By: Kelly Sue DeConnick & Christopher Sebela (story), Dexter Soy (art), Jamie McKelvie & Jordie Bellaire (colors)

The Story: Not content to dominate the skies, Captain Marvel starts moving in on Namor’s turf.

The Review: To make it clear, I am not a Marvel hater.  It’s true that the vast bulk of my reading revolves elsewhere, but that bears no reflection on the quality of Marvel comics or anything.  Heck, I remained loyal to Herc and Dark Avengers long after they went from fun to dreadful, and I’d still be reading S.H.I.E.L.D. today if its shipping schedule (and its writer, too) didn’t get so erratic.  Still, I can’t deny a big blind spot where my Marvel knowledge is concerned.

I thought for sure Dark Avengers and S.H.I.E.L.D. would be the most challenging titles in terms of accessibility, but Captain Marvel has proven surprisingly hard for me to immerse myself into.  Just when I think I know what’s going on, I’ll run into something that throws me off completely. Last month, it was Tracy Burke; this time, it’s “Monica-PhotonPulsarCaptain-Marvel-Rambeau!”  Thank God for Wikipedia is all I have to say.

The Wiki-use kind of irked me, though, because I didn’t feel like it should have been necessary.  All the issue really needed was to explain Monica’s backstory a little more efficiently, especially where her run-in with Leviathan was concerned.  After looking up that incident, I wondered, with some exasperation, why didn’t DeConnick-Sebela just describe it a little more clearly?  It couldn’t have taken more effort than dancing around the point.

And maybe DeConnick-Sebela could’ve spent more time showing more of Carol and Monica’s relationship and less time writing a long tiff between the two over the use of the Captain Marvel name—and Monica’s Google Alert for the same.  At a certain point, the riffing gets repetitive and tiresome (read: annoying), especially when combined with reporter-photographer Frank Gianelli’s “Captain Whiz-Bang” in the second half of the issue.

Speaking of whom, I can’t say he makes the greatest first impression showing up out of nowhere and launching into a self-righteous diatribe against Monica for not doing more to fix New Orleans’ levees.  I mean, really—so are we to assume that the city’s engineers are just lolling around while the “rebar” is sloughing off, or whatever?  In addition to the sheer senselessness of his inquiry, Frank’s TMZ-style questioning is designed to provoke news, rather than report it.  Frankly, it’s a disappointment he doesn’t end up sucked into an underwater sinkhole.

At least that would’ve made good use of Carol’s deepwater explorations.  Although she proves very good at identifying plane models and tail-spinning sharks, her whole sojourn beneath the waves doesn’t offer much more interest than that.  She says it herself: “I’m not a detective.  I hate mysteries.  Give me action any old day.”  And she gets exactly what she wants.  It’s just too bad that no much effort goes into developing the mystery part before it converts into a garden-variety smash-‘em-up.

Soy has an attractive style of art that makes the ladies look attractive, but solid and strong.  He also draws a very sleek action panel, even if it consists of nothing more than Captain Marvel getting pushed around by sharks.  Unfortunately, most of the issue consists of talking heads, leaving Soy little opportunity to show off.  I also happen to dislike the trick of draping shadow across characters’ faces in a show of “drama.”  It’s a cheap way to get out of showing actual emotion.  McKelvie and Bellaire employ a halcyon, golden sort of lighting throughout, which fits the needs of the story, but little more.

Conclusion: A very uneven issue that doesn’t make it clear what kind of story it wants to tell—or what kind of series it wants to be—or what kind of hero its protagonist wants to model.

Grade: C+

– Minhquan Nguyen

Some Musings: – You know, after Monica’s prescient alert about strange readings in the issue’s first act, Carol ignoring the second one just seems like pure cockiness to me.