Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel: A Farewell Salute
An appreciation by Bob Reyer
Even allowing for the natural progression of things in the comics landscape, some changes are wrenching, and the news out of HeroesCon that Kelly Sue DeConnick was ceding the reins of Captain Marvel created a wave of conflicting emotions within me. Ms. DeConnick’s reasoning behind her decision is more than logical, as with the release of the “Captain Marvel” feature film more than three years out, it would be “In for a penny, in for a pound”, so it’s a sensible jumping-off point to avoid her toiling into a writer’s fatigue. For Ms. DeConnick, whose powerful books always bespeak a deep and profound understanding of the medium and the messages it can deliver, the opportunity to focus on her owned properties and address more completely that avenue of expression will undoubtedly be more creatively fulfilling for her, and provide great reading for those of us in the audience. That said, there’s a selfish little corner of my heart that wishes that she would craft tales of Carol Danvers and her supporting cast for something on the order of the 102-issue run of Stan Lee & Jack Kirby on Fantastic Four! (That’s not asking too much, is it?)
(Robert, if that nice Ms. DeConnick has other stories she wishes to tell, you really need to learn to let go, darling. @udrey)
Since the 2012 re-launch, Captain Marvel has been an exemplar for how to present a super-heroic character, be it woman or man. Issue after issue, Kelly Sue DeConnick and her partners-in-art delivered stories brimming with heart, humanity, humour, and heroism, and reclaimed a character that had endured some of the worst travails a super-heroine has ever had visited upon her, returning her to the progressive position envisioned by her early chroniclers Gerry Conway and Chris Claremont. Although Captain Marvel would become a symbol, these were not tales told of a remote and distant icon, but instead a fully-formed person who through her struggles to overcome her own imperfections became an inspirational figure to readers of every vintage and gender. Particularly striking a chord with new female readers, this version of Captain Marvel would spur the creation of the “Carol Corps” fan assemblage, whose support for the character would reach beyond book sales into an embrace of her ideals. For most of these fans (this correspondent included), Carol Danvers is as Dr. Marston’s Wonder Woman was to similar readers of the Forties, a character who represents all their aspirations, and perhaps more importantly, an empowering figure speaking to them of the need to be their own person, and win their own battles, no matter the precedents or forces aligned against them.
Throughout Ms. DeConnick’s two-volume run, Captain Marvel has been the title that would be at the bottom of the week’s “To read” pile, as that way I always knew the last new book I read would be impactful, and neither Kelly Sue nor Carol ever failed to deliver. I know that some of you are just now catching up, so I’ll be more secretive about events in the second volume, but within the rollicking space adventure there were still the smaller moments with Carol’s new friend Tic (not to mention Chewie, the Flerken-cat!) that reflected this series at its best, and the two-part “A Christmas Carol” in #10 and #11 revisiting our original supporting cast of Tracy Burke, Jessica Drew, Kit “Lt. Trouble” Renner, her mom Marina, and the rest of Carol’s New York “family” was an absolute gift, setting up beautifully the stunning fifteenth and final issue that wrapped Ms. DeConnick’s run in a gorgeously dramatic yet funny ribbon.
Beyond the over-all high quality, Ms. DeConnick’s first volume of Captain Marvel featured some of my most-loved single-issues in my over half-a-century of reading comics. A bold statement perhaps, but I’m still moved to tears re-reading just now the concluding pages of #14 depicting Carol’s sacrifice of all of her self-knowledge in order to save the people of New York, a decision that speaks volumes to the depth of her ideals and the nature of her heroism.
“We tell her that heroes aren’t defined by their powers or their costumes…but by the content of their hearts.
We tell her that we don’t know what Carol’s going to be like when she comes back.
She might not remember us. She might not even remember herself.
But we will know. We will know the light she has inside her because she showed us all today.
We will know…she’s Captain Marvel…she’s our hero”
(…and I’m a wreck again!)
(Robert dear, here’s a tissue. By the way, that art is by Scott Hepburn, who’s no relation, at least that I know of. @udrey)
Amazingly, issue #17, with its nod to the Carol Corps via the cover that leads off this essay, might be even better! Featuring high points such as the emotional story of Carol’s return and the up-lifting “I am Spartacus!” homage that begins the conclusion, but it’s the epilogue between Carol and Kit that cemented for me the notion that Captain Marvel #17 was one of my favorite comics stories ever, and was certainly my pick for “Best Single Issue” for 2013, an honor it also received during our Talking Comics Awards show.
(Audrey, would you happen to have another tissue handy?)
(Certainly, Robert darling, certainly. @udrey)
Of course, any creator-owned title that Kelly Sue DeConnick writes will be more-than-worth reading, but I’m feeling the way I did when John Byrne left the Fantastic Four with #293 back in 1986; the notion that I’ve just read something so special that I’ll never see the property in better hands, nor a creator have a more fitting character through which to ply their talents. This isn’t to say that some future work by Ms. DeConnick might not be judged superior (even by your Obedient Servant), but it’s this series that sets the mark.
As this second volume of the re-launched and re-purposed Captain Marvel comes to a close, we can’t yet know how the events of Secret Wars will affect the series moving forward, but as one whose history with Carol Danvers goes back not only to the original Ms. Marvel in 1977, but to 1968’s Marvel Super-Heroes #12, it has been a privilege reading these 30-odd issues by Ms. DeConnick that have fulfilled the promise of a “bold, new super-heroine” that was emblazoned on that first Ms. Marvel cover, and which created for me, and for so many others, not only wondrous comic book moments, but a hero to embrace, celebrate, and rally around.
From new readers to comics veterans, we’ve all been made to feel that we’ve been part of a grand renewal of not only a character, but a re-statement of what this industry could and must be for it to have the brightest possible future. We may not be able to speak about what awaits Captain Marvel, but I daresay that some years from now, when comics historians look back at the Modern Age, they will note that this series, this character, and this writer were at the fore-front of the seismic shift in how female characters were presented, and were the first step towards recreating the diversity in comics and comic-book fandom.
My thanks to editors Steven Wacker, Ellie Pyle, and Sana Amanat, artists Jamie McKelvie, Dexter Soy, Emma Rios, Filipe Andrade, Joe Quinones, Jordie Bellaire, Scott Hepburn, David Lopez, Marcio Takara, and of course, Ms. Kelly Sue DeConnick, for making us all reach for something “Higher, Further, Faster, and More.”
ADDENDUM: Ms. Kelly Sue DeConnick first appeared as a guest on the Talking Comics Podcast on July 19th, 2012 , just as her re-launch of Captain Marvel was about to hit the stands! rrr