“Captain Marvel” #1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Dexter Soy puts Carol Danvers back where she belongs: in her own series. With a new costume and new code-name, it’s clear that this is a big relaunch for the character. So does it hold up?
In places, yes. The opening sequence in which Captain America and Danvers fight the Absorbing Man is smart and funny, and nails the relationship between the two army-veteran Avengers. Soy’s art is dramatically unlike almost anything else on Marvel’s slate. While it’s mostly energetic and intense, a few pages in, things take a wrong turn and the book doesn’t really get back on track.
For a start, a lot of the comic — too much, too early — seems to be given over to meta-discussions about Carol Danvers’ choice of codename and role in the heroic pantheon. DeConnick does set things up so these ideas appear to emerge from the issue’s opening pages, but they still stick out like a sore thumb as trying to pre-empt reader’s questions rather than getting on with the story at hand. It’s fine for a series to begin with a statement of intent, but this feels like all statement and no execution.
When the story follows up Danvers’ background as a pilot, it definitely starts to say some things about her that get close to a unique selling proposition, but none feel inherently interesting or relatable, and the flashbacks we see don’t seem to lead anywhere. A big problem is that there’s no obvious unanswered question to convince readers to come back for a second instalment. The only cliffhanger is delivered in the “next issue” description rather than the story itself.
Danvers’ new costume is radically different from what came before. It’s not quite as iconic as Cockrum’s old black and yellow combo, but it does work in context and there’s no denying it’s more appropriate attire for a superhero than what she was wearing before. Soy’s artwork is better than previews led me to believe, but he works best in action mode. The subdued colouring of the flashbacks makes them seem muddy and visually uninteresting, and while Soy has a flair for iconic images showcased during various in-costume sequences, the out-of-costume moments seem awkward and plodding by comparison. Worse still, he struggles with the look of the costume when it’s in “flight” mode (with the helmet up) and it ceases to resemble Danvers at all.
It’s a shame that this didn’t click with me, because I’m a big fan of the character and was hoping for something to be enthusiastic about. Instead, this is an odd issue that delivers its best material early then doesn’t seem to build to any kind of point. Unlike Danvers’ previous series, which had a clear (if vaguely-defined) hook of her attempt to become an A-list superhero, this one spends more time trying to figure out the character’s nature than convincing readers that there’s a story coming. It probably makes sense from the perspective of a creator to spend time establishing the framework and testing her boundaries, but as someone who’s already invested in the character, I can’t help feeling that I’d rather read a comic about what she does, not who she is.