By: Kelly Sue DeConnick (Writer), David Lopez (Artist), Lee Loughridge (Color Artist), VC’s Joe Caramagna (Letterer)
Captain Marvel gets sidekicks.
Wow. Captain Marvel turned into a Disney movie more quickly than I realized. I say this, of course, because of the ragtag bunch of misfits that team up with Captain Marvel to take on the Big Threat that all the other adults refuse to see. This is not necessarily a bad thing, of course, since that kind of formula works pretty well, but it does threaten to reduce our complex characters and situations into stock archetypes and familiar situations and thus similarly reduce our interest and willingness to take this seriously.
Captain Marvel’s new band includes the bull-headed (literally) jock type Gil, the sassy African-American technician Jackie, the plucky headstrong Tic, and the socially stunted but with-a-heart-of-gold robot Bee (who wants to be called B-Bop.) When the *second* time one of them raises their head to the heavens and shouts the name of their enemy. I’m wondering if DeConnick is being honest with us in her humor or if she is honestly trying to slip into parody. Later, the group even has their own tropey Right Stuff moment (which purposefully works in The Guardians of the Galaxy movie trailer precisely because it *is* a humorous trope at this point.)
The character designs are really quite nice, even if such designs reinforce each one’s expression of the individual tropes. If you told me this was an adaptation of a kids’ TV series, I would totally understand, but that doesn’t have to be a criticism because this would definitely be a high-quality and well-designed one.
Overall, the art really is a reason for following this book, as the layouts, landscapes, and sheer variety of character designs are all interesting to look at, beautifully rendered, and highly expressive. Lopez gives Captain Marvel, especially, a range of emotions that are exaggerated enough without going into distortion, enhancing the mood and dialogue every time. Loughridge, too, gives every scene a special tint, and often colors/shades figures and faces in simple, two or three tones, giving a nicely modern aesthetic.
It’s a shame, however, that my favorite character from last issue, Eleanides, does not display any of the traits that made her a powerful figure previously. Instead, she is completely subjugated by J’Son of Spartax, since he is being positioned as the true Big Bad here (and perhaps serves as the bridge to bring Captain Marvel more in line with the Guardians of the Galaxy as Starlord is the son of J’Son.) However, at least Captain Marvel does take a few proactive steps to once again take agency as the lead hero in her own title. She even throws a total of two punches! (Once again, nicely rendered by Lopez.)
The story here ends with the crew on the planet that was featured in the first few pages of issue #1, meaning that pretty much all of these four issues to date have been an extended flashback to bring us back to that moment. This seems to me to be an example of what fans call “writing for the trade,” as that kind of technique would better fit reading all the issues in succession or in collected form.
The Bottom Line: Whereas most of the best entertainment nowadays is remixing if not entirely throwing out all the tropes we’ve come to expect, it’s disappointing that Captain Marvel seems to be reverting to stock situations and characters, weirdly taking Captain Marvel in a new direction that just doesn’t feel new at all. There’s some action, which is good, and some great expressive artwork, which is beautiful, and even a hint of intrigue and cliffhanger, but it still ranks as Pleasantly Diverting rather than Truly Great.
The Grade: B-
One Other Tidbit:
— Is it just me, or does the costume-plus-vaguely-mettalic-Medusa hair of Jackie remind anyone of Big Barda?