Comic Book Starter Guide: Carol Danvers From Ms. Marvel To Captain Marvel

Comic Book Starter Guide Captain Marvel Feature

Carol Danvers is one of the most important characters in the Marvel Universe. Not only is she an Avenger her powers have made her one of the most powerful characters in the universe. Her star is going to grow even more as Carol Danvers is about to star in the next big Marvel Cinematic Universe: Captain Marvel. Given the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s incredible success and  there is no doubt Carol as Captain Marvel will be a mainstream star. Now to get everyone ready for that movie here is a breakdown of the comic books you should read to understand who Carol Danvers is.

CAPTAIN MARVEL VOL. 1 (1968) #18

Captain Marvel 18

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Creative Team

Writer: Roy Thomas

Artist: John Buscema, Gil Kane and John Romita Sr.

Inker: Dan Adkins

Where To Read It: ComiXology

When it comes to learning about any character you have to start with their origin story. For Carol Danvers that goes back to the first volume of Captain Marvel, which started its publishing in 1968. When she was introduced Carol Danvers started out as a supporting character for the person who held the Captain Marvel title, Mar-Vell. While her first few appearance were based around Carol as a friend and potential love interest for Mar-Vell that quickly changed. That change happened in Captain Marvel #18. In that issue Mar-Vell fights and defeats one of his villains, Yon-Rogg. Because of her ties with Mar-Vell Carol gets caught up in the middle of the fight and is severely injured by an accident involving a device called the Psyche-Magnitron.

While she isn’t around very much over the next few years its this accident with the Psyche-Magnitron that causes Carol to develop her Kree powers. Even though the true origins of Carol’s powers have recently been retconned in The Life of Captain Marvel, this story is still incredibly important to Carol’s origin story.

MS. MARVEL VOL. 1 (1977-1979) #1 – #4

Ms Marvel 1977-1979

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Creative Team

Writers: Gerry Conway and Chris Claremont

Artists: John Buscema and Joe Sinnott

Inker: Joe Sinnott

Colorist: Marie Severin, Don Warfield and Jan Cohen

Where To Read It: ComiXology

Carol Danvers made her superhero debut as Ms. Marvel in her own series in 1977. When she started Carol actually didn’t realize she was Ms. Marvel. This was due to Carol suffering from blackouts due to the accident and would transform into Ms. Marvel without actually knowing it for a while. This is a story trope we don’t see in the modern day but it did help create interest in seeing how writers Gerry Conway and Chris Claremont would balance out Carol’s professional career with Ms. Marvel’s adventures. Further helping make this first volume of Ms. Marvel standout was the artwork from John Buscema and Joe Sinnott, whose art styles still holds up today.

One of the things that stands out in this run of Ms. Marvel is how Conway and Claremont establish Carol’s character now that she is split off from Captain Marvel. They brought in Peter Parker, Mary Jane Watson and J. Jonah Jameson to help in establishing Carol’s personal and professional career as a writer and editor after her fallout from a job at NASA. Her interactions with Jameson in particular showed how Carol knew what she is worth as she immediately stood her ground for a fair salary given her talent and experience. Even today we see equal pay be a big topic of conversation. For Conway and Claremont to tackle this issue back in 1977 with Carol,  who at the time was coming off writing a successful book, is fantastic to see. This along with other interactions helped build Carol as a strong character in and out of costume.

CAPTAIN MARVEL: CAROL DANVERS – THE MS. MARVEL YEARS VOL. 1

Ms Marvel 2006

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Creative Team

Writer: Brian Reed

Artists: Roberto De La Torre, Mike Wieringo, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Patch Zircher and Aaron Lopresti

Inkers: Jimmy Palmiotti, Wade Von Grawbadger, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Jon Sibal and Matt Ryan

Colorist: Chris Sotomayor

Where To Read It: ComiXology

While Carol had an extensive history by the early 2000s it was Brian Reed’s Ms. Marvel that help break her out as being more than just another reserve member of the Avengers. Reed’s Ms. Marvel streamlined Carol’s character and positioned her back into being one of the most important characters at Marvel. It helps that Reed had some of the most talented artists of the time in Roberto De La Torre, Mike Wieringo, Giuseppe Camuncoli, Patch Zircher and Aaron Lopresti working on Ms. Marvel with him. Each artist brought their A game in each issue included in Captain Marvel: Carol Danvers: The Ms. Marvel Years Volume 1.

