The House of Ideas is celebrating Captain Marvel this week! The Life of Captain Marvel is Marvel’s attempt to streamline the origin of Carol Danvers just in time for the upcoming film! Plus, the build-up to Infinity Wars is over with Infinity Countdown #5, and Spider-Gwen #34 closes out the character’s ongoing series! Catch our detailed analysis on all three books this San Diego Comic-Con eve here on The Marvel Rundown!

The Life of Captain Marvel #1

Written by Margaret Stohl
Illustrated by Carlos Pacheco and Marguerite Sauvage
Inked by Rafael Fonterize
Colored by Marcio Menyz
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Alexander Jones: Greetings sports comics fans and welcome to another Marvel Rundown! This week Captain Marvel author Margaret Stohl and veteran artists Carlos Pacheco and Marguerite Sauvage join forces to retell the origin of Carol Danvers. What were your initial thoughts on this important Fresh Start release?

Joe Grunenwald: Hello, gentlemen! Carol Danvers is a character that I like but, in the past, I’ve had trouble getting into her series for one reason or another. With Life of Captain Marvel #1, I think I’ve found a title I can sink my teeth into. It was not at all what I expected it to be and I really liked it.

AJ Frost: Hey there Rundown Gang. Ya know, I’ve been intrigued with Captain Marvel for a long time. I really couldn’t find a good entry point. The Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy stuff I’ve heard was pretty solid, but I never had a chance to read it. I was looking forward to this issue precisely because it proved to be a nice starting point. I wasn’t disappointed with this book as a character piece. It provided a nice glimpse into the inner life of one of the strongest Marvel heroes and showed someone who is extremely delicate.

Jones: In my humble opinion this debut felt far too simple and conventional for the fascinating hero Carol Danvers is. Few writers have been able to define her as an individual and this debut immediately steps on cliches and well-worn comics territory we have particularly seen in Superman titles like All-Star Superman and Superman: For All Seasons. Unlike those classic comics, this one was riddled with simplistic dialogue and two-dimensional characters. I was very disappointed with this issue.

Grunenwald: I think this first issue definitely leans on some of the common tropes of stories about people going back to their childhood homes, but by the end of the comic I thought it started to subvert those tropes and flesh out the characters more.

Frost: An interesting take! I view the “simpleness” for a deliberately meditative pacing. But whereas the books you mention, Alexander, show Superman’s supportive, almost-too-perfect upbringing, Carol’s childhood is riddled with much more melancholy. So that’s a neat piece of divergence there. The critiques you bring about for the dialogue… I can see it, but there’s also an intentionality for the more homey feel; a little more laid back. I’m more on Joe’s side here.

Grunenwald: Two against one! Defend yourself, Jones!

Jones: I’m going to be honest and say a superhero from a broken home isn’t a new idea. The first couple pages where everyone felt the need to point out Carol was punching super-villains too hard was obvious, on-the-nose writing which did not start the issue on the right foot. The best part of the issue was probably the flashback which had an adept understanding of the setting and felt much less forced. The core problem I had is arguably everything proceeding those events. Danvers’ mom literally makes Carol her ‘favorite’ meal and has a hokey line about it. After the meme known as Aunt May’s wheat cakes, this line only works in Marvel comics ironically.

Frost: Haha. Fair enough point. But the juxtaposition of past pain and present despondency with someone who can move planets really lent itself to a deeper story. So… there’s that.

Grunenwald: I took Carol’s mom making food (I think maybe it was a cake? Though it looked like a stack of pancakes), within the context of the rest of the issue, as her mom trying to gloss over what are pretty clearly some big issues within the family. Sort of a, ‘If I just make this one thing I know Carol loves, maybe we won’t have to talk about all of the unpleasant problems between us.’ I agree with you that, upon the first reading, it does seem really convenient and a little worn out, but by issue’s end it’s clear there’s a lot more going on within the family. I thought the same thing with the ‘abusive father’ angle. That’s very well-trod ground, and I don’t know if any amount of character development for Carol’s father will redeem his behavior in my eyes, but as the issue ends it seems there’s at least more to the character than just hitting his kids.

Frost: As someone from the west, I think I missed a lot of references to New England culture. But.. eh, at least I could hear the Boston accent clearly from the dialogue balloons.

