If there’s one character that Marvel has been going hard on promoting for the past few years, it has been Carol Danvers, the former Ms. Marvel and current Captain Marvel. The first trade for most her recent series has arrived. Is it good?
Here’s the description for this volume according to digital store fronts:
“Behold the mightiest, fightiest super hero there is! Captain Marvel returns to her helm as Alpha Flight commander with the world cheering her on. She’s the biggest hero in the world – but has Captain Marvel become someone Carol Danvers no longer recognizes?”
The Initial Reaction
Carol Danvers is a beloved, well-liked character that was raised from her status as Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel a few years ago. In that time, there have been at least five different writers and four different solo series, including this one, to help put her on the map. She’s even got merchandise and got one of the leading roles in Civil War II: Electric Boogaloo event comic, but that’s another story altogether. Marvel is definitely trying to make this character a thing, maybe even have her be their own Wonder Woman, and that’s not a bad thing at all. Carol comes from an interesting background, has a wide range of supporting characters from her many series, and has gone through several different story directions that are all pretty neat. I say all of this, knowing full well that she is a great character with tons of potential… but when I look upon her latest series, I ask this serious question: What went wrong with this comic?
The Mighty Captain Marvel, at this stage, is easily the weakest relaunch Carol Danvers has gotten in recent memory, if not one of the worst opening arcs for a new Marvel series on top of that. The first volume has a lot of problems across the board, starting with the story itself. There’s just no real focus to it; it’s as if it’s not really sure what it wants to be or do. There are tons of plot lines going on at once — Carol dealing with anxiety issues over the fallout from Civil War II, Carol now being one of the most popular heroes in the world, Alpha Flight suffering from budgetary issues to the point where they need a TV series about Carol to raise funds, a war is looming on the horizon and causing a massive alien refugee issue, a mysterious bounty hunter has shown up and has some vague plan, Carol rescues a Kree child that seems to be causing her powers to go haywire, and other minor points. There are tons of plot threads here and Margaret Stohl is desperately trying to juggle all of them at once. However, it just leads to a story that’s overcrowded, doesn’t spend enough time on anything to really explore or examine it, and things just resolve without much resolution or closure.
The cringe is strong with this comic.
Most of these plot lines amount to absolutely nothing and go nowhere (the next arc doesn’t even touch on most of them either), so let’s just focus on the plot lines that take center stage most of the time. The bounty hunter/Kree child story takes up most of the pages and it feels thoroughly underwritten. The bounty hunter never felt intimidating and really lacked a personality, ultimately underwritten with a twist at the end that is kind of hollow. The person they serve as well just kind of comes out of nowhere, dumps a bunch of exposition on us, and then leaves themselves, so the resolution to that is underwhelming.
The Kree child, nicknamed Bean, doesn’t really amount to much either unfortunately. She is supposed to be a big deal, having a direct tie to Carol’s Kree half, and the two are supposed to have this close, heartfelt bond that’s touching and makes you understand why Carol is so determined to protect her. But there’s literally no time spent on the two together, they don’t ever bond until the last minute, and the whole plot line is so slow and full of dry, unengaging exposition dumping that the storyline never pulls you in or gets you invested. There’s just no emotion here and given this is mostly the focus, that’s not good at all.
On a character level, the volume is a letdown as well. None of the supporting characters are fleshed out or do much of anything in the story. This is Carol’s big team that she’s in charge of and not one of them makes the tiniest impact since they all sound and act the same way. Carol, our lead, felt less interesting and developed the longer the volume went on. The first issue, #0, does a good job at laying down some groundwork for the character. We see her struggling with what she did during Civil War II, how she’s reacting to her sudden boost in popularity, trying to make amends with those she wronged, and reflecting on how far she has come. It’s good character stuff, but more and more of those traits fall further into the background. The popularity angle is dropped after a while, she’s never really struggling or thinking much about the events that happened before the series outside of interactions with a Tony Stark A.I., and her character reflections felt like lip service. In the end, it felt like she didn’t really accomplish anything, evolve as a character, or reach a new area with her struggles. She just ends up so underutilized and bland.
Hey wait a minute! The Star Wars cosplayer was left on Earth! How did they get into space so quickly?!
Overall, the writing here is not very good. The pacing and storytelling are just a mess — the plot is all over the place, zipping from point to point without spending enough time on anything to fully develop or flesh it out. Scenes often start and end abruptly with little transition or lead in, sometimes making it feel like we glossed over moments. The dialogue and narration are just not engaging, the humor often falls flat or feels rather random (the Hammer Time joke being both), and the exposition feels dry and hard to get through as it dumps term upon term on the reader. If you’re not familiar with Carol or her backstory, most of it will go right over your head and mean little since they’re not fully explained. The story is not very compelling and the way it’s written is not helping matters.
Also not helping things were the artists on the comic. Five people lent their talents to this five-issue collection, so let’s go over them all. The first artist, Emilio Laiso, drew #0 and he’s the best of the bunch by a long shot. Laiso’s art is full of personality with solid, flowing layouts, well-detailed environments, and characters with so much energy and emotion that’s expressed wonderfully through their faces and body language. I would have loved to have him for the entirety of the run, but the main artist was Ramon Rosanas, who you may remember from Nick Spencer’s Ant-Man runs. Rosanas’ art, in almost complete contrast, is very rigid and awkward. While he does do a decent enough job at capturing some emotions in the faces, the characters usually look so flat and their bodies are so stiff in any form of movement. The world itself seems so sterile and empty in how it’s depicted and combining the stiff and sterile elements together make for some boring, lackluster action. It has so little impact and power that it looks like a static shot of two action figures fighting one another.
And bringing it all home is the combination of Brent Schoonover, Ro Stein, and Ted Brandt, who all draw the final issue. None of their styles work at all together; character models are completely different from scene to scene and not even looking like the characters at times. The action is awkward, the layouts and backgrounds are unappealing and empty, and there’s no feeling of consistency here. That’s not even the worst thing though. The final issue, the one to end the first arc of the series on, doesn’t even get the luxury of having one artist draw it. Instead, the job is farmed out to a bunch of decent, but average artists whose styles don’t fit with each other or even match Rosanas’ own. It felt like there was a lack of care here and that’s just sad.
Excuse me, but as grown adults, should you be letting Kamala, who’s underaged, be gambling? Tsk tsk!
Is It Good?
The Mighty Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Alien Nation is a disappointment all around. Carol’s latest series only harms Marvel’s attempt at promoting her by providing the audience with a mess of a plot, underdeveloped storylines and characters, a main character who isn’t all that interesting in her own book and artists that don’t fit the comic. Worst of all, the story itself is just boring and that’s not what this should be in the slightest. This is should be about showing how incredible this character is, but instead, we’re left with a massive, unenjoyable mess.