Superhero comics have always been great at taking a classic story and finding a new, modern way to tell it. Now the trend, both for comics and the big screen, is heading toward some very interesting genre mash-ups where "superhero" is actually secondary to the main story and tone. Prior to the last few years, when talking about mainstream books, the reader could be assured of some reasonably similar themes and tones from one book to the next. Now you could offer anyone looking for a superhero book anything from New Avengers to Black Widow to Batman and get VERY different stories. Captain Marvel still walks the line between a straight-up superhero book and a sci-fi one, but the WAY it walks the line, hewing much closer to superhero than sci-fi, actually makes it even more of a standout. Kelly Sue Deconnick has, in Carol Danvers, created an eminently likable character, but also a very unique one. She’s witty, but trips herself up. She’s smart, but has a tendency to act very instinctually. She’s ultimately one of the most flesh-out characters in all of comics, and because of that, and the general tone of whimsy and humor, Captain Marvel is one of the absolute best, easiest to recommend books on the shelf. This particular issue sees Carol saying farewell to the Guardians of the Galaxy after her refugee passenger, Tic, and her ship (plus cat) are recovered. She returns to Tic’s homeworld of Torfa to try and help them with the plague that ravages their population, as well as assist with the ongoing Spartax diplomacy. However, the Torfan leader quickly becomes skeptical, skewering one of my absolute least favorite tropes: the protagonist (usually white) swoops in and solves all the natives' (usually primitive, always non-white) problems, often while instantly adopting their culture (Avatar, Dances with Wolves, Last of the Mohicans, etc). I’m not sure if it was intentional or not, but Deconnick’s writing absolutely obliterated any notion of that happening in one deft, skillfully done page.
Part of what made that page, and so many others, amazing was the linework of David Lopez. His art perfectly suits the book as it brings a cartoonish sensibility to grounded, realistic imagery. The linework is generally soft and gentle without becoming placid or slow but when the action picks up the entire style actually shifts to a sharper, more kinetic feel. Lee Loughridge’s colors complement the style perfectly, with lots of warm, mellow pastel colors in the quieter moments, and dark, hard colors for the action-packed opener. The way the panels move is extremely cinematic, and I don’t just mean in the “widescreen, super action” way, but in the way it strategically zooms to give emphasis and simulate motion.
We go from Carol getting her ship back to Torfa in one turn of the page. We’re told that it takes a week and a half and I REALLY would have liked to see that week and a half.
If the worst thing you can say about an issue is that you wish there was more of it, that says something all by itself. This is, bar-none, one of the most fun books on the shelf that still manages plenty of legitimate drama. It manages to subvert expectations of both genre and plotline by hewing closely to how they're expected to work before suddenly twisting in a completely different direction. Sounds like Danvers' flying style, now that I think about it.