Comic Book Review: Captain Marvel #1

Captain Marvel #1 is a comic book that I have been long forward to for a long time. As a kid I was a huge Captain Marvel fan. And I’m talking about the real Captain Marvel: Mar-Vell. The stud Kree warrior created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan. However, it was Jim Starlin who got me to fall in love with Captain Marvel when I was a little kid. Starlin’s Captain Marvel was an incredible Sci Fi title. I remember buying all the back issues I could of Starlin’s Captain Marvel.

So, obviously, I’m happy that we are getting to see Mar-Vell back in action once again. The only other version of Captain Marvel that I have enjoyed was Peter David’s Captain Marvel centering on Genis-Vell. All the rest have been pale imitations of the man, Mar-Vell. And even Genis-Vell failed to live up to the high standards set by Mar-Vell.

Even though this is only a temporary return by Mar-Vell, which completely sucks, I’m still going to enjoy the precious little time I get once again with the original Captain Marvel. Let’s go ahead and hit the review for Captain Marvel #1.

Creative Team
Writer: Brian Reed
Pencils: Lee Weeks
Inks: Stefano Gaudiano

Art Rating: 6 Night Girls out of 10
Story Rating: 9 Night Girls out of 10
Overall Rating: 7.5 Night Girls out of 10

Synopsis: We begin with the final battle scene of Civil War in which Captain Marvel makes a brief appearance to save a woman from being crushed by some debris. We then cut to the present with Mar-Vell narrating a monologue about who he is and how he died from cancer. Mar-Vell is at the Louvre staring at a painting named “Alexander in Babylon” by Charles Le Brun.

Suddenly, a costumed criminal named Cyclone busts into the museum and attacks Captain Marvel. Captain Marvel powers up and in a flash of light knocks out Cyclone. Captain Marvel thinks how he could catch the unconscious Cyclone before he falls to the ground and dies. Captain Marvel decides not to grab him and Cyclone falls to his death.

We cut to SHIELD Agent Sante meeting with a SHIELD psychic in a café in Paris. The psychic links Agent Sante with Iron Man for a private conversation. Iron Man informs Agent Sante that Captain Marvel was in some kind of accident that pushed him forward in time past the point where he died from cancer. That Mar-Vell went missing and SHIELD believes he is in France.

Iron Man states that he is worried about Mar-Vell’s mental state. That he is also worried what will happen to history if Captain Marvel dies in the present instead of when he is supposed to die from cancer. Iron Man instructs Agent Sante to find Captain Marvel.

We shift to a cult member of the Hala Brotherhood preaching on a city street in Manhattan. Evidently, the Hala Brotherhood views Captain Marvel as their messiah who has returned from the dead. That Captain Marvel spoke to Mother Starr. (Mother Starr is the woman that Captain Marvel saved from debris during the final battle of Civil War.) That Captain Marvel told Mother Starr that this isn’t how their world is supposed to be. Mother Starr knew that humans had failed him and that he was so sad at what they have become that he went away into the sky. That they must make Captain Marvel happy again so that he will return to them for good.

We hop over to the Church of Hala where a reporter is trying to get a meeting with Mother Starr. One of the cult members tells the reporter that she is too busy to meet with him. The reporter leaves his card and asks that the cult member tell Mother Starr to call him.

We slide over to Agent Sante meeting with Mar-Vell at the Louvre. Mar-Vell is once again staring at the same painting as before. Mar-Vell tells Agent Sante that the painting has been calling out to him. Mar-Vell comments how Alexander died at the age of thirty-two in his bed from either malaria or poison. That Alexander did not die on the battlefield. Agent Sante comments that Captain Marvel is about thirty-three.

Agent Sante tells Mar-Vell that Iron Man is concerned that Captain Marvel will get himself killed here in the present instead of going home and dying in his bed in the past. Captain Marvel comments how after he was shunned by his own people, he had a chance to make Earth a better place. That he had a chance to set right many wrongs and all he accomplished was inhaling some toxic fumes and getting cancer. That it wasn’t very heroic and it wasn’t the death of a soldier. Mar-Vell comments that if Iron Man wants to bring him in then Tony had better send the Sentry to do the job.

