Reviews of trade paperbacks of comic books (mostly Marvel), along with a few other semi-relevant comments / reviews.

02 August 2013

Captain Marvel, v. 1: In Pursuit of Flight

Collects: Captain Marvel #1-6 (2012)

Released: January 2013 (Marvel)

Format: 136 pages / color / $14.99 / ISBN: 9780785165491

What is this?: Carol Danvers takes a new codename, gets a new haircut and costume, and becomes unstuck in time.

The culprits: Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick and artists Dexter Soy and Emma Rios

I really wanted to like Kelly Sue DeConnick’s new Captain Marvel series, but unfortunately, Captain Marvel, v. 1: In Pursuit of Flight underwhelmed me.

Flight starts with Carol Danvers selecting a bland new direction for her career: she adopts a more flattering costume and a less flattering haircut, and she lets Captain America push her into choosing the Captain Marvel name over her previous nom de costume, “Ms. Marvel.” Her great pleasure / motivation now is flight, which makes sense for an ex-USAF officer. But trying to instill wonder in the most mundane of superhero powers is a difficult sell.

Captain Marvel, v. 1: In Pursuit of Flight coverWith that setup, of course the action in Flight revolves around a random time-travel plot. To be fair, DeConnick ties time travel into the flight theme by using Captain Marvel’s aviatrix hero’s airplane as a time machine, but the time displacement still comes out of nowhere.

Captain Marvel ends up in Peru in 1943, fighting alongside women pilots without planes vs. the Japanese, who are flying Kree ships. The women have been in South America longer than Captain Marvel, but they are as confused as she is about how they got there. And even thought they haven’t traveled in time, why shouldn’t they be confused? They are fighting the Japanese, who are flying Kree ships, in Peru. The reader doesn’t learn until issue #4 that the women of Banshee Squadron were flying a non-combat mission from California to Hawaii before they randomly appeared in Peru. Peru makes some sense, as Captain Marvel’s hero flew her plane there on a famous flight. But other than being female flyers, the Banshee Squadron has nothing to do with Captain Marvel or her plane. World War II has nothing to do with Captain Marvel either. But it all makes sense when the reason for the random time travel is revealed as …

Carol’s hero, Helen Cobb, using a piece of the Kree psyche-magnetron, the “wishing machine” that gave Carol her powers.

Hunh. Well, it explains the Kree ships. The rest still feels as if it were assembled using darts and a blindfold. However, the last two issues proceed more sensibly, as Captain Marvel finds herself alongside Helen at NASA, training for the space program along with other women.

The scattershot plot elements do the book no favors. The supporting characters aren’t helpful either. Helen’s all brass, without any attributes to recommend her to the reader. Carol checks in on Tracy Burke, a cancer patient who used to work for Carol at Woman Magazine, but their current relationship is unexplored, and Tracy is prickly at best. The women of Banshee Squadron are better, but they fall into archetypes: the tough leader, the gung-ho fighter, the innocent … their gender is novel, though. I suppose that’s the point: they are soldiers first, or humans. A few more pages devoted to the characters would have been nice; the seven-page fight sequence at the beginning feels like an indulgence.

The art does not help Flight at all. It’s not often I say, “Thank God for the Emma Rios art” — in fact, before Flight I had said it never times — but I was overjoyed when she took over for #5 and 6. Not that I enjoy her wispy-thin line, spindly figures, and generally manga-influenced art — I don’t — but compared to Dexter Soy, she’s wonderful. Soy, who drew #1-4, gives the reader a muddled world filled with blocky, stiff characters. His line is so thick I wouldn't be surprised if he used a paint brush to ink himself. The muddy palette used by the colorist — not explicitly named but by implication Soy — does not make anything more attractive or recognizable. (Jordie Bellaw, the colorist for #5-6, lightens the colors slightly but still favors browns and dark colors.) Soy doesn’t do himself any favors with the Banshee Squadron; one is drawn firing an enormous machine gun that would knock Sgt. Fury on his keister, and another has blonde pigtails and wears her uniform to expose her midriff and cleavage.

So: plot, characters, protagonist, and art are all lacking. None are awful — well, Soy’s art is. But the entire package is, as I said, underwhelming. Skip this Flight.

Rating: Avengers symbol  symbol (1.5 of 5)

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