By: Kelly Sue DeConnick (story), Emma Rios (art), Jordie Bellaire (colors)

The Story: Even space nerds can be treacherous, ridiculous chauvinists.

The Review: As much as I love the time-traveling storylines, I always get annoyed by the obligatory anxiety over the risk of changing either the past or future.  It always seems so fruitless because no matter how much effort the characters put in to avoid interference, they always end up doing it anyway.  It’d be pointless if they could swoop into a timeline and swoop out without making any difference whatsoever, so the pains to stay out of trouble just seem like a pretense.

Maybe that’s why this issue feels like such a breath of fresh air in the grand scheme of comic book traditions.  Contrary to the customary time-traveling rules, Carol has no problem meddling in history directly, and I appreciate that DeConnick doesn’t even bother having our hero go through the motions of hand-wringing over the impact she may be having on the future.  Instead, she follows her instincts, which may make things come out right in the end anyway.

Besides, Helen Cobb is such a fun character that it’d be a shame not to buddy up with her at some point.  For a fresh new character (right?), Helen comes out of DeConnick’s head almost fully formed: smart as a whip, full of guts, with personality to spare.  Her spunky, Southern gal ways provides a great contrast to the usual cliché of dumb, redneck Southerners that usually populate comics, and it enhances all her big moments, whether it’s her standing up against overwhelming odds or taking surprises as thrills.  Her reaction to Carol suddenly flying her out of an armed-guards situation?  “So long, suckers! Yeeeeee-haaaawww!

DeConnick has a habit of breaking away from expectation, as she shows several times in the issue.  I can’t recall where exactly, but I know that DC writers and publishers have talked about integrating female characters into comics simply by writing good stories that happen to have women in them.  It’s a good practice, but DeConnick actually tackles feminist issues head-on in her story, going through a semi-history lesson about women’s struggles to be who they are without prejudice.

What allows the story to work is DeConnick merely uses the whole “lady flyers” conflict as an interesting basis for plot, without getting too preachy or heavy-handed with the struggles Helen and her ilk have to deal with.  Ultimately, the issue starts moving away from the social problems towards more classic superhero material, with alien artifacts and ghost planes, all of which tie into Carol’s personal history.  I must say, this is one of the cleverest ways to tell an origin story for a series’ opening arc I’ve seen, because it gives our heroine a new adventure without bogging her down in continuity points and history.

Rios’ art is eminently suitable for the grounded, civilian stuff in the script.  She injects such sunny warmth and energy in the opening, when Carol and Helen play chicken with jet planes, yet she also conveys a great range of emotion.  You can see every color of rage in this issue, whether it’s bitterly flavored by Oklahoma’s disappointment, flashing hot from Helen’s betrayal, or cold and calculating by the offense to Carol’s principles.  And once the superhero antics start up, Rios proves surprisingly adept; her swirls and swooshes have a charmingly old-school quality that makes it look more convincing than this type of art tends to be.

Conclusion: Whatever Marvel’s female-led titles lack in quantity, it almost makes up for it with quality.  This title finally gives some definition to one of the premier women of the Marvel universe.

Grade: A-

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – The dumbest thing you can do is to ask someone if they’re a spy.  Why in the world would they answer you?