Grunenwald: Okay, there’s something that bugged me: the writing of the accent. If the characters are going to drop their ‘R’s or otherwise have a strong New England accent, they should do it consistently. Either do it every time or don’t do it at all. That sort of thing always gets on my nerves.

Jones: I also really did not like Tony Stark’s presence here. His scenes weighed the comic down and did not reveal anything about Carol and Tony’s relationship readers don’t already know.

Grunenwald: Considering the last time I remember seeing them together was Civil War II, it was nice to see them hug.

Frost: Oh, I thought those scenes were quite interesting. The two have a pretty good rapport here, and even when Tony is being… Tony, there is still a healthy amount of respect for one another.

Grunenwald: I remember in the early to mid-’90s when Spider-Man or Wolverine would appear in an early issue of basically every new Marvel series, as sort of a ‘gateway’ character to get readers into the book (and for the sales bump, naturally). Between this book and Doctor Strange, I think Tony Stark is playing that role nowadays.

Jones: How did both of you feel about the art?

Frost: The art is nothing to praise all night and all day, but it’s fine. It serves the story well. The different styles gelled pretty well and made the story beats seamless.

Jones: Carlos Pacheco has definitively proven himself as a great creator over the years. His art is less consistent in this issue than I would like it to be, but I enjoyed his character work. Sauvage’s contributions to the flashback scenes suit her style very well!

Grunenwald: I wish Marguerite Sauvage had drawn more of this issue. Her work in the flashback scenes has an energy to it that I felt like was missing from the modern-day scenes. Carlos Pacheco is a fine artist, and the two styles work well next to each other, but for me, Sauvage stood out.

Frost: Agree with you there, Joe. Sauvage’s art definitely had a bit more flair and nuance.

Jones: If Sauvage drew the entire comic, this issue would be more visually distinctive and powerful. What are everyone’s final thoughts on the issue?

Frost: I appreciate your thoughts on this one, lads. I’m still a fan of it, though tempered a bit. I’ll give this one a BUY, just because it does set up Captain Marvel in a way where readers not familiar with her can have an accessible and solid story to begin with.

Grunenwald: Agreed. I can definitely see where you’re coming from, Alexander, and you raise some good points. This issue won’t be for everyone, but it landed pretty strongly for me, so I’m giving it a BUY.

Jones: I found this title to be derivative and wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, SKIP!

Final Verdict: AJ and Joe proclaim a BUY, while Alexander says SKIP!

Infinity Countdown #5

Written by Gerry Duggan
Illustrated by Mike DeodatoMike Hawthorne, and Aaron Kuder
Inked by Aaron Kuder and Jose Marzan Jr.
Colored by Jordie Bellaire and Frank Martin
Lettered by VC’s Cory Petit

The finale to Gerry Duggan, Mike Deodato, Mike Hawthorne and Aaron Kuder’s Infinity Countdown should remind readers why Marvel Cosmic is a beloved, underutilized portion of the shared Universe.

The installment is as grandiose and off-the-wall as the cover for the issue suggests and packs some surprises throughout the title. All the disparate plot threads the series has been seeding up to this point meet a cohesive whole in this issue which feels like a Guardians of the Galaxy story with incredibly high stakes. The issue is comprised of multiple cast members, planets and even time periods.

However, the script for the title remains grounded with plot threads naturally advancing from other stories. The characterization for Hank Pym over the last couple years remains intact and follows-up on his disturbing fractured psyche in a really unique manner. Pym is one of the most complicated figures in the Marvel Universe and Duggan’s role for him in the issue takes advantage of his unique position. Gamora also follows suit in a similar manner as she advances her ulterior motives in an interesting new direction, taking the character into uncharted territory.

Duggan also does a great job weaving together some of his mini-series, like the Infinity Countdown: Daredevil issue, to have some importance in this installment. Infinity Countdown is a far more rewarding read for those who have stayed invest in All-New Guardians of the Galaxy and all the special issues surrounding this ‘faux’ event storyline. The more devoted to Marvel Cosmic, the more this issue will reward you with the final couple pages tying together a fan-favorite Marvel Universe concept.

The biggest drawback of the issue is the references to other events and stories. For some readers, this chapter is going to be a delight but it will alienate others. The number of characters and concepts from other stories is unwieldy. The best course of action for the average reader is to dive right in here! With so many movie properties, readers hopefully won’t be too lost by some of the concepts in the issue that haven’t made it to the big screen yet.