We cut to New York City two days later where a giant robot is attacking the city. The Mighty Avengers are battling the robot, but are having no success. The giant robot kicks ass on the Mighty Avengers.

Captain Marvel narrates another monologue about how he didn’t tell Agent Sante that there are holes in his memory. That the painting of Alexander the Great seems to cover up those holes. That there is something in that painting that he feels he has yet to see. Something that he was meant to see. Captain Marvel says that before he came to the present that he was in the Negative Zone and that he doesn’t remember what he was doing there. That this is where his feelings of lost begin and those feelings of lost are only soothed by the painting of Alexander.

Captain Marvel suddenly, streaks onto the scene and blasts a huge hole through the head of the giant robot. Captain Marvel thinks how he did not want to world to see him. That he does not want them to remember how he died. In his bed. On his back.

We see Captain Marvel standing on top of the defeated giant robot. The crowd and the Mighty Avengers are stunned. Captain Marvel thinks how he was wrong. That he may die soon, but today he is alive and today he stands tall as a warrior and says “I am here.” “I made this happen.” End of issue.

The Good: Captain Marvel #1 was an excellent read. I was impressed with Brian Reed’s effort on this issue. Reed turned in a well crafted issue. Captain Marvel was a dramatic read that burned with intensity and passion. Yet, at no point was the issue over the top or heavy handed like how other comic book writers get when they try too hard to be dramatic.

Reed served up some strong dialogue. I found Mar-Vell’s inner monologues to be well crafted and poignant. They offered the reader a raw and uncensored look into Mar-Vell’s soul. All of the characters spoke with nicely written voices and the dialogue in general had a pleasant flow.

Captain Marvel was a nicely paced issue. Reed employs the slow burn approach to this issue and it pays off handsomely. This slow and steady pacing to the story creates an intense, yet restrained read that builds excitement inside of the reader. Reed wisely concentrates on introducing the reader to Captain Marvel’s character and who he is rather than mindless action scenes.

And it is more important that Reed makes this title new reader friendly. Captain Marvel died in 1982. That is twenty-five years ago. That means that there is a huge percentage of the current comic book readers out there who know nothing about Mar-Vell at all. And to make this mini-series a success, Reed must get new readers hooked on this title.

Of course, just because that Reed’s primary focus is on re-constructing Mar-Vell’s character and making him interesting to new reader, doesn’t mean that he completely ignores any and all action scenes. We get two brief action scenes in this issue that are just enough of a shot of energy that keeps this issue from being too slow of a read.

Reed does a fantastic job handling Mar-Vell’s character. Reed returns to Mar-Vell’s roots in order to re-define his character for new readers. Mar-Vell is a warrior first and a hero second. Reed does such a great job capturing the essence of Mar-Vell as a warrior who seeks glory in battle and the opportunity to make Earth a better place and to right wrongs that he finds.

Reed manages to make Mar-Vell a tough bad-assed character without making him another psycho like Punisher and Wolverine. Mar-Vell is beyond being a solider like Captain America. Mar-Vell truly is a warrior like you saw from the days of Alexander the Great. Mar-Vell truly finds glory on the battlefield.

I dig the connection that Reed establishes between Captain Marvel and his life and that of Alexander the Great. This was a brilliant literary tool to get new readers to quickly understand the type of character that Captain Marvel is and how he views life. This move also sets the stage for the main source of internal conflict that rages inside of Captain Marvel: his distaste for his un-heroic death.

And I have to agree with how Reed is handling Mar-Vell’s view of his death from cancer. I always hated Captain Marvel’s death. I thought he went out like a bitch. It was so anti-climactic and un-heroic. It had such a random feel to it. I know that Marvel is not going to allow Mar-Vell to live in our present. But, at least Reed is acknowledging the lameness of Captain Marvel’s death.

