Potential mild spoilers for the “Captain Marvel” film
Judging by the “Avengers: Endgame” trailer, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU, isn’t rife with quipping, as much as it is with quiet weeping, and the Avengers are more likely assembling for group therapy than superhero smackdowns. But fans know that the doom and gloom won’t last too long, not least because Carol Danvers, aka Captain Marvel, is soon to save the day with a photon blast or two and help from her faithful, fan-favorite feline (or rather, Flerken; it’s complicated). So whether you’re getting hyped for this week’s release of the “Captain Marvel” film or complementing that post-viewing high with a little reading, The Daily Californian has got you covered with a list of comics to binge. Welcome to the Carol Corps.
“Captain Marvel” (2012-13)
After decades as a lower tier character, then-named Ms. Marvel was modernized by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, editor Stephen Wacker and artist Jamie McKelvie with an instantly iconic uniform and, of course, a new moniker. “I’m taking the damn name,” Captain Marvel says as she blasts off into space in issue one.
There’s so much to love about DeConnick’s first run. Issues one through six powerfully homage the history of female aviation, and issues seven and eight pair up Danvers with the first woman to don the Captain Marvel mantle, Monica Rambeau. Oh, and Captain Marvel fights tyrannosaurs with Spider-Woman in issue nine. All that leads up to “The Enemy Within,” an epic crossover that has Captain Marvel battling alongside the Avengers. Additionally, one can’t talk of Captain Marvel’s relaunch without singing the praises of artists such as Dexter Soy, Emma Rios and Filipe Andrade, whose visuals reimagined Captain Marvel’s aesthetic. For anyone looking to dive into “Captain Marvel” comics, there’s no better place to start than the series that made Carol Danvers the star she was always meant to be.
“Captain Marvel” (2014-15)
Carol was destined to punch holes in the sky, and that’s exactly what she does in DeConnick’s second “Captain Marvel” run, which sends Earth’s mightiest hero into the far reaches of space. In the first story arc, Carol assists a planet of intergalactic refugees, which proves as emotional as it is timely in a contemporary context. Other highlights include Carol’s rendezvous with the Guardians of the Galaxy, and their chemistry is as electric as you would expect it to be. But, as is likely to happen in the “Captain Marvel” film, Carol’s cat Chewie (renamed Goose in the film as a “Top Gun” homage) steals the show — except she’s not a cat. Rather, Rocket Raccoon points out that Chewie is a Flerken, an alien species whose mouths contain pocket dimensions, from which can spring a mass of tentacles. Needless to say, Chewie is glorious.
“Generations: The Marvels”
In this one-off issue from the anthology series “Generations,” we see what Carol Danvers means to Kamala Khan, the superhero who took up the Ms. Marvel mantle when Carol became Captain Marvel. For timeline-bending reasons unique to the comic book medium, Kamala is sent back through time, where she meets Carol (still operating as Ms. Marvel), who, at the time, left the airforce and became an editor for Woman Magazine. The story puts a modern spin on Carol’s days as Ms. Marvel, and through Kamala’s eyes, we see how Carol is truly an inspiration for the Marvel Universe at large, even if other heroes don’t always see eye to eye with her. Written by longtime Kamala Khan writer G. Willow Wilson and featuring appropriately old-timey visuals by artists Paolo Villanelli and Ian Herring, this issue is a true gem. And if you’re not sold yet, the two Ms. Marvels save print journalism together, so there’s that.
Captain Marvel has been featured on several superhero teams in recent years, including the New Avengers, the Avengers proper and the space-faring Alpha Flight. But her membership in the all-female A-Force puts her alongside characters such as She-Hulk, America Chavez, Medusa, Dazzler, Nico Minoru and Loki (you can read about how the latter shifts genders here). The setup to “A-Force” is a little complicated for new readers, but the story, written by Marguerite Bennett and G. Willow Wilson, is well worth checking out — in a 2015 event called “Secret Wars,” a bunch of realities in the Marvel Universe were smushed together into a single planet ruled by Doctor Doom. In one corner of this planet, there’s a (relatively) peaceful haven called Arcadia, governed by She-Hulk, who leads the A-Force.
While we see She-Hulk and Nico Minoru take center stage for the first story arc, we can dream of an “A-Force” movie with Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie and Brie Larson’s Captain Marvel in the lead. In fact, Thompson might have already pitched it to MCU head honcho Kevin Feige. Till then, check out “A-Force.” It’s action-packed, wonderfully wholesome (with real emotional stakes to boot) and just damn good. If you do pick it up, know that there are two different “A-Force” comics designated as No. 1 — to start at the very beginning, get the trade paperback that looks like this.
Speaking frankly, this blockbuster crossover event from Brian Michael Bendis isn’t exactly my favorite Marvel comic. In fact, Carol Danvers was still a few years away from becoming Captain Marvel, and in my opinion, she is horribly underused in the main event. But “Secret Invasion” does prominently feature the shape-shifting aliens called the Skrulls, who are (one of) the main antagonists in the upcoming “Captain Marvel” film. Think of “Secret Invasion” as “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” done Marvel-style — yes, that includes any socio-political reading you might undertake of the classic sci-fi film.
In “Secret Invasion,” we discover that a whole host of Marvel heroes aren’t who they appear to be, setting the stage for pages upon pages of paranoia and a particularly angsty Clint Barton, the former Hawkeye. Of course, the MCU never transliterates comic book arcs, but it’s looking like “Secret Invasion” is going to be a main point of inspiration for “Captain Marvel.” The question then is, which MCU Avenger is a Skrull? For more on the Skrulls and their nemesis, the Kree, you could also check out the 1971-1972 arc “The Kree-Skrull War.”
Honorable Mentions: “House of M,” “The New Avengers,” “Avengers (2012-2015),” “Captain Marvel & The Carol Corps,” “Captain Marvel (2016-17),” “Civil War II,” “The Mighty Captain Marvel,” “The Life of Captain Marvel”
Harrison Tunggal covers comic books. Contact him at [email protected].