Captain Marvel #1
Written by Kelly Thompson
Art by Carmen Carnero and Tamra Bonvillain
Lettered by Clayton Cowles
Published by Marvel Comics
‘Rama Rating: 8 out of 10
There are eight points on a Hala star, symbol of the Kree and centerpiece of Captain Marvel’s costume. Meaning you can put it in the center of a nine-panel grid, and each of those points can motion in the direction of the other panels that make up the page.
Soldier. Pilot. Warrior. Fighter. Hero. Leader. Icon. Captain. And what’s at the center of all this? Carol Danvers.
A succinct way of establishing some previous history and continuity in lieu of a lifeless exposition dump, this is how Kelly Thompson, Carmen Carnero, and Tamra Bonvillain opt to start their first issue of a[nother] new ongoing volume. These various aspects of Carol’s life explode from the cosmic energy captured in the middle of the page, in a layout that Thompson also scripted her ongoing Rogue and Gambit with. Just as that first issue proved, Captain Marvel #1 shows she’s got the debut issue down to a science, finding a way to orientate new readers as well as rewarding longtime fans.
After spending some time in space with Alpha Flight, Carol’s back on Earth, partly for family reasons as explained on the title page. As the issue starts, she’s handling a kraken-looking creature that’s found its way to Manhattan. Working with Spider-Woman, there’s snappy banter flying about as they get the job done in a simple, yet effective sequence that gives a base idea of what Carol’s like and just the right level of stakes to welcome a reader in without asking them to invest in an end of the world scenario. Carmen Carnero and Tamra Bonvillain deliver crisp and clean visuals that allow the superheroics to pop when contrasted against the plainer Wall Street setting, though that tangible location and the detailing of that geography provide a more dynamic backdrop than the emptiness of space can. In short, it’s good to have her back.
In a letter included with the issue, Thompson notes this isn’t her first time writing as the character, as she was co-writer with Kelly Sue DeConnick on Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps, which concluded the latter’s time spent with the character. DeConnick is the person most responsible for turning Carol into a modern-day icon via her run, overseeing when Carol took up the mantle of Captain. When it started back in 2012, it was the only solo series being published by Marvel with a female lead that month. A lot has changed for the better since then, but between DeConnick’s run ending and now, Carol’s solo runs have been caught up in the spate of relaunches and a tad more aimless, something which Thompson’s writing rectifies from the jump, largely because she plays well with continuity.
The book runs with Carol being part of the Avengers again, bringing in Tony Stark, Avengers Academy alum Hazmat, as well as Carol reconnecting with her ex-flame, the recently resurrected James Rhodes. In the case of Tony - who pesters Carol to do an interview with the press - the story evokes Kurt Busiek’s run with the characters, but Carol’s interview also serves a larger purpose in the story: it’s an attempt to locate the humanity in it all, which juxtaposes nicely with our lead’s hesitance/resistance to opening up. Sure, she can fight a strange-looking sea-beast, but doing that comes easier than putting herself out there, mentally and emotionally for all to see. There’s a clear interest regarding the relationships in Carol’s life, and the book gets right into confronting these.
And this is all before the team gets back to the more fight-focused superhero aspect. As a result of this structure, the issue is bookended by action, with all the quieter, yet no less dramatic material being sandwiched in the middle. Bonvillain’s colors stand out most of all in these, and one thing in particular to note is the sky being captured with a pink hue to it come the end. For Carol, this is all in a day’s work. When it comes to Carnero’s linework, the evident determination in Carol’s eyes from the get-go pairs well with the “always get up” mantra in her internal narration, though that middle section is where their grasp on body language can be most appreciated. For the most part, Thompson’s dialogue has a natural and snappy flow, and the framing choices chosen make conversations more than talking heads, aided by how characters frequently talk with their hands.
On one of the few occasions where speech balloons have less elegant exposition crammed into them, it’s all the more noticeable, because Carnero’s blocking says it all. Take an instance when Carol and Rhodey first see each other. She’s rubbing one of her arms, holding herself tighter; he’s slouching with a hand that’s halfway to a shrug for when you don’t know what to say. The awkwardness of their conversation is explicitly lampshaded in the dialogue of the following panel, but Carnero’s work said it all already.
If it wasn’t already clear, I adore the character of Carol – and that’s probably why I’ve been largely on-board with recent runs – but even with that level of attachment for the character, it’s clear that there hasn’t been as a confident take on her since DeConnick. One born from a deep love and care for the character, and with clear direction to it - forward. It seems like the start to just the kind of run which Carol deserves when she’s in the process of becoming a household name. Sharply written, gorgeously illustrated, and unabashedly feminist, Captain Marvel #1 is a showcase for what Carol and this creative team are capable of.