Trouble with Comics
Capsule Reviews

Captain Marvel #1 by Michele Fazekas, Tara Butters, Kris Anka, and Matthew Wilson

A solid first issue that does a good job of establishing Carol Danvers’s new status quo as head of the new version of Alpha Flight, which is apparently the new version of SWORD. The art by Anka and Wilson is crisp and clean; this is a nice looking book, which I could not say about the title when it launched in 2012 with Dexter Soy as the artist. If there’s a flaw here, it’s a tendency by Fazekas and Butters to not introduce the supporting players. Aurora and Sasquatch are called out in identifier captions, but there’s nothing else about them. Abigail Brand and Puck receive more prominent roles, but it feels like key information is missing for new readers, particularly that Puck’s small stature is the result of a mystical curse, when he complains how much pain he’s in due to his size. Still, those concerns aside this is a solid and fun book.

Clean Room #2-4 by Gail Simone, Jon Davis-Hunter, and Quinton Winter

I enjoyed the first issue of Clean Room, but it felt like it didn’t go much beyond the idea of a comic examining the cultural footprint of Scientology. The second issue is a superb horror comic and the fourth in particular feels like it expands the title beyond the Scientology box. This is very close to becoming DC’s best comic.

Citizen Jack #1 by Sam Humphries, Tommy Patterson, and Jon Alderink

We all have our pet peeves and one of mine is when the first issue of a comic is basically just a dramatized version of the solicitation copy. I mean, okay, the solicitation probably didn’t mention Cricket, the dolphin political pundit, but if you’re selling your comic with the premise that it’s about a politician selling his soul to the devil to get elected president, don’t end your first issue with him selling his soul. Let me put it another way, if this comic was published by Valiant, this wouldn’t be #1, it would be #0. Maybe I’ll give this another try when the trade hits, but as it is I feel like I gave it a shot and the creative team gave me nothing I couldn’t get from a blurb in Previews.

New Romancer #1 by Peter Milligan and Brett Parson

Well, it’s better than Greek Street. Oddly, despite the bloody last two pages, this does not feel at all like a Vertigo book, it seems like it’s aimed mainly at female teenagers, largely due to Parson’s utterly gorgeous art, which if it has any antecedent in Vertigo history, it’s probably Phillip Bond. The book’s lead, Alexia Ryan, is a programmer for an online dating site. A Weird Science-like accident (the film, not the EC Comic) leads to her algorithm coming to life as Lord Byron. Some hijinks ensue, and the last page implies things won’t be all fun and games. Overall, this is a solid start, but as always, there is the distinct possibility of things turning with Milligan, who is probably the least consistent great writer in comics history.

The Shield #1 by Adam Cristopher, Chuck Wendig, Drew Johnson, and Kelly Fitzpatrick

Nice looking, but boring. Cristopher and Wendig’s reinvention of the Shield as a perpetually reincarnated spirit of America hits notes genre fans have seen time and time again. And at least give her a shield, considering it’s the book’s title and the most famous aspect of the character (at least the Impact version was wearing shield-like armor).

– Joe Gualtieri

Captain Marvel #1

Writer: Kelly Sue DeConnick

Artist: Dexter Soy

Marvel Comics

Carol Danvers is like a lot of Marvel females. A sort of love interest who gained superpowers and then went through a lot of shit like power loss, rape, and alcoholism, because that’s what happens to women in the Marvel Universe. Maybe worse in the DC Universe. 

Writer DeConnick has a lot to either work with, avoid, or synthesize with Danvers’ history. She ends up choosing a strong version of Carol, not touching on her addiction or emotional problems, but there are problems with the execution. The first section of this issue is a fairly typical fight scene that shows off DeConnick’s wit and then just keeps going, with Carol making one wisecrack after another. Spider-Man would tell her to dial it down. Choosing The Absorbing Man as the bad guy is smart, because he’s historically dumb and a chauvinist, so he can make her look good and deserving her own book again. But there is a problem, because as soon as you see Captain America’s shield and think, “Hmm, if he absorbed that, maybe he’d be invincible,” Carol is thinking the same thing, but in a way where you know there’s a twist. But damn if I can figure out why absorbing the shield leads to his defeat.

Now that we’ve sort of established Carol’s competence via a confusing tactic, it’s time to resolve the issue of how a former Air Force colonel is going to be called Captain Marvel. Captain America plays on the fact that it wasn’t really Mar-Vell’s name, either, and that it’s a legacy that not only has Carol already assume (as Ms. Marvel), but that it’s one Mar-Vell wanted for her. After a filler scene where Spider-Man compliments her hair, she decides to take the name.

Then we’re into the third and most confusing act of this little comic play. It turns out Carol wasn’t lying to Spidey to get out of a date–she really is going to take care of a sick friend, only before that we have a confusing recollection of the wit and wisdom of Carol’s friend Helen, who isn’t the one she’s caring for. Once we get to her actual friend, who seems to be suffering from cancer, that’s a good scene, but then we get to old Air Force buddy/mentor Helen and we end on a weak note, the promise of a fighter jet duel (or maybe Carol is just going to race her with her superpowers). Why do we care about that? Also, why go in the last third with the use of first person narration when you haven’t used it earlier in the issue?

It’s a well-meaning book, with basically good ideas and spotty execution. It does have a distinctive look, or at least distinctive now but ubiquitous in the mid-‘90s when Marvel cranked out lots of painted or pseudo-painted Marvels clones. It’s not bad, Soy’s art, but I’ve always found that painted style a little stiff for humor. Or maybe Soy just isn’t very good at facial expressions and body language. For the jokes and dialogue and no overtly stupid ideas, it’s better than half the superhero reboots out there, but I think we should expect more.

–Christopher Allen