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Captain Marvel Vol. #1: In Pursuit Of Flight Graphic Novel Review

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Captain Marvel Volume 1
Captain Marvel Volume 1
Sometimes our past defines us far more than we realize.

Creative Team:
Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick
Artists: Dexter Soy / Emma Rios

What They Say:
The “Mightiest” of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes is back! Ace pilot. Legendary Avenger. One hundred percent pure bad-^&*. Carol Danvers has a new name, a new mission – and all the power she needs to make her own life a living hell. As the new Captain Marvel, Carol is forging from a challenge from her past! It’s a firefight in the sky as the Banshee Squadron debut – but who are the Prowlers, and where has Carol seen them before? And how does secret NASA training program Mercury 13 fit in? Witness Captain Marvel in blazing battlefield action that just may change the course of history! Avengers Time Travel Protocols: engage!

COLLECTING: Captain Marvel 1-6

The Review:
While I had grown up heavily on Marvel Comics, I was one of the many that fell out of comics in general in the mid 90’s and Marvel more specifically. In my attempts at getting back into comics, I could never fully reconnect with the Marvel Universe for a wide variety of reasons and I’ll easily admit that I did give up a few years ago. While I paid attention to what was being done, nothing grabbed me in terms of actually wanting to go and read and own the books. One of the few things that could was a female centric book with a character that I always loved reading about years ago due to her X-Men connection. The other was seeing Kelly Sue DeConnick being able to write something like this. Admittedly, my own real exposure to her was her work in the manga field, but she has a well known name there and one of those that’s considered “good people” that you’d want to follow just to see what she’d do. So grabbing the first volume of this, the first Marvel book I’ve bought since the Civil War material, was a no-brainer.

Carol Danvers, known largely as Ms. Marvel, is one of those far, far too complicated characters due to her extensive history, massive rewrites and generally poor characterizations and portrayals over the years. She’s garnered a fanbase to be sure and there are a lot of very strong fans of the character, especially in the cosplay community. But with any new series, you have a double edged sword to deal with. You have to essentially introduce her to everyone that doesn’t know her, provide enough of a back story to allow it to connect, and you also have to make sure that the long time fans don’t get bored and tune out with a feeling that it’s all known material and just a rehash. While I may not care for some elements of this book and DeConnick’s approach, she does generally get it right. And by the end of the volume, you feel like you’re left in a position to start enjoying the character and what’s coming next.

In Pursuit Of Flight has a big job ahead of it and the choice is made to use time travel in order to do it. With Carol having settled some things in her life, she’s in a position where she’s being asked a couple of different things, from becoming a more public force with the Avengers to adopting the name Captain Marvel. She’s decidedly unsure about the name for a few reasons, largely going back to the original owner of the name, Mar-vel, since she’s feeling like she already took too much from him in the past. That said, she and Captain America have a spirited debate about it that shows off both their personalities well, and she also gets out a bit of tension with a workout with Spider-man. Enter and exist the opening issue cameos, which is mostly it outside of a break appearance by Howard Stark in the time stream.

Carol’s past figures into things well here and one of those elements that shapes the storyline here involves the death of an idol of hers, Helen Cobb, one of the early and amazing pilots of the mid twentieth century that inspired her own career. Her death has left her a bit shaken, but also interested in clearing up a flight record from her past that was always in dispute. Helen left her the T6 plane she used to fly way back when and that gets Carol to hit up the same flight she took decades earlier in order to prove it. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go quiet so well and Carol ends up in a timeslip to the past, taking her to an island off of Peru in 1943 where she’s now dealing with some unexpected Kree technology that’s in the hands of a band of Japanese soldiers. With her powers coming from Kree tech, it does all eventually come full circle in that it shows us more of her origin story in a new light but frames it well.

A good part of the book deals with the 1943 time period where we see her hooking up with a specialized group of young women who have taken on to and fairly decent command group the like who have gone beyond the norm and are fighting there after getting caught up in the tech themselves. The women band together and deal with the threat, which starts to open up Carol’s eyes about the past more and her connection to it. Getting to see the women here fighting as they do certainly presents some familiar imagery to manga fans, at least in terms of characterization, as they’re strong but flawed and do what needs to be done. Though I never really felt like I knew the characters because of the situation, they came across as better than one dimensional. With it just being a timeslip to the past, you know you only need to know them so much.

When it shifts out there into the sixties, it gets a bit more interesting as Carol ends up with Helen from that time, who herself has some of the Kree tech and is using that to try and get her and several other women into the astronaut program. Similar to the forties, it’s another nod towards the inequality aspect (which is still being faced today in the military) as the women here can all out-pilot the men that are there, but the country just isn’t ready for the idea of women in combat. It presents a good backdrop to work with as we get a feel for Helen, which in turn lets us see more of her personality as the tiemslip catches her up as well and takes us directly to Carol’s real origin story where she gained her powers. Putting Helen into it, in the midst of a wish generation machine in essence, throws things off balance and gives us a far more flawed Helen than one might have guessed based on her interactions prior to that, even when dealing with Howard Stark to gain something from him. Getting to see how she pushes the situation, and the way it has real meaning with the letter she left Carol in the present, adds to that complicated view one has to hold of her because of what she does and how she tries to atone for it. And for what it does for Carol in the present, after all is said and done, as it puts her on the right path.

In Pursuit Of Flight gives us a decent story that reworks the origin slightly and expands on it, making Carol a bit more accessible. Where it lost me though, at least in the first four issues, was the artwork. Dexter Soy handled the duties for the most part in those books, with some assists, but there were some really awkward scenes and overall style of art. I’ll easily say that I’m not a huge fan of his style, but some of it was just too off. Early on, some of the poses that we saw Captain America in had him looking like a Skrull due to the coloring of it all. The panel layout is decent but some of the flow just didn’t connect well, especially with some of the other awkward pages laid out in terms of the trade itself. When Emma Rios took over in issue five, it was far more appealing and a lot of parts of it in the sixth issue felt like it had a lot of nods towards Jack Kirby and John Byrne in terms of character design, panel layout and the fluidity of the action from panel to panel. Rios made the end of the book far more enjoyable.

In Summary:
While time travel is a fun concept to work with, it’s one that I’ll admit I’m not keen on for a first volume. We get to know Carol fairly well here and see how she handles some difficult and complicated situations while trying to figure out what’s really going on. She doesn’t come across as a high end genius or just someone that’s lucky but rather a character that uses her smarts to figure out a plan and uses her fists when necessary. The character is a difficult one to work with due to the sheer amount of history involved by DeConnick did a solid job here of introducing us to who she is within the context of the moment, tweaking it with a new view of it due to the timeslips, and bringing her full circle into the present in a way that should have her in a far better place going forward. Hopefully we see more of Carol as a person and developing a life, since as much as I do like action in my superheroes, I also want to see their human as well. Captain Marvel has a solid opening volume here that’ll keep me in for another couple of volumes at the least, especially while Kelly Sue DeConnick is on board.

Grade: B+

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