Review: Captain Marvel Vol. 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More trade paperback (Marvel Comics)

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

[Review by Doug Glassman, who Tumblrs at '80s Marvel Rocks!]

Carol Danvers has been in the press a lot in the last few weeks and that will likely continue for the next four years until the Captain Marvel movie is finally released. The movie is the payoff for years of fan support, allaying any fears that Carol would return to being Ms. Marvel or that the title would be cancelled any time soon.

The All-New Marvel NOW! initiative relaunched the Captain Marvel title with the same writer and used a change in setting as an excuse for the new #1 (collecting these new first issues in Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More), in the same way that Daredevil was relaunched after a move to San Francisco. I won’t give Marvel too much criticism for this relaunch since there really is a shift in the title’s paradigm; specifically, Carol has become an interstellar adventurer.

She’s also a member of the Guardians of the Galaxy… or she will be eventually. Despite the Free Comic Book Day story teasing her membership in the group alongside Venom and Rocket Raccoon, she actually won’t join up with the Guardians until next year. This will hopefully give Kelly Sue DeConnick enough time to work with Brian Michael Bendis to come up with a shared schedule for the character.

Having such a drastic setting shift after creating a great supporting cast for Carol on Earth was difficult for many fans -- myself included -- to anticipate. It also came at the expense of a romantic relationship that I predicted when I started reading the book. The blooming romance between Carol and James Rhodes makes perfect sense; both are former Air Force personnel who have been superheroes for many years and who have taken on the identities of other heroes in the past. With the Iron Patriot title faltering, it would be great to have him relocate to space as well. The old cast are not forgotten by Carol, however, and she’s still accompanied by her cat, Chewie.

The core plot of Higher, Further, Faster, More involves some of the fallout from Infinity. Numerous worlds are rebuilding from the Builders’ invasion and untold billions of refugees are trying to find a place to start over. A stowaway in Carol’s ship leads her into conflict with J’son of Spartax, the father of Star-Lord (at least until the next round of retcons). Carol and J’son had some major clashes during Infinity and the leader of the Spartax does not endear himself any further to her with his attempts to drive refugees off of what appears to be a poisonous planet. Despite the health hazards, the ragged coalition of survivors refuses to depart the one place they have left, and it’s up to one of the Avengers’ best brawlers to figure out a tense diplomatic situation. As you can imagine, diplomacy is not the answer.

DeConnick created a lot of new races (and brought back a few that she created for her run on Avengers Assemble) for this story, to mixed effect. Having the Kree and Skrulls getting involved would probably just complicate this story even more. However, these new aliens are kind of derivative and seem a little too much like people in sci-fi make-up; Gil the pilot has horns that remind me of Marko from Saga. This was an arc that would have benefited from some unconventional creatures that could make Carol doubt what side she should be on.

One of the advantages of the relaunched title is a new regular artist who is certainly a change for the better. David Lopez draws a standout issue every month for Captain Marvel, eschewing the odd angles of Dexter Soy and the bizarre faces of Felipe Andrade. His space battles are some of the most coherent I’ve seen in a long time, crowned by Carol taking on an entire fleet of warships by herself. Even the rather boring alien designs are given some great color work and extra detail to compensate. I also appreciate that he draws Chewie as a normal cat and not whatever abomination Andrade drew; that’s a statement which will be ironic after a story in the next trade.

You can, in theory, start reading this series with Captain Marvel Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More, but I would still go back and read the collections of the previous series: In Pursuit of Flight, Down, and Avengers: The Enemy Within. The current incarnation is a big improvement on an already great concept and character. After all these years, Marvel finally has their Wonder Woman ... and she likes punching dinosaurs in the face. Life is good.

Special request! I’m looking for a Marvel trade that I normally wouldn’t read to fill the Christmas Week review slot. Let me know in the comments which one of the following I should pick.

• Avengers A.I.: Human After All
• Avengers Arena: Kill or Die
• Cable and X-Force: Wanted
• Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z Book 1
• Deadpool Kills Deadpool
• Deadpool Killustrated
• Morbius the Living Vampire: The Man Called Morbius
• Nova: Origin
• Thunderbolts: No Quarter
• Uncanny X-Force: Let it Bleed
• Savage Wolverine: Kill Island
• Winter Soldier: The Bitter March
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5 comments:

  1. I wouldn't be so opposed to Marvel's constant renumbering if they would do something, anything, that would make trade reading easier, like, for instance, just adding adding something to the title to help differentiate (seriously, just up open a dictionary and pick an adjective at random: the Cherubic Captain Marvel, the Breezy Captain Marvel, the Statuesque Captain Marvel...it took me about 20 seconds to pick those at random).

    My vote is for Thunderbolts: No Quarter

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    1. This is why DC's reported decision to start re-numbering the Batgirl trades with the new team despite that the series itself isn't being renumbered makes me cra-azy. I'd as soon they just preserve series and collection numbering; ditto with Suicide Squad and Teen Titans.

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  2. I vote for Avengers Arena, a book I really wanted to hate based on its distasteful premise, but turned out to be terrifically entertaining. If I were a DC editor, I'd do anything in my power to have Dennis Hopeless write the Teen Titans.

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  3. I would definitely go for Captain America: Castaway in Dimension Z Book 1, the work Rick Remender has been doing in this series is amazing, especially in this story arc.

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