With the big-screen debut of Captain Marvel just days away, Marvel is having a big digital sale on all things Carol Danvers. Here’s a link to the sale page on Comixology. The sale runs through March 18th, with most of the collections in the $3 to $4 range, and single issues at 99 cents. Marvel’s done some interesting things with Carol in the Captain Marvel role, and this is a great opportunity for people to get caught up on her and her history.
…if they can figure out where to start, that is.
The Comixology sale page of Captain Marvel trades provides a perfect snapshot of just how confusing the numbering on Marvel’s collected editions has gotten.
Let’s start at the very beginning, with what they call “Starter Collections”:
This section includes six books, three of which are Captain Marvel volume 1. There’s also The Mighty Captain Marvel volume 1, Captain Marvel: Carol Danvers – The Ms. Marvel Years volume 1, and The Life of Captain Marvel. Mercifully, that last book was a miniseries and does not have a volume number, so at least people seeing that can be reasonably certain it’s a standalone story (what they won’t know is that, of all of those books, it takes place last).
Let’s say you just want to start with basic, no frills Captain Marvel. Which book should you pick? Well, you might think, I’ve been hearing “Higher, Further Faster” in a bunch of the marketing for the movie, so that’s probably the first one, right?
That’s sound logic, but it’s wrong. The actual first Carol Danvers Captain Marvel book is In Pursuit of Flight.
Well hey, you think, that one’s only $3.99 thanks to the super-sale, so I might as well get volume 2 as well. For that, we have to scroll down to the ‘More Captain Marvel Collections’ section. Skip right past those Ms. Marvel and Mighty Captain Marvel collections and you’ll find these:
Wait, there’s another Captain Marvel volume 1 down here…
We’ll come back to that. Keep it together. So here we again have three Captain Marvel volumes 2, and again the one that’s listed first is not the first volume 2. The actual second volume of Carol as Captain Marvel is Down, with the snazzy Jamie McKelvie cover on it.
These are so cheap that I might as well get the third volume, too. I only see one Captain Marvel volume 3, so that’s the next book, right?
No, sorry, wrong again. The next book you want to get is Avengers: The Enemy Within, which was a Carol-centric crossover between the Captain Marvel series and an Avengers series, Avengers Assemble.
But that’s not even called Captain Marvel! How could I have known that was the next book?
That’s the problem: you couldn’t have. If you’re a newbie who just saw the Captain Marvel movie and wants to read more about the character, figuring out where to start—and where to go next even after you start—is nigh impossible thanks to Marvel’s convoluted trade numbering.
We live in a world where series get cancelled and relaunched every other year. While there are a few exceptions—Ms. Marvel retained its numbering after a relaunch, as did The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, for example—nearly every time a series restarts, the trade paperback numbering starts over along with it. To be fair, DC does this as well, occasionally not even waiting for a series to restart (I’m looking at you, New 52 Batgirl series). It’s confusing for seasoned comic readers, and I can only imagine how completely impenetrable it is to new readers.
If you do decide you want to read Carol’s adventures as Captain Marvel, here’s the correct reading order for the Captain Marvel collections:
1. Captain Marvel volume 1, “In Pursuit of Flight”
2. Captain Marvel volume 2, “Down”
3. Avengers: The Enemy Within
4. Captain Marvel volume 1, “Higher Further Faster More”
5. Captain Marvel volume 2, “Stay Fly”
6. Captain Marvel volume 3, “Alis Volat Propriis”
7. Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps
8. Captain Marvel volume 1, “Rise of Alpha Flight”
9. Captain Marvel volume 2, “Civil War II” (This is best paired with the main Civil War II collection)
10. The Mighty Captain Marvel volume 1, “Alien Nation”
11. The Mighty Captain Marvel volume 2, “Band of Sisters”
12. The Mighty Captain Marvel volume 3, “Dark Origins”
13. The Life of Captain Marvel
So if I read all of those, I’ll have read all of Carol Danvers’s adventures, right?
Her adventures as Captain Marvel, yes, but in the comics she was Ms. Marvel before she became Captain Marvel, and there are a bunch of Ms. Marvel collections to check out, too.
Cool, so if I go back to the ‘Starter Collections’ section and get the Ms. Marvel collection that’s there, that’s where she started as Ms. Marvel, right?
…no, that’s just a collection of some of the Ms. Marvel comics that immediately preceded Carol becoming Captain Marvel. To get her first appearance as Ms. Marvel, you want the Ms. Marvel Masterworks volume 1. That and Masterworks volume 2 collect all of the original Ms. Marvel series.
Great, and that’s where she got her powers, right?
……okay, so remember that ‘other’ Captain Marvel volume 1 you saw, with the guy in green and white on it? That’s where Carol first appeared and got her powers. Read that first before you read the Ms. Marvel Masterworks books. Or honestly just skip straight to the Captain Marvel stuff and you’ll probably be fine.
I’m really confused, and I have a headache. Maybe I’ll just stick to the movies.
That’s an idea. Hey, did you know that Captain Marvel is the 21st Marvel movie, and that they all have different titles, but they’re still all connected and are best viewed in a specific order?
UPDATE 3/8/19: I happened to look at the sale page again today (okay, fine, I saw the movie last night and was thinking about buying some books), and I noticed something different.
The ‘Starter Collections’ section is gone, and in its place is this:
The “Captain Marvel Collections” section now displays all of the Carol-as-Captain Marvel collections in the proper reading order. The preponderance of volumes 1 may still cause some confusion, but at least the visual organization of the books gives a clear indication of where to start, which is exactly what’s needed.
Further down, a new “Classic Captain Marvel Collections” section has replaced the original “More Captain Marvel Collections” section. This new section also displays the books in the proper reading order, from Carol’s first appearance in the original Captain Marvel series to her history as Ms. Marvel.
This is a great change, and I hope future sales that are designed to act as entryways for new readers will utilize similar organization. Kudos to Marvel and Comixology for making the update.
Joe Grunenwald is a writer and editor living in the Pacific Northwest. He’s taller than a lot of people but not as tall as some people.