We’re Here to Punch Holes in the Sky

Yesterday was a glorious day. As I mentioned on Tuesday, Captain Marvel #1 came out yesterday. Because my thoughts are not entirely coherent, I’m reposting Alasdair Stuart at Bleeding Cool’s “10 Things About Captain Marvel Issue 1.” Some of my own thoughts are at the end.

The long-awaited Kelly Sue DeConnick-scripted reboot of Captain Marvel arrives this week and it’s a fantastic opening issue, setting the character’s stall out at the same time as honoring and exploring her past in a way we’ve not seen before. Here are the ten things I particularly liked about it:

1.The Malcolm McDowell Maneuver

The short lived Fantasy Island reboot opened with Malcolm McDowell’s character burning the white suits of his predecessor. Carol doesn’t exactly do that but there’s a real sense of the leotard-tastic previous look for the character being consigned to the past where it belongs. Plus, the fact she’s auctioning the costume off for a good cause is a nice, indirect character beat.

2.The Absorbing Man Is An Idiot

‘Moon powers!’ is the best joke I’ve heard this week. Also, again there’s a nice indirect character beat with Absorbing Man disparaging Carol because she’s a woman, focusing on Cap, and getting taken down as a result.

3.Captain America, Colonel Danvers

This is the sort of character through action that Kelly Sue excels at. The good natured banter about how Carol outranks Cap is not only true, it’s also clearly one of the engines behind their friendship. These are two people who are soldiers first, superheroes second and DeConnick illustrates their similar mindsets by how well they work together and the easy, flowing nature of their conversations.

4.Tony Stark, Clothier

The idea of Stark manufacturing fabric is as horrific as it is oddly compelling. Maybe that’s what his suits are made out of…

5. Heavy is the Head That Wears The Flight Helmet

Dexter Soy’s posture work is quietly impressive throughout, especially when you look at how Carol’s posture changes over the course of the issue. During the fight she’s precise, aware, upright and the second it stops her head and shoulders slump. It changes again when she’s in flight, hurling herself through the air with a combination of determination and fierce joy. She’s born to fly, and we realize that long before she does, thanks to Soy’s art.

6.Inter-Service Rivalry

Kelly Sue’s original pitch for the series was ‘Carol as Chuck Yeager’ and that comes across in the gentle challenge she gets from Cap. This is a woman with no idea how to quit who has no idea why she doesn’t want to do the most logical thing in the world; take on the mantle she was literally handed. Cap punctures this by rendering it down to Army vs Air Force, she notices, comments on it and he jokingly confesses. There’s so much wrapped up in this little exchange, so much shared experience and trust that I find myself rather wanting Cap to turn up in this book again. He and Carol have a fun ‘siblings in arms’ dimension to their relationship that’s very enjoyable to read.

7.Always Flying, Always Benched

The idea that, despite her superhuman abilities, Carol doesn’t feel like she’s been allowed to be tested, to compete, on the playing field she loves is both poignant and fascinating. This is the superheroine as adrenalin junkie, as a warrior with skills she’s earned as well as powers she’s been given and somehow she’s never quite able to square the circle, giving her a unique, and uniquely isolated mindset. This is honestly the most individualistic and well rounded Carol Danvers has ever been as a character and it’s fascinating to watch it unfold on the page.

8.Standing Watch

Tracy Burke, introduced to Carol’s supporting cast in 1977 reappears here. She’s a friend undergoing chemo and the scenes with her give us a chance to see Carol in a very different light. There’s none of the focused aggression she has in the uniform, replaced with a string of gentle digs at her friend’s slightly ramshackle life. This is still Carol as a warrior, but it’s also her completely at peace. The discipline, the organizational skills she earnt from her time in the military are useful to both her and her friend and she positively glows. Again, great work from Dexter Soy in this scene too.

9. The Mercury 13

The Mercury 13 was real, and in putting it, and the fictional Helen Cobb, in place in Carol’s past, Kelly Sue lets Carol settle into historical context. Helen was more than able, but Carol was the first generation that was allowed and that complex knot of admiration and tension between the two women is subtly played and rife for exploration in future issues.  Also, again, top marks to Dexter Soy for the changes in Carol’s demeanor. She’s much more cautious and reserved here than in the scenes set in the present day. Also look at VC’s Joe Caramagna’s lettering here. The hand written script keys us in to the fact this isn’t Carol’s voice long before the contractions do.

10.The Lord Put Us Here To Punch Holes In The Sky

Carol uses her abilities, the things she’s so ambivalent about, to do the one thing Helen was never allowed to do; leave the atmosphere. It’s a scene which is all the more effective for being silent, just Helen Cobb’s thoughts as her friend takes her home. That’s coupled with the impact of seeing Carol, in full uniform, looking utterly resolved to create a pitch perfect closing note for the series and an opening note for the series. Friend, flyer, soldier, superhero, all coalesced into that one last image. Captain Marvel’s here, and she’s got things to do.

I have to disagree with #2. Well, not about Absorbing Man being an idiot. He is, and it was funny. But I felt like the disparaging Captain Marvel because she’s a woman bit was a little overdone. Sometimes writers like to use overtly sexist comments to signal that a character is unlikeable or evil, or to emphasize the very real sexism that female characters are fighting against all the time, regardless of what else they’re also fighting against. While these writers mean well, it always strikes me as heavy-handed. Especially because, while there are plenty of real people like Absorbing Man, some of the most pervasive sexism is subtle and nearly invisible. That’s why our culture sucks so much, and that’s why people can’t understand the point of feminism. If people aren’t outright saying, “You are a woman, you are worth nothing, ” it isn’t perceived as sexism by a lot of people. So sometimes I prefer if female characters have to overcome more subtle sexism. But anyway.

I actually agree with #3. Normally, I would want nothing more than for Cap to get the hell out of my comic book, but I really enjoyed the interactions between Cap and Carol. This shows how skillfully Kelly Sue DeConnick writes her characters.

One of my favorite parts of this issue was the motif of “punching holes in the sky.” That phrase spoke to me in such a personal way. I think any ambitious woman has felt like Carol Danvers saying she is here to punch holes in the sky. She doesn’t just feel that she can or will do so, but that it is her purpose. I haven’t found a metaphor that describes how injustice makes me feel since Alejandra was a flaming skull of justice. Now I have another: I want to punch holes through our inequitable culture, and I want to destroy all sin. (In a chaotic good with neutral good tendencies kind of way.)

Issue 1 did not disappoint. I repeat: everyone buy this book. That means you. I want this series to continue for a good long time, because that’s what such good writing and art deserve.

-Joanna

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