Before Laura Linney started calling herself Wolverine, before Jane Foster picked up Mjolnir and became The Mighty Thor, and way before Kate Bishop fronted her own Hawkeye title, Carol Danvers was protecting the cosmos as the heir to one of Marvel’s Silver Age stalwarts. Granted, she had to go by Ms. Marvel for decades, but as the cover of her new book proudly affirms, complete with Legacy-laden title design, she is Captain Marvel. We’ve finally entered an era in which gender qualifications for our superheroes no longer exist; that’s Jean Grey, thank you, not Marvel Girl. We’ll grandfather in folks like Wonder Woman and Spider-Woman, but it’s nice to be reminded that women can do the job too. (Besides, it’s not like Spider-Man is gender neutral). More significant, I think, is the fact that many comic book fans are unaware that there even was an original Captain Marvel, much less that he was a dude. And if Week 4 of the Legacy initiative is doing its job, we get a chance to celebrate the fact that a badass Air Force officer named Carol has taken up the mantle of the late Mar-Vell and elevated the character to the forefront of the Marvel Universe.
This week’s issue #125 restores the series numbering from the original title (which has gone through multiple volumes and restarts since the late 60’s), but it has very little in common with the pre-2012 issues. Instead, writer Margaret Stohl, along with artist Michele Bandini, seem eager to return to the story and direction that had been initiated at the start of last season’s NOW! era (before things got ridiculous with Captain Hydra’s Secret Empire, the planetary defense shield, and a video-game style infinite onslaught of Chitauri). Carol’s Alpha Flight may be out one multi-billion dollar space station, but the team has no time to rest on its laurels, as Dr. Eve and her shapeshifting assassin Mim are back on the scene.
And if you’ve been falling along since the conclusion of Stohl’s Mighty Captain Marvel series, you’ll know that the villains’ presence has a lot to do with the reappearance of Bean, the Kree energy kid that Captain Marvel saved a few months ago.
With Captain Marvel gearing up for her debut in Marvel’s Cinematic Universe in 2019, it seems important for the publisher to get the four-color version of the character ready for her close-up, as it were. She’s only been “captaining” since 2012, and, within the last two years, she’s already been cast as a misguided hero in Civil War II, an ineffectual protector in Secret Empire, and, for some reason, a guilt sponge that rivals only Peter Parker. If this is going to be Marvel’s answer to Wonder Woman, then we’ve got some work to do. Fortunately, Stohl’s story is engaging, with a script that blends just enough humor with the heroic hyperbole. Bandini’s art is crisp and vibrant, and he has a great handle on this modern character design, a nice take-me-serious update of Ms. Marvel’s old black space spandex.