Kelly Sue DeConnick has been writing a tremendous Captain Marvel book over the last few years so it is no surprise that working with Kelly Thompson on this reinterpretation of the character and her world is a great success. Introducing a new Secret Wars-ian status quo of Carol leading a squadron of female jet fighter pilots (with a WW2 home front vibe) this book doesn’t delve too deeply into the wider world of its setting, but does immediately establish a diverse cast of strong-willed and interesting women with more than a hint of political intrigue thrown in. There is no question that this is an immediate success, with what seems like the beginning of another unique and entertaining Captain Marvel adventure.
Hala Field is a female dominated society with a uniquely blended 1940’s retro and contemporary aesthetic. Writers Kelly Sue DeConnick have taken the Carol Danvers that we know and love and placed here in a world that is different to the classic Marvel universe, but with enough hallmarks of our own history that it could have been a place that really existed if things had gone a little differently. The writing is on point, and the brilliantly distinctive art from David Lopez gives this world a feeling all of its own.
This book has the feeling of being as much about the Land Girls of the second world war as it is about a squadron of top guns flying alongside Captain Marvel herself. The all female squad are seen almost exclusively in uniform, have few personal belongings, and live on-base in shared barracks; this far from a traditional comic book superhero squad, rather it fully embraces the concept of a highly trained military team. The women of the Carol Corps draw lightly on a few ‘classic’ war movie stereotypes (smart one, sassy one, rebellious one) and although they are all quite distinctive this is as much the result of great character design as it is the dialogue. In fact, if there is a weakness in this issue it is simply that we aren’t given much of an opportunity to really get to know any of these new or reinterpreted characters (although of course there should be plenty of time to rectify this as the story progresses). The crux of this first issue comes down to questioning the existing order of things when we know they are not right and it is very well handled; as a character Carol has long had a military history and in a setting such as this, where constant defence and vigilance is positioned as a necessity, it is a compelling idea to explore. Questioning orders on the battlefield can get people killed, but following orders that are fundamentally wrong can do just as much damage (as can conforming to corrupt cultural norms). It is a bold concept to tackle in a superhero book, and the surface of it has only just been scratched, but it feels like there may be a lot more of this high calibre writing in the issues to come.
More generally I am a big fan of how this book ties into the wider Secret Wars event, especially in the way it surprisingly shares key plot elements with Old Man Logan. The termination mission that Cap is given here is targeted against a shipful of Ultrons (Ultron already having been mentioned as a particular menace in Doom’s world by Logan). Similarly taking a page out of Logan’s book the corps (particularly Bee), and later Carol herself, have some serious misgivings about the nature of Doom’s world and the limitations of his godhood. Like Logan Carol is getting set to go beyond the wall to find out what is really going on at the edges of Battleworld. Of course, this is all factored into the larger arc (where I assume Ultron will play a role and the uprising of heroes against Doom’s ‘natural’ order may well be a necessity), but rarely are these strands as well implemented in event tie in books as they have been so far with Secret Wars. DeConnick and Thompson have chosen to build the core narrative around these elements and it is a wonderfully interesting narrative choice; Carol is a professional enough soldier to trust and follow orders, but she, along with her squad, possesses an enquiring and compassionate mind and she doesn’t take suspicious events on face value just because she has been told not to ‘worry’ about them.
This is a book that isn’t afraid to show strong female characters who question the status quo, stand up to authority, have the strength to fight for their beliefs and their country, and who know when those in power have twisted the world into a mess. Plot-wise things have only just gotten started; can the military be trusted, what is Doom’s deal, what is beyond the wall? But the subtext of this series is already clear. This is a book about the women who stepped up to save the world during the second great war; who broke free of gender defined roles and proved that they could do whatever it took to protect their families, their friends, and their countries. This is a book about women who look at the world and see that it is broken and want to find out why and how they can fix it. This is a book about superheroes, and it is already pretty magnificent.
Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1 // Writers – Kelly Sue DeConnick & Kelly Thompson / Artist – David Lopez // Marvel
Notes and Observations:
- I wonder if Bee pretending to be sick and bunking off drills is a nod to classic military barracks comedy hijinks like Sgt. Bilko and Blackadder or if it is part of a bigger story (I get that she was using the time to investigate stuff, but this seems like a bold move to make just out of curiosity)
- I am very interested to know who was really on that ship and why the ‘higher ups’ passed them off as Ultrons
All art belongs to the copyright holder