The Life of Captain Marvel #1 review

Captain Marvel is off her game. She’s a valued member of the Mighty Avengers but something’s off. Bad as baddies Moonstone and Tanalth are, a hero doesn’t launch a brutal assault on a foe when lesser force can stop them. Longtime friend Tony Stark, though, is there for her.

Realising he has a point, Carol returns to Harpswell Sound, Maine, where her Boston-based family used to spend summers. Idyllic, golden days…

… or not.

Her father is now dead, as is brother Steve, but mother Marie is at the house, along with Joe Jr. There’s undisguised resentment from Joe for his superhero sister.

Carol finds her brother by their father’s gravestone, but they’re soon arguing, and Joe storms off in his car which, by accident or design, plunges off a bridge.

Carol rescues Joe, but he’s suffered trauma to his brain. For nine months, she stays in Maine, supporting her mother as, little by little, Joe recovers enough to go back to the house. There, Carol finds a letter in a cupboard…

I’ve not read the Ms Marvel…. aargh, I’m so old, Captain Marvel! – book for awhile, the space cop direction with a repurposed Alpha Flight not being my cup of tea. This mini-series sounded to be more Earth-centred, though, so I had to give it a try. And I’m glad I did, because writer Margaret Stohl provides a solid reintroduction to Carol Danvers, showing us the background that helped form the woman she became – driven, family-centred, her discomfort with ‘feelings talk’ a likely factor in her having developed alcoholism. There’s a nod to Carol’s drink problems here, but it’s positive, she’s determined to stay dry despite everything her lunatic life throws at her.

The family dynamics feel real, whether it’s Carol’s complicated feelings towards the mother who failed to protect her kids from a harsh father or Joe’s feeling abandoned by a sister whose Avengers status means she rarely drops by. Alongside the difficult stuff, there’s authentic warmth.

That’s a great moment. Another highlight is the friendship Carol has with Tony Stark, he’s gone through enough crap – given people enough crap – that he knows when someone should be dealing with something. And refreshingly, he’s not a hypocrite about it.

I’m not sure about Stohl’s phonetic representation of the Boston accent, it pulls me out of the book a little. Don’t we all have an accent, why strain to emphasise some – see also Gambit and Rogue in pretty much every appearance ever – but not others? Carol’s voice, though, is spot-on, Stohl nails her with the narration.

There’s a word that appears towards the end of the book I couldn’t make out.

‘Belueep/Beweep’?

Probably alien or US slang. I’m assuming some readers will know what Joe’s on about here.

‘Just an H’?

There is a definite error where art meets script here.Joe’s right there at the table, it’s Marie who’s disappeared! I hope editor Sarah Brunstad fixes that for the trade.

There’s an art choice that’s a little unfortunate, too – the page with Carol reading the letter has the big revelation spelt out in captions as we move down the page… but we get to see most of the text in the on-panel version of the letter at the start. By the time we get to Carol’s reaction, we’ve anticipated it.

You will notice, though, that the art is rather lovely, with characters that seem to have an inner life, convincing action sequences, splendid decor and two fantastic cats.

I love that as Carol’s received a terrible shock, family puss Sox is obliviously happy. That sequence is drawn by Carlos Pacheco, inked by Rafael Fonteriz and coloured by Marcio Menyz, but they’re not handling the whole of this extra-length issue. The flashbacks to Carol’s childhood are illustrated in full-colour by Marguerite Sauvage, and they’re just lovely, she really gets how kids look, and move, their big emotions always right on the surface.

A page using both art styles nicely showcases how past informs present.

I don’t know if Sauvage is around for the whole series, we may be done with flashbacks, but if her work here is done, she can be proud.

As can the whole creative team, including letterer Clayton Cowles and cover artist Julian Todena Todesco – that great opening image really ought to come with me Saturday Evening Post logo. I do think, though, that Carol looks far too young under Pacheco and co – this is a woman who, even before she was a superhero, had a long-enough military career to reach the rank of Colonel. She was also a spy, and a NASA security chief. And she’s had at least a decade, Marvel-time – as a superhero, she should look at least mid-thirties, but barely appears 20 here.

I liked this issue a lot, but I’m a sucker for superheroes in a family setting… heck, one of the first Ms Marvel issues I ever read, #13 back in 1978, opened with Carol visiting her mother (interestingly, back then she was the oldest Danvers sibling, I’ve no idea why Marvel changed that). This comic gives us lots of that, along with a mystery and the promise of a new threat to Carol’s suddenly quiet life. For warmth, for authenticity, for its insight into a Marvel heroine who’s had an awfully rocky ride in terms of consistent personality, The Life of Captain Marvel is worth buying.

3 thoughts on “The Life of Captain Marvel #1 review

  1. I loved Stohl’s zero issue where she repaired the Captain Marvel/Spider-Woman rift and have been disappointed with every issue since. This was just as wonderful as that first outing so I’m wondering if Stohl just isn’t good at cape stuff. No crme in that but I wish the editors would realize it and put someone on the regular book who’s better suited going forwards…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So much to say.
    I thought this was a great issue. We’re dealing with heavy topics here -abusive parents, alcoholism, ptsd, family rifts, and worse … families with rifts who pretend all is well. But despite this being a family drama, it reads so well. This isn’t preachy or heavy or dull. It reads so natural. I’m in. Thanks for recommending.

    Now onto some specifics. The ‘H’ reference is because they are playing horse. You challenge your opponent to make a specific shot (here a bank shot into a dumpster). If you miss the shot you earn a letter … here H. Each subsequent missed shot adds a letter to the word HORSE. Thus, first to miss 5 shots, spells horse, and loses. Thus, missing the shot, Carol is an H.

    Next, I think it is supposed to be the mom who walks out. She can’t witness her kids fighting and so just leaves. The next scene between Carol and Joe is clearly later. It’s now nighttime,

    Lastly, we see Joe drinking at the gravesite. No way Carol would let him get behind the wheel. No way. That is the only thing that irked me.

    Like

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