While the art for the issue extremely varied, the cohesion lies in the coloring. Each artistic contributor does a good job depicting the emotion for the scene they are in. Mike Deodato’s opening sequence is particularly dreary but it serves as a solid vessel for the grim introduction of a new character. Mike Hawthorne’s odd facial structures and fluid artwork serves his scenes very well. The tense action moment with Dr. Strange has a wonderful sense of experimentation with the form of comics. Aaron Kuder’s contributions to the issue are extremely dynamic. Kuder’s breakout superhero fight scene takes advantage of his great pencils with lots of fluid movement. Duggan’s script calls for a strange splash page from Kuder where the artist fills in lots of excellent, small details.

Infinity Countdown #5 is a wild issue with a massive scope. The installment carries tons of fascinating teases towards the future of the Marvel Universe which should make Jim Starlin fans scream with delight. If you are at all interested in Marvel’s Cosmic Universe, this is an endearing, exceptional mini-series best paired with All-New Guardians of the Galaxy!

Final Verdict: BUY! Infinity Countdown‘s wild energy culminates in a fascinating finale teasing big moments for Marvel’s shared world.

Spider-Gwen #34

Written by Jason Latour
Illustrated by Robbi Rodriguez
Colored by Rico Renzi and Lauren Affe 
Lettered by VC’s Clayton Cowles

Edge of Spider-Verse #2 was already a hit before it came out near the end of 2014. The buzz around the issue had been building for months online. It had two things on its side going into its release: a fun concept – what if Gwen Stacy had been bitten by the radioactive spider instead of Peter Parker? – and a killer costume design by Robbi Rodriguez that immediately inspired legions of fan art even before its first comic appearance was in readers’ hands.

When the comic finally dropped, it was a knockout. A done-in-one story, in just the first few pages Edge of Spider-Verse #2 established the origin of Earth-65’s Spider-Woman, and then got right to the action with a unique visual flair. The idea that the story wouldn’t be continuing beyond that single issue felt criminal. After producing multiple printings of the issue and realizing they like money, Marvel obviously agreed, and Spider-Gwen debuted in her own series in February of 2015.

And now here we are, nearly four years later, at what appears to be the end of the road. This week’s Spider-Gwen #34 is the final issue of the character’s ongoing series. Primarily a conversation between a daughter and her father, the issue is at times poignant, funny, even a little meta, and an all-around solid conclusion to Gwen’s ongoing adventures.

“What the #$%@ happened to our lives?” George Stacy asks his daughter at the midpoint of the issue. “How did it end up like this?” It’s a valid question, as Spider-Gwen is most definitely not the same book it was when it started. Set in its own alternate timeline, series creators Jason Latour, Robbi Rodriguez, and Rico Renzi had the freedom to build Earth-65 from the ground up, and to make big status quo changes that had lasting impacts. I may not have always cared for those changes, but I always appreciated the skill with which the creators executed them. Latour’s scripts consistently made the complicated relationship between Gwen and her father feel real, so it makes sense that he would focus on those two for his final story. Even with the focus firmly on the Stacys, Latour still manages to continue building out the world of Earth-65 even in this last issue. There are so many interesting corners left to explore, new characters to meet and things to see, and the events of the issue open up many new storytelling possibilities. Rodriguez and Renzi are a match made in heaven, Rodriguez’s frenetic linework made to pop more so than it already does by Renzi’s bold color choices. The unique look of Spider-Gwen was what attracted people to the character in the first place, and the book’s visual style is perhaps what I’ll miss most about the series.

Thankfully, it doesn’t look like the character of Spider-Gwen is going anywhere. She’s been included in promos for the upcoming Spidergeddon crossover, and outside of comics she’s set to appear in both the Marvel Rising animated series (with the new moniker of Ghost Spider) and the upcoming Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse animated film. The character’s media profile is growing, and there’s already a ton of Spider-Gwen merch out there for fans to gobble up. It seems like only a matter of time before the character’s back in her own comic, though it’s hard to imagine it will be the same. The inception of the character, her instant popularity, and Latour, Rodriguez, and Renzi’s work on her series have felt like lightning in a bottle. They – and Gwen – will be missed.

Final Verdict: BUY for a strong conclusion to the Spider-Gwen series.

Next week, we’re covering Infinity Wars Prime and Mr. and Mrs. X!

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