The Life of Captain Marvel #1
Written by Margaret Stohl
Art by Carlos Pacheco, Marguerite Sauvage, Rafael Fonteriz and Marcio Menyz
Lettering by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 6 out of 10
It’s been an interesting few years for Carol Danvers. After a rough outing in Civil War II, the character never regained the momentum or popularity that she had during the Kelly Sue DeConnick era. Mired in fairly boilerplate superheroics, Carol became stale. With her Marvel Studios film on the horizon, it makes sense that we’ll see a lot of product in the coming months that will be trade-ready when the Captain Marvel debuts on the silver screen. The Life of Captain Marvel attempts to take the character in a different direction, swapping out superhero bombast for slice of life drama. Yet it would be premature to call this gambit a home run, as this is less a Captain Marvel story and more a Carol Danvers one.
Right up top, this is some of the more effective work that we’ve seen in a while from Carlos Pacheco. Editor Sarah Brunstad made the right choice in juxtaposing Pacheco’s straightforward cape comic book style with Marguerite Sauvage’s Mike Allred-ian character work. While Sauvage’s work certainly stands out between the two, Pacheco’s work gains a lot of energy from those opening pages. And there’s a tonal consistency between the two artists that may be in part due to the smaller scale of the story, but it’s something that helps bridge the gap in terms of how we qualify this as a “superhero comic book.” It’s refreshing to see Pacheco and inker Rafael Fonteriz have to be a bit more deliberate in their expression work, because they can’t be over reliant on big picture wide shots that eschew detail.
But Margaret Stohl’s story leaves something to be desired. There’s a bit of an after-school special to the story as it tackles Carol’s PTSD. While there’s certainly merit in saddling our heroes with problems - that’s long been the Marvel way after all - a lot of legwork has to be done to make them feel genuinely relatable. Down to the awkward, Chris Claremontian New England accents, Carol’s interactions with her brother and mother are odd and stilted, which is due in part to her lack of connection with them. But Stohl doesn’t comment on things more than repeating well-worn cliches like “they say you can never go home again” and “you accept the life that comes your way.” Carol’s passivity is frustrating to read. Having characters do nothing is not exactly the best way to write a compelling story - and if this is supposed to represent some sort of a reset for the character (as evidenced somewhat by the return of her old haircut), it almost does more to hurt Carol’s reputation than anything else.
Ultimately, I’m not sure who The Life of Captain Marvel is for. It seems to want to say something, but Stohl can’t muster anything more than trite platitudes. It seems to want to deepen Carol’s history, but it doesn’t let Carol actually participate in anything important that happens. It seems to want to set up Carol to have her heroic resolve strengthened, but this first issue has only made her a weaker character. Obviously writers need to put their characters through the wringer in order to give us a good story, but this issue is anticlimactic, complete with rote plotting and cliche dialogue and ultimately, very little in the way of a meaningful hook. As it stands, The Life of Captain Marvel continues the trend of failing to recapture what’s compelling about Carol Danvers.