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Review: Captain Marvel #1

A comic review article by: Shawn Hill

I was excited when I learned of this new effort in focusing attention on Carol Danvers, but Captain Marvel #1 is a bit of a letdown. That's mostly because of the art. The interior art belies the primary color immediacy of that McGuinness/Vines/Rodriguez cover, which shows Carol's new, more butch hairstyle and costume with old school four-color flair.

Yes, I'm going to be using terms like butch and macho and femme, etc., because the issue is whether it's passé to call our heroine her first moniker, Ms. Marvel, anymore. And the answer is no. The distaff honorific is not just a product of an era; the whole point of the adoption of the new prefix was that women could have a respectful status in public life that didn't indicate whether or not they were married. Just like men already always did. Has that need vanished? No, but the standard of referring to unmarried young women as "Miss" has. So the name remains current, and really shouldn't be an issue anymore. I don't agree with the assessment in the book that she's somehow an adjunct of Captain Marvel unless she takes over his full name. Is Spider-Woman an adjunct of Spider-Man? Is Supergirl's identity erased by Superman's presence? Is Batgirl any less fierce than Batman or Batwoman or Batwing?

I never really liked Warbird, either, and Binary only worked for a certain power set. I think the best rationale for the name change is actually Carol's wish to honor a fallen hero, and to carry on a legacy. 

I also fail to see how a skintight catsuit is any less revealing than Cockrum's classic update of her costume. Which consisted of full-length gloves, a one-piece, and thigh boots. It's more than Namor wears. And thigh boots get a really bad rap. I personally think Cockrum's costumes (all of them, but especially Ms. Marvel) should be honored as long as the characters persist, just out of respect for his legacy and the debt Marvel and DC owe him. But I know I myself am of a certain era. I can deal with all of the above changes, really.

What I can't deal with is Dexter Soy's art in this issue, because it's painted. Not only painted, but murky and dark, and coming from a new artist whose command of anatomy isn't quite all there. Painted art might work in some graphic novels, but unless you're Will Elder I wouldn't try it in a monthly format. I'm a firm believer that a good comic needs at least three creators, two of them doing the art. Make that four, because a separate colorist helps, too. There is a reason inked line art has always worked best for comics, and new technologies haven't changed that. In this issue everyone has green skin, relative proportional sizes of characters are inconsistent, every gesture features exaggerated perspective, and Carol even looks like she's gone Blue-Kree half the time and become Doctor Minerva for some reason.

However, the story is solid, so I'll probably keep reading. I don't mind Carol worrying about her costume and her name in a story that involves her meeting and being inspired by childhood idols. We meet at least three of them, including Captain America and a pioneering female pilot and near-astronaut. And the third is a friend from her days out of the military, when she was a writer for New York magazines. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick must know some crusty old editors herself, because she completely nails this character -- quick-witted and even proud as she faces debilitating cancer treatments. Unfortunately, Tracy Burke doesn't look sick, just gray-haired.

Carol's last series was about proving who she was in modern-day Marvel -- and by my count, she succeeded, a 50 issue run is an achievement by any standard these days -- so I'm cool if this one wants to be about her past and how she came to be the soldier we know and love.

But for heaven's sake, at least get an inker and colorist, ASAP! The art undermines the words at every turn, and including a selection of fan art celebrating the new look (or comparing the recent Dodsons-illustrated Avenging Spider-Man issue where she debuted) serves only to underline the disconnect.

 


 

Shawn Hill knows two things: comics and art history. Find his art at Cornekopia.net.

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