This Ms. Marvel Years collection that Marvel put together does a great job showing what makes Carol Danvers tick in the modern day. One of the standout scenes from this collection is one that happens between Carol and her best friend, Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman), early on. This interaction sets up what motivates Carol for the rest of the series as she recognizes that she has a lot of work to do to establish herself as Ms. Marvel.

From there Reed is able to showcase what makes Ms. Marvel one of the greatest Marvel heroes through her various adventures. Reed makes great use of the events going on at the time in the Marvel Universe, such as the first Civil War event, to help elevate Ms. Marvel. Having her interact with the likes of the Fantastic Four, Iron Man, Rogue, Beast and Wonder Man helped in that growth as a character.

CAPTAIN MARVEL (2012-2013) VOL. 1: IN PURSUIT OF FLIGHT

Captain Marvel 2012-2013

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Creative Team

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Artists: Dexter Soy, Rich Elson, Will Quintana, Karl Kesel, Javier Rodriguez, Al Barrionuevo and Emma Rios

Inkers: Alvaro Lopez and Emma Rios

Colorists: Wil Quintana and Jordie Bellaire

Where To Read It: ComiXology

Given Carol Danvers powers and increased status most of her adventures were based around establishing her as an Avenger and cosmic superhero. Which is why Kelly Sue DeConnick starting her run on Captain Marvel by focusing on Carol’s background as a member of the Air Force a refreshing story to read. Thanks to some clever time travel this first story arc provides context into who Carol is and where she comes from.

This story is also important in that it officially the transition for Carol as she takes on the Captain Marvel mantle. For Carol this is a big step given her close relationship with Mar-Vell meant she knew more than anyone the importance of carrying on his legacy as Captain Marvel and making it her own. Early interactions with Captain America and Spider-Man in particular help in establishing the confidence Carol and fans should have with her taking on the Captain Marvel mantle. All of this worked as a great opening chapter for Carol as she transitioned from being Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel.

CAPTAIN MARVEL (2014-2015) VOL 1: HIGHER, FURTHER, FASTER, MORE

Captain Marvel 2014-2015

Creative Team

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Artist: David Lopez

Colorist: Lee Loughridge

Where To Read It: ComiXology

Whereas “In Pursuit Of Flight” explores Carol’s military background the “Higher, Further, Faster, More” story does a great job in establishing Carol’s position in the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe. Addressing her familiarity with the cosmic corner of the Marvel Universe helped in putting over Carol’s growth as she needed to learn how to be diplomatic within a different type of setting. At the same time, going on such an adventure allowed Carol to put the full range of her powers on display as she gets involved in various space battles while also being in a leadership position.

What helps make this part of DeConnick’s run even more of a must read was David Lopez’s great artwork. With the “Higher, Further, Faster, More” largely taking place in another world and in space Lopez brought a great vibrant look to everything going on, with very good coloring from Loughridge. Working with the strengths of her artist DeConnick delivered a story that was a mix of fun and dramatic.

CAPTAIN MARVEL (2019-PRESENT) #1

Captain Marvel 2019

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Creative Team

Writer: Kelly Thompson

Artist: Carmen Carnero

Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain

Where To Buy It: ComiXology

The most recent Captain Marvel comic book that just got its first issue in January. This first issue provides Carol Danvers, who has been through a lot over the last few years, a reset point. That reset was very much needed as Marvel’s creative staff had been focusing on Carol Danvers’  as a very serious character post-Secret Wars. Kelly Thompson brings back the fun while still keeping Carol’s serious demeanor as she maintains her elevated status as one of the key superheroes in the Marvel Universe.

As I mentioned in my review of Captain Marvel #1, the best part of the launch for this Captain Marvel comic is that it reestablished Carol’s relationship with Spider-Woman, Iron Man and War Machine. These three are characters we have seen be major supporting characters in Carol’s life in and out of her superhero life. Seeing how those dynamics continue to evolve is a good hook to bring in readers to see what comes next for Carol as Captain Marvel.