Captain Marvel #17
Kelly Sue DeConnick, Filipe Andrade, Jordie Bellaire
In the spirit of full disclosure, I had sort of fallen off the Captain Marvel bandwagon in recent months. Not because it’s not a brilliant book, because Kelly Sue DeConnick writes the best damn Carol Danvers that I’ve ever read. Not because it’s not a beautiful book, because the team of Filipe Andrade (pencilst) and Jordie Bellaire (colors) has created a really interesting look for some familiar faces (J. Jonah Jameson has never looked so good). And not because the story of a Captain Marvel struggling with balancing hero-life balance isn’t a compelling one (we’ve seen Matt Fraction take a similar route with Hawkeye quite successfully).
No, what’s been tough has been Captain Marvel’s involvement in crossover tie-ins for months. And since I haven’t been reading the stories they’re tied into, I’ve been happily picking my comic up and placing it in a pile, waiting patiently for Captain Marvel to come home to her own stories.
I’m glad I stuck around. While I struggled a little to figure out what was going on with Carol (amnesia from her past adventures mixed with her brain issues? I’m having trouble finding it with a simple Google search), the story itself picked up where I remembered it: Carol’s been evicted, she’s got some serious doubts as to what she can do as Captain Marvel, but the people in her inner circle have got her back. Period.
Issue #17 really hammers home that last point. Right now, Carol’s the lowest she’s been in a long time, lost and confused but still having to live up to a huge legacy. She doesn’t know where she’s going to live, she doesn’t really remember who her friends are, and can only rely on those friends (there’s a funny panel about just how friendly and “helpful” those friends are) to fill in the blanks.
Fortunately, she is the biggest thing in New York. So big that she, unfortunately, unknowingly, bumped Grace Valentine, an app developer who is stealing a little too much information from the people who are downloading her very popular app, from a feature in New York Beat magazine. Captain Marvel is to get a key to the city and represents the hope New York City needs after being beleaguered by hurricanes and aliens. Disgruntled, Valentine leaves the meeting with the magazine editor and finds herself immersed in a city abuzz with excitement for that very same key ceremony.
Carol has some great moments in the comic, many of which are centered around her relationship with Kit, a little girl who lived in the same building as Carol before she was evicted. There are a lot of places where Earth’s Mightiest Hero gets to empower Kit and her friends to be true to themselves and not be afraid to be different. All the while, Carol is dealing with her own problems, but she takes the time to take Kit on a little joyride, right over Grace Valentine’s head. The supervillain vibe coming from Valentine ratchets up immensely from this point on.
Eventually, the big moment arrives: Carol’s being honored, and Valentine, who’s been revealed to be the villain we all knew she was destined to be, is threatening the life of New York’s chosen hero. She picks at all of the things Carl knows about herself but doesn’t remember. “She’s an alien. An alcoholic. An undisciplined, brain-damaged disaster–” Valentine becomes the voice in the mirror that anyone struggling with an identity issue can relate to. There’s always someone ready and willing to point out everything about you that you really wish you could forget. Sometimes that voice belongs to a supervillain. Sometimes it belongs to us. Either way, we get it.
But then something extraordinary happens. In the heat of the moment, one youngster stands up beside the browbeaten hero. “I am Captain Marvel.”
One by one until the entire crowd is chanting it, voices join in. They’re louder than Valentine’s voice. They’re louder than Carol’s voice. “I am Captain Marvel,” provides the cover that the Avenger needs to recoup and take out the drones threatening her life. Carol Danvers lost part of herself in space or in brain injury (I’m still not sure which but, hey, at least you’re only getting vague, second-hand spoilers) but the rest of her city at least assures her of the things she hasn’t lost, namely the adoration of the world she’s fought so hard to save time and again.
Oh, and Jameson gave her the crown of the Statue of Liberty to live in. Sweet digs. As she and Kit work at making this Earth’s Mightiest Headpiece a Home, Kit reveals that she never expected Carol to teach her how to be Captain Marvel. Kit was going to teach her.
Epilogue, and this is the one you’ve been waiting for. Elsewhere, in Jersey City, a young woman is hanging a promotional image of Captain Marvel on the mirror that hangs beside a flag of Pakistan. She mimics the flexed pose Captain Marvel has, and enormous muscles bulge from the teen’s arms. We don’t get to see her face but we see the familiar lightning bolt emblem that one Ms. Marvel was known for.
This issue was the perfect way to end the current run. I think the book got bogged down in tie-ins and I’m looking forward to starting fresh with a new Captain Marvel series. But, more than that, words cannot express my delight in the upcoming Ms. Marvel series. I think this is a bold direction for Marvel to take and I seriously hope that they treat it with the respect it deserves. This book will have a lot going for it: a female writer who is also a convert to Islam, a female lead character of color, and a hell of a legacy behind the title. I can’t wait to see what happens in the continuing adventures of Kamala Khan, Ms. Marvel.
This is an exciting time for comic books and, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this issue is this: I am Captain Marvel. And so are you.