It seems that across publishers in comics these days, characters are going back to their roots, resetting history, or getting back to square one in order to bring a new generation of readers to a familiar character. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick is doing things a little differently. In the first issue of Captain Marvel, released in stores today, DeConnick is taking a familiar character with a rich history in the Marvel universe in a brand new direction, with a new costume even. There's a lot riding on this first issue, with Carol saying goodbye to the name Ms. Marvel and embracing a new one in the form of Captain Marvel, a name that carries not only symbolic weight and gravity in Marvel history, but personally for Carol as well. The first issue covers quite a bit of territory, giving us brisk and effective exposition, an effectively paced story, and a conclusion that promises a very new, yet comfortably familiar heroine.
The story opens with arresting art by Dexter Soy, as Captain Marvel and Captain America face off against the Absorbing Man in New York City. As the battle wages on, with quick dialogue between the characters, Absorbing Man not so much, it becomes interesting to see Carol taking the reigns so comfortably with Cap,even doling out battle strategy. Not that we haven't seen this side of her before, but typically when issues show Cap and another hero fighting side by side, Cap's orders are usually the only ones that are heard more often than not. But, as Carol says in this issue, "technically I outrank him." After defeating Absorbing Man, it's on to the middle act of this opening story, the piece that focuses effectively on the weight of the name Captain Marvel and why Cap sees it as an inevitable part of Carol's continued personal evolution. DeConnick handles this scene particularly well, as it not only gives the audience context for understanding not only what the name Captain Marvel means, but also what Carol's role in Marvel has meant up to this point. An obligatory Spider-Man appearance follows in a throwaway few panels, my only quibble with the issue, a minor one at that.
A series of interesting internal monologue follows, as Carol begins to reflect on her life, her heroes, and her history, all set to a wonderfully illustrated sequence by Soy, and the attention to detail in Carol's expression is one of the highlights of this part of the issue. One of the things about this last half of the issue that is effective is the balance that DeConnick strikes between the various pieces of Carol Danvers' life. The personal, the professional, the past, the present and the heroic are all given fair and equally important treatment in a way that strikes important notes in giving us an understanding as to where the character is headed as she begins to accept this new mantle. An important flashback to a personal hero of Carol's brings a poignant end with Carol back in the present at a sad event, symbolically showing how the past and the people in it have brought her to this moment. The final full-page figure of Carol in the Captain Marvel costume is quite stunning, as are the final words, "and we will be the stars we were always meant to be."
DeConnick has done a masterful job of bringing us a first issue that generally feels like a beginning for this long-established character. It will be interesting to see how the author continues to develop Captain Marvel and what challenges she will face along the way. It's very refreshing to see the care and craftsmanship given to this first issue, both in the writing and the art. The art matches this new level of character for Carol Danvers, elevating her to an even higher place in the Marvel universe than before. I, for one, can't wait to take the journey with this character and DeConnick's talented pen.