In Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1, a teenager in search of inspiration meets her heroes and learns that her experiences aren’t that different from everyone else’s.
Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1
Joe Caramagna (letterer), Claire Roe (artist), Mike Spicer (colourist), Mark Waid (writer)
February 24, 2021
I’m always on the lookout for one-shots and first issues from Marvel. I’m still looking for a way back into the mainstream narrative—and unable to find one—so these one-off stories are a great way to spend time with the characters I love. Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1 did give me those moments with two characters I’ve enjoyed reading: Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel and Carol Danvers/Captain Marvel. But this book may have given me too much.
The premise of the Marvels Snapshots series is to show Marvel’s superheroes through the eyes of ordinary citizens. It’s a great idea and puts the reader firmly in the book. Most of us aren’t superheroes; we’re consuming their stories through comics, film, and TV. We have posters of superheroes on our walls, and souvenirs from ‘meeting’ them (or their actors) adorn our shelves.
That’s exactly what Jenni Saito, the protagonist of Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1, has in her room. And from the opening page, it’s obvious that the heroic antics of these superpowered beings have inspired her. Jenni has been suspended from school for skipping class to join a protest. It’s not the first time she’s done it. She’s regularly missing classes to participate in protests for pretty much anything and everything. And she gets into arguments with teachers, as well. As much as Jenni wants to be an activist, her actions are making things difficult for her mother, who just wants her sweet daughter back. One who doesn’t have short, pink hair, and doesn’t eschew beautiful clothes and make-up for a protest sign in her hand.
The essence of Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1 is to show Jenni—and, by extension, the reader—that Jenni is not alone in feeling like her mother doesn’t understand her. But also that her beliefs and activism are justified. Spider-Man has great responsibilities because of his great power; Jenni Saito may not have that kind of power, but she has a voice, and she knows that she has to put it to good use.
It’s a strong premise. I like that Jenni is a girl of colour—it thrills me every time I see anyone from a marginalized community getting the spotlight in Big Two comics. But there was something so stereotypical about the setup. Of course, her mother, also a woman of colour, wants an obedient feminine daughter. I would have found it more believable if Jenni’s mother emphasized Jenni’s future rather than her appearance. Jenni’s falling grades get a mention, but they’re pushed aside in favour of the makeup kit sent by Jenni’s aunt. It was an unnatural segue in the conversation that took me out of the story.
Jenni’s meeting with her heroes was surprisingly organic in Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1. A fight breaks out between the Avengers and some pirate aliens and Jenni wants to take selfies with them. I like that Ms. Marvel is totally cool with selfies. because the Avengers are as much celebrities as they are heroes in the Marvel Comics universe. I also love that Kamala, having just fought a huge battle, takes the time to listen to this random teenager. It’s a really cute moment and made me love Kamala even more than I already do.
Jenni’s problems with her mother not understanding her aren’t that different from what other teens go through. Kamala has the same issues—her folks don’t get her. There’s also the very difficult divide that the Khan family have to navigate with Kamala having grown up in the USA, while her parents are immigrants from Pakistan.
But this is where Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1 fell short for me. It belaboured the divide between Kamala and her parents. There were so many pages and incidents of strife that it felt almost like Mark Waid wanted to show how difficult South Asian immigrant parents could be. Carol Danvers’ physically abusive dad didn’t get that much page-time in this book. It felt like the text was trying to paint Kamala’s parents as villainous.
Kamala’s act of rebellion—going to a party she wasn’t allowed to attend—eventually led to her being caught in the Terrigen Mists that turned her into Ms. Marvel. The text makes it seem like her rebellion and becoming Ms. Marvel were directly linked, but that is an oversimplification of her origin story. Kamala could have listened to her parents and still encountered the Mist through an open window at home and become Ms. Marvel anyway.
All of Ms. Marvel was about Kamala accepting how she fit into her family, her country, her world, and her life as a superhero. I didn’t like how Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1 flattened Kamala’s arc and her relationship with her parents to: parents bad, rebellion good, rebellion leads to heroism. It leads very well into the conclusion of the book but it does Kamala’s family, the rare South Asian representation in Marvel Comics, a huge disservice.
While I like what Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1 was trying to do, it feels very much like the author was trying to be woke without delving into what wokeness is. And look, I get that that’s a lot to ask for in a 32-page comic book. But why not distil the narrative relationships to suit that goal? Keep the conversation contained between Jenni and Kamala, or Jenni and Carol. But including two huge origin stories to inspire Jenni, the book did justice to neither, and instead it showed readers events that most have read before. I liked the idea of this book, but the execution fell flat.
I did enjoy the art by Claire Roe and the colours by Mark Spicer were gorgeous. This is a vibrant comic book—no sepia tones here. The character pop off the pages. And the expressions on the characters are such fun; they convey everything in one glance. You don’t even need the text, at times. It’s not the realistic type of art that I love but this style is beautiful.
At the start of Captain Marvel: Marvels Snapshots #1, I thought I was going to love every bit of it. There are enjoyable moments and character interactions that made me smile. I understand the message this book is trying to convey—and the creative team’s heart does seem to be in the right place. But when the comic book comes across like a paint-by-numbers kit, it ends up alienating the readers it’s meant for.