I liked the short and brutal fight scene between Captain Marvel and Cyclone. I found this to be an effective way to show that Mar-Vell is a warrior who does not feel the need to save his enemy when doing battle. If you are going to engage Mar-Vell on the battlefield then you’d better be prepared to kill him or die.

I also liked the Church of Hala. Cults are always entertaining and there have been real life cults based on more ridiculous things than the return of Captain Marvel from the dead. I think this is a neat little plotline. I’m certainly curious to see what these cultists are up to and how Captain Marvel deals with them.

I loved the ending to Captain Marvel #1. Reed drops a little bomb on the reader by revealing that Captain Marvel is suffering from amnesia and has no idea what he was doing in the Negative Zone just before he was transported to our present. It should be interesting to learn more about this plotline.

I also found the final two pages to be an incredibly dramatic return of the one true Captain Marvel. Being an absolute warrior, Captain Marvel is going to embrace what little of life he still has left and will no longer hide himself. His stunning return should certainly cause some ripples through out the 616 Universe.

Lee Weeks and Stefano Gaudiano combine for artwork that isn’t anything special, but it gets the job done and is certainly better than average. I probably would have preferred an inker other than Gaudiano who has a more sleek and smooth style to pair up with Weeks’ pencils. The artwork was a bit inconsistent with some scenes looking rather poor while other scenes looked great.

The Bad: I have no complaints with this issue.

Overall: I was completely impressed with Captain Marvel #1. Now, I’m trying to temper my enthusiasm about this title since I am obviously biased toward Mar-Vell’s character. And I want to recommend this title not out of my feelings of nostalgia, but because this is actually a well crafted title worth your money.

And I do feel that Captain Marvel is worth giving a try. Reed does deliver a well developed Mar-Vell and a story with several interesting plotlines. Captain Marvel should appeal to readers who enjoy a blend of strong character work and well timed action scenes.

2 thoughts on “Comic Book Review: Captain Marvel #1

  1. I really liked this a lot; I’ve been a fan of Reed’s since I started reading his Ms. Marvel series, as well as co-writing New Avengers: Illuminati (he’s originally a video game designer who worked with Bendis on some Spider-Man game, and Bendis basically said “Why not come over to HQ to talk with Joey Q about writing comics?”).

    I particularly like scene with Iron Man and the SHIELD agent having a psychic conference; the use of supernatural stuff for such banal reasons is something I enjoy.

    I was kind of surprised by Weeks drawing this; I tend to associate him more with Brubaker-type stuff (indeed, he drew the incredibly awesome Winter Soldier: Winter Kills last year) than cosmic, but I think his work works quite well here, especially the final shots.

    Between Captain Marvel and Ms. Marvel, Reed’s sort of the go-to guy for that family of characters; he’s also writing the second issue of Young Avengers Presents in February, when Mar-Vell meets his son who is on the team, Hulkling (which was originally going to happen here, but he couldn’t fit it in).

    I like the cult story element too; it makes sense that some people would look to superheroes in that way, or see them as representatives of a higher power (of course, some genuinely are, like Thor, Wonder Woman, or Zauriel).

  2. The second son is the first, chronologically speaking, and the only one he got to have any fun making. Hulking/Teddy Altman is the son of Mar-Vell and the Skrull Princess Anelle, conceived during the Kree-Skrull War; half-Kree, half-Skrull, he was sent to Earth by his mother to avoid the Emperor’s wrath. Now, he’s the heir to the entire Skrull Empire (what’s left of it), but doesn’t want the job. He’d rather stay on Earth with his YA buddies.

    Also, in an amusing bit of unintentional sychronicity, he’s gay, just like his half-sister Phyla-Vell/Quasar.

    Also, this apparently means you have never read Young Avengers, which you really must remedy: the first volume rivalled Brubaker’s Cap for brilliance (although it’s a different type of comic; snappy teen superheroics rather than noir espionage). Speaking of Brubaker, he’s writing the first issue of YA: Presents, focussed on the Patriot (the leader, modelled on Captain America) seeking out the Winter Soldier.

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