Welcome to the second part of this blog series exploring the comic books of the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel! Carol will soon debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (portrayed by Brie Larson), so what better time to take a deep dive into the original comic book source material to see what all the hubbub is about. Are the Captain Marvel comics nothing more than man-hating propaganda pieces to convert people to an extremist “SJW” cult, or are they just, you know, regular comic books? In part one of this series in which I explored the first 6 issues of the 2012 Captain Marvel series found in the collection In Pursuit of Flight, it seemed to be mostly the latter. Will we see more of the same in the second volume entitled Down? Let’s jump into this full geek and find out.
With the 7th and 8th issues, we find Kelly Sue DeConnick once again in the writer’s seat, but she is now joined by Christopher Sebela as co-writer. The really good news is that Dexter Soy is again back on the art, and he may have gotten even better. Both issues 7 and 8 are gorgeously rendered by Soy and the story is pretty solid too. We get some insight into Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers as we find out just what an aviation history buff she is along with some great action scenes with a giant robot. It was great seeing Carol having to work out a plan and rely on some allies to help take down this threat. It wasn’t an EASY feat. We like our heroes challenged.
With these first two issues, we’re also reminded that Carol Danvers wasn’t actually the first woman to adopt the name, Captain Marvel. That was actually Monica Rambeau. It was nice to see Monica’s legacy honored as she and Carol team up in this issue. Another great thing is that it wasn’t instant solidarity and “you go, girl!” type stuff. There were conflict and contention between the two over the name with Monica ultimately seeming like she has moved on from the Captain Marvel moniker, leaving it free for Carol to take up.
In these first two issues, we’re also reintroduced to an old acquaintance of Carol’s, Frank Gianelli. Frank is clearly being set up as a potential love interest for Carol. The interaction between Frank and Carol is interesting because, on one hand, it was a neat twist to see the man in the “damsel in distress” role as he’s just a regular guy with no superpowers. Is that bad? No. Not at all. We’ve seen Superman save Lois Lane any number of times. Seeing Carol do the same for Frank flipped the narrative in a fun way. The only way in which it went south is the way that the two super-powered women at times treat Frank. At one point Monica saves Frank and literally tosses him to Carol who says, “What am I supposed to do with this?” To which Monica replies, “I so don’t care.” The dehumanization of Frank is completely unnecessary. He appears to be a good guy, brave, and trying to help to the best of his limited abilities. Is this behavior acceptable (and humorous) because he’s a man and his rescuers are women? Imagine if Aquaman saved Lois Lane from drowning only to toss her over to Superman who then says, “What am I supposed to do with this?” and Aquaman saying, “I so don’t care.” We wouldn’t let our male superheroes get away with treating Lois this way, so why would we let these ladies off the hook for treating Frank like less than a person? Granted, in the scenes that followed, Frank managed to get a bit of a comeback and it becomes clear that Carol might be acting this way to hide the fact that she’s attracted to Frank, but it’s still in rather poor taste.
And then we get to issue 9 where the quality of this comic drops drastically, particularly in the art department. At this point, Dexter Soy leaves the title and is replaced by Filipe Andrade. What can I say about the artwork? Look, I know art is subjective, and I can barely draw a straight line myself; but this style is just…odd.
What is this anatomy? I know it’s a comic book, but does the human body even move that way? Captain Marvel isn’t Spider-Man or Mister Fantastic!
Where are their FACES!? What happened to noses and mouths? Look, I don’t want to slam the guy, but to me, this just isn’t good. Yes, there are a few things Andrade does well. I would go as far as to say that his “interesting” style might be a good fit on certain types of comic books or art projects but not a mainstream superhero title like Captain Marvel. It’s supposed to be larger than life sci-fi and action. Marvel is pushing Captain Marvel as a female Superman or at least their answer to Wonder Woman. Her comic needs a superstar artist that is going to garner mass appeal. I realize that some people do like this style, but I wasn’t the only one who found issue with it as letters from readers disappointed in the art direction did see print in the comic’s letters page. The only positive thing I can say is that the editor did answer the negative responses courteously and respectfully. But still, if Marvel wants Captain Marvel to be A-list, she needs A-list talent and that includes the artists on her book.
So, what about the story itself? These last four issues (9-12) were a mixed bag of mostly good and a little bad. There was nothing really egregious on the extremist “SJW” front. The biggest flaw was that everything seemed to come too easily for Carol at first. Beat up dinosaurs? Easy peasy. Take out some random thugs? No problem. I also began to notice at this point that a bit more of that often overused Joss Whedon-esque, cutesy-pie style of dialogue began creeping in. Again, nothing too bad. I also noticed a spelling error with the word “tunnel.” But hey, these things happen, even with a professional editing team, right? I can easily overlook and forgive one such error.
As for the good, Carol finally gets challenged when a facsimile of her old enemy Deathbird returns as well as the looming threat of another old villain not seen in a very long time. The beginnings of a supporting cast start to develop as Carol’s neighbors are introduced, she gets a personal assistant, and Frank Gianelli returns. I was also glad to see Carol dealing with the “real world” problems that Marvel is known for subjecting its heroes to. Carol may get evicted from her apartment, and to make matters worse, she begins experiencing painful blackout headaches. It turns out that there’s a lesion growing on her brain that is exacerbated every time she activates her flight powers, and almost nothing matters more to Carol Danvers that flying. Captain America loans her one of his old hover-bike and ironically, Carol Danvers, ace pilot, is bad at driving it. Those human touches really help to propel the series along despite a few wrinkles and less than spectacular art.
In the end, I would give the Captain Marvel: Down collection 2 stars out of 4. The writing didn’t suffer terribly since the last volume, but it hasn’t improved much either. It is consistent. The art did suffer terribly though. Issues 7-8 were of significantly higher quality that issues 9-12 of this collection. Will things get better? Will they get worse? Find out when I review the next Captain Marvel collection in part three of this ongoing blog series leading up to Captain Marvel’s MCU debut.