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    Pick Of The Week: “The Mighty Captain Marvel” #1

    By | January 19th, 2017
    Posted in Pick of the Week, Reviews | 2 Comments

    Higher. Further. Faster. More relaunches than you can shake a stick at that. That’s the “Captain Marvel” motto. With “Civil War II” thankfully left to be forgotten in the past, it’s time for Carol Danvers to pick up the pieces of her life with the help of new creative team of Margaret Stohl and Ramon Rosananas.

    Can Captain Marvel finally move on with her life after such a major out of character episode turned her into a worse strawman villain than Iron Man in the first “Civil War”? Let’s find out below in our spoiler free review of “The Mighty Captain Marvel” #1!

    Written by Margaret Stohl
    Illustrated by Ramon Rosanas
    The Greatest. That’s what they call her. Carol Danvers has been to the depths of outer space and back, but that still hasn’t prepared her for her newfound status of biggest super hero ever. Yaas, Queen! Danvers may not like the crown she’s wearing, but boy does it look good on her. Just watch out for the thorns it comes with—forces trying to take down everything Carol has built. Carol Danvers makes her triumphant return as the Mighty Captain Marvel! Written by celebrity writer Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures, Black Widow: Forever Red) and drawn by the artfully talented Ramon Rosanas (Ant-Man), this bold new take on Earth’s mightiest and favorite hero!

    Ever since Marvel struck gold in 2012 with the relaunch of Carol Danvers, a staple of the Marvel Universe who had been brought back into comic readers’ attention by Brian Michael Bendis’ writing on “New Avengers” and the subsequent “Ms. Marvel” series, as the newly rebranded Captain Marvel under the pen of writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and a number of artists, they’ve been struggling to keep up with her success. The “Captain Marvel” series has gone through no less than four reboots in as many years with this issue being the first issue of a new relaunch coming hot off the heels of “Civil War II” with new creative team Margaret Stohl and Ramon Rosanas hoping to bring things back to basics for the character.

    After “Civil War II” completely upended Carol Danvers as a character, turning her into a cardboard fascist who watched Minority Report one too many times, Stohl and Rosanas’ new direction is to pretty much ignore the entirety of that event and refocus Danvers’ narrative, bringing a more traditional superhero story back to the fore. Still the head of Alpha Flight and still trying to manage her fractured life, this first issue sees Carol juggling being the subject of a new TV show as well as managing the sudden influx of extra-terrestrial refugees that have been arriving on Earth. Yes, you read that right. Superhero comics have never been much for subtlety, but this is an issue that doesn’t even attempt it.

    This issue throws a lot at the wall and it’s a pretty strange read. From Carol’s likeness being adapted into a television show to fund Alpha Flight to the refugee crisis to a Kree child that Carol needs to protect to a tease of something sinister to come, there’s a lot being thrown at the reader right from the off. Yet the way the issue plays out is fairly safe. This is the downside to the “back to basics” approach employed here: it focuses more on recapturing the tone of previous entries in the series instead of developing its own identity. It runs through many of the same story beats and ticks many of the same boxes and from the dialogue to the narrative captions to the warm colour palette, focusing on reds and warm oranges, from Michael Garland, this feels like an attempt to recreate the magic of that fateful series from 2012.

    This isn’t, necessarily, a bad thing either. For long time fans of the character disappointed in the direction taken by “Civil War II”, it is a breath of fresh air for the character to feel like herself again and be in a story that takes full advantage of her nature. However, it does feel like something of a regression. Anyone wanting to get into the character, but didn’t click with previous series will find more of the same here as will readers of those previous series. Despite having her series relaunched four separate times, it feels like the character has been running in place.

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    This isn’t something I solely put down to the creative team, though. This is, by her own admission in the issue’s postscript, Margaret Stohl’s first full length comic and it while it shows, much of the problem with the narrative seems to stem from higher up. Constant reboots and relaunches and shoehorning into events screams “We want Captain Marvel to remain popular, but we don’t want to do do anything too drastic.”

    It’s not all doom and gloom, though. Stohl is already an accomplished novelist and the technical writing on display is a testament to that, with dialogue that captures the characters, especially Carol, perfectly and an action beat in the crux of the issue that allows the artist to visually tell the story while the writing enhances it with dialogue and captions. However, the transition to comics is one that Stohl is still seemingly feeling out and the pacing takes a hit because of that. As I mentioned, this issue throws a lot at the wall, introducing at least three distinct story threads, leaving it to wrap things up fairly suddenly in the final pages.

    One particular example of this uneven pacing comes in the final pages where one page ends with a closeup of Carol uttering a “Crap.” before transitioning to a scene where Carol addresses the Alpha Flight Board. There’s a logical leap here that I’m missing as a reader. It’s likely that Carol forgot about the meeting and is running late, but the transition stumbles over itself with such little context. It’s a small moment, but one that’s emblematic of a writer still getting comfortable with the reading and it’s something that brings the issue down despite everything else good about it.

    One of those great things about this issue, though, is the artwork by Ramon Rosanas and colourist Michael Garland. Rosanas’ linework is perfectly in line with this issue’s focus on returning Carol to classic superhero-ing. The style is very simple, very clear cut and very toned down. There’s not much in the way of flourish, focusing on clear cut storytelling the emphasises the strengths of the script and the character. And by strength of character, I mean that literally: I’ve rarely seen an artist showcase the raw power of a superhuman character like Rosanas does with Captain Marvel. There are two pages that stand out and both focus on Carol flying, one into danger and one out of danger.

    The first page breaks up into five panels, four long vertical panels next to one another with a fifth horizontal panel underneath. The page serves as a transition from the opening scene to the crux of the book’s narrative in the refugee camp and Stohl’s captions here provide insight to Carol’s connections with the Kree and her origin story, but as a page that showcases that raw power of Captain Marvel, flying over half the world in three panels, it’s simply beautiful. The second page is similar, but deals with Carol catching an object in outer space and flying it to the Alpha Flight Station across three long, vertical panels with the curvature of the Earth framing her in the background. They’re the kind of pages that would crop up in a Superman story and to see them used to capture the power of Captain Marvel is something really fantastic.

    The only downside to the art is that, for many, I could see it coming off as fairly static. Rosanas utilises a lot of medium and long shots, getting as much of the character’s frame in the panel as possible. That’s fine for the actions scenes that make up the middle of the issue, but in the third act, when things start to wind down and focus on the dialogue between character, it makes them feel distant. It’s hard to get a read on the emotionality of the characters because their faces are rarely the focus of the panel. This is something I hope is remedied in coming issues, allowing readers to connect more to the character.

    Overall, this issue works more than it doesn’t and it’s a solid return to form for the character of Captain Marvel. It reframes the narrative of the character, largely ignoring the fallout of “Civil War II” in order to focus on a traditional superhero narrative that feels like a spiritual successor to what Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters and Kris Anka were doing at the beginning of the last series. However, this back to basics approach will likely feel regressive to some seeing as it’s the third attempt in a row to bring the character “back to basics” and that combined with Margaret Stohl still getting comfortable with the medium means that this is an issue that presents some very interesting core ideas, but still needs time to develop them.

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    Final Verdict: 7.3 – Worth reading if you want to wash the taste of “Civil War II” out of your mouth, but not something that will sell you on the character if you haven’t been impressed with previous offerings.


    //TAGS | Pick of the Week

    Alice W. Castle

    Sworn to protect a world that hates and fears her, Alice W. Castle is a trans femme writing about comics. All things considered, it’s going surprisingly well. Ask her about the unproduced Superman films of 1990 - 2006. She can be found on various corners of the internet, but most frequently on Twitter: @alicewcastle

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