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Captain Marvel #1 Plays it Safe, But Manages to Have Some Fun

Much to no one’s surprise, Marvel Comics has launched a new Captain Marvel title. After all, the character is scheduled to make her big screen debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe later this year, and with any big screen adaption of a long-standing comic book character (especially if the film is wildly successful), throngs of new fans are created. Some of whom may be interested in exploring the character further in other mediums.

Of course, when it comes to comics, diving into the deep end can seem like a Herculean task. There are decades of curated stories to sift through, even if all you're looking to to read is the essential stuff. Since the advent of the MCU, Marvel has done a pretty admirable job of releasing series that are easy to jump into for most newcomers, and Captain Marvel #1 is no exception.

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While, yes, this is a continuation of the decades of story that have preceeded it, there is enough expository dialogue and context clues to get new readers up to speed on the current status of Carol Danvers and the people closest to her. None of it feels too hamfisted, and writer Kelly Thompson has some fun in conveying the pertinent information without losing its impact. Even when shrouded in jokes, the things these characters say is important within the context of the story... well, mostly. Sometimes they are just jokes. One regarding a giant Lovecraftain monster being difficult to move because of how awkward it is (like an sectional couch) got some chuckles out of us for sure.

What's odd is that this first issue feels more like a transitional work than anything else. We're not going to get into spoilers, but the plot is completely upended in the last couple pages, and it's probably for the best. As a result, the issue can feel rote for long-time fans of the character, or anyone who has a working knowledge of Marvel Comics Universe. Captain Marvel #1 keeps both ends in the balancing act aloft for the most part, even if it feels like the twenty pages that came before the last two could have been condensed gnaws at you once the issue is finished.

One of Thompson’s biggest strengths as a writer is her knack for creating conversational shorthand between characters who have well-established relationships. Even if you aren’t familiar with the friendship between Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman going in, the way in which they address one another tells the reader all they need to know about their dynamic, and gives enough insight into their bond without relying on heaps of exposition. Thompson has been doing this to an arguably better degree in the pages of Mr. & Mrs. X, but it still mostly works in Captain Marvel #1. While there are a few pacing issues in the middle of the issue, the dialogue-heavy sections establish bonds between major characters and help move the plot along, with a few exceptions. Some of the Stark and Danvers stuff felt a bit too cheeky for its own good, for example.

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Carmen Carnero’s art is solid. The opening battle with Captain Marvel and Spider-Woman taking on a giant rejected Star Wars Prequel monster is a standout. The only issue with the art is less about Carnero’s work in particular, and more how it seems so many of Marvel’s comics have a similar visual style these days. A lot of titles just look the same. Carnero is a wonderful artist, but it seems she’s operating in the Marvel Mold, which hampers a lot of her natural artistic flare. Sure, it helps streamline the shared universe on an aesthetic level, but at what cost?

Captain Marvel #1 may not be the most complex and thrilling debut Carol Danvers has ever starred in, but it’s a lot of fun. Thompson and Carnero have crafted some solid groundwork for something with the potential to be really special. The sudden shift at the end of this issue is exactly why we read comics in the first place, after all. Just when we think we know where we're going, someone throws the map out the window.

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