s immediately forgettable, and somewhat disappointing.