"The Black Vortex" falls into Carol Danvers' hands in this week's installment of "Follow That Mirror!" as Mister Knife and Thane chase down Earth's Mightiest Avenger for the prize, culminating in a showdown between the three on Knife's whaleship. Kelly Sue DeConnick uses the MacGuffin to examine Carol's desire to push herself beyond her limits, questioning whether or not accepting the ultimate power offered by the titular object is worth whatever corruption comes with the level-up. It's a good debate amidst a high-powered shootout as Knife works overtime to destroy Danvers and Thane, who weighs his allegiances with the invisible hand of his Iago, Ebony Maw.
At this point, Danvers must pay rent in DeConnick's mind for the space she occupies, but this makes for the best dialogue of the issue. Carol's quips in the fight are balanced by her own uncertainty surrounding her feelings on the Vortex, knowing that the ultimate power that pushes her power levels above 9000, likening it to being handed the keys to a Maserati and being dared not to take the car for a spin. Both versions of Danvers, internal and external, are funny, insightful and inspiring. David Lopez illustrates the zero-gravity showdown as an aerial ballet, like a dogfight without planes, before the combatants are brought to ground on the floating space beast. Though the finale of the issue leaves the reader exactly where they started, it does add one major plot development as J'Sonn is amberized through some slow decision making on Thane's part and some quick reacting on Carol's. With the lead antagonist of the crossover neutralized, it will be interesting to see how the story changes with only three chapters to go.
Though Danvers sounds great throughout the issue, DeConnick is given the unenviable task of trying to make Knife and Thane -- two characters who are underdeveloped at best -- sound and feel like big threats. Though she works hard at doing so, it's difficult to escape the lack of characterization for either villain. Knife has been little more than a chest-thumping treasure hunter throughout the story and Thane a supposed wild card that winds up being treated like what he is: a spinoff of a character readers would rather see. The writer delivers a good Ebony Maw, acting as the devious voice in the ear of the purple death bringer.
Lopez, one of the best illustrators of facial expression in the industry, is a little hamstrung as well as Knife's mask has no room for facial features. His Ebony Maw is spectacular and the moments when Carol has dropped her battle armor are true highlights. As Carol stares into the mirror, contemplating her destiny, readers feel both the awe and fear in her eyes, a rare feat to accomplish in comic books. Lopez makes up for this by delivering some great action, like the aforementioned space battle, and the showdown between Marvel and multiple knives. His shot choices all accentuate the script. As Knife and Danvers have a "Duck Season! Rabbit Season" debate over who Elmer Thane should attack, Lopez's page layout tightens the scope of their alternating panels, zooming closer before a 1/3 page illustration of Thane breaks the argument and the panel borders, overpowering everything with his reaction.
"Captain Marvel" #14 finds great small character moments in the face of a larger crossover with good dialogue and great art. Unfortunately, it has to do so with a supporting cast of forgettable villains during a story that is starting to overstay its welcome.