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Kelly Thompson is turning out one of Captain Marvel's most epic runs
2019 was a big year for Carol Danvers, from the debut of her blockbuster solo film to getting a whole new updated origin in the comics. She discovered her mother was Kree and her father was human, which would throw anyone for a loop. After a lifetime of believing she'd accidentally gained powers from the original Captain Marvel, she learned that she was born with them.
Writer Kelly Thompson also had a fairly intensive 2019; she wrapped up great runs on Jessica Jones and Uncanny X-Men, then knocked it out of the park with Mr. & Mrs. X, West Coast Avengers, Black Widow, and, finally, in November, kicked off a new run of Deadpool with superstar artist Chris Bachalo. Amid all of this, she returned to the first Marvel character she ever wrote with Captain Marvel #1, where she defined Carol Danvers for the wider audience that came along with the film.
There have been many Captain Marvels in the comics, but Carol Danvers definitively took up the mantle in 2012. She's been doing some pretty great things with the name so far (with a handful of Civil War II exceptions). Not many people would disagree that many of Carol's most epic stories have occurred since she took on the title, and her fans now enjoy a plethora of material where once there was little or none at all.
Recently, we've seen the evolution of all of Carol's many triumphs and tragedies as her identity becomes a more cohesive whole. Having stepped down from the Avengers and Alpha Flight, along with her newfound knowledge of her origins, Carol is condensing and refocusing on what's important to her in the new series.
Captain Marvel has something for every Carol fan. First up and most importantly, there's a lot of focus on her dynamic with Jessica Drew, and it's one of the best things about the series. Whatever decision Carol makes, Jessica is there to back her up, making them one of the best friendships (emphasis on the "ships") in comics. Adorable moments between them abound. When Carol's body begins to give out, Jessica gently convinces her to go get checked out. As Carol lies on the table waiting for a medical evaluation while trading barbs with Tony Stark, Jessica looks at her lovingly to say, "Carol ... please shut up."
This book has also given Carol a fuller supporting cast than ever before. In the first issue, she and James Rhodes rekindle their romance, and it's just as adorable as it always is. Carol takes on the mentorship of a young hero named Hazmat, who low-key idolizes Carol but plays it very cool.
Guest appearances abound. Iron Man regularly shows up to verbally spar with Carol, and the cantankerous dialogue between those two is delightful. Doctor Strange arrives on the scene during the War of Realms crossover. Rather than fight them both, the villainous Enchantress simply swaps their consciousnesses, leaving both of them unable to utilize their individual powers without causing massive destruction due to their relative inexperience with each other's powersets. By turning two of the most powerful beings on earth into novices with the snap of her fingers, Enchantress proves that the best fight is no fight at all. Natasha Romanov is there to laugh at them and calls them pathetic for not being able to work as a team. The villainous Doctor Minerva of the Kree empire returns to plague Carol once more, but we see a surprisingly sympathetic side to her ongoing vendetta against Carol.
The comic has featured regular covers by FANGRRLS fave Amanda Conner, whose eye-grabbing art emphasizes the more brightly colored and dynamic side of Carol. Carmen Carnero's pencils are incredible, and much of the book's tone lies in her ability to pull off epic cityscapes and grant the book the level of scope it needs while giving space to the emotional beats of each story. Her Carol is iconic and conveys a lot of emotional range even while she's in the middle of a fight against a Big Bad. When Carnero has taken breaks from the series, the quality in art hasn't slipped in the slightest, and stints from Annapaola Martello and Lee Garbett kept the standards high, with Martello turning out an unforgettable body swap between Carol and Doctor Strange and Garbett showing us Carol at her most ruthless in The Last Avenger. Tamra Bonvillain's colors bring a larger-than-life feel to the series that works especially well during the fight scenes.
This take on Captain Marvel introduced us to a particularly insidious journalist whose superpowers were drawn from Carol's, which weakened and nearly destroyed Carol. This villain, named Star, was an exciting entry to Carol's increasingly sparse rogues' gallery. At present, the series is in the middle of its The Last Avengers arc, and we're seeing Carol go toe to toe with all her most powerful teammates at the behest of the evil Vox Supreme. Carol's ruthlessness is on display as she takes out hero after hero, all of whom are her friends. Where this story will go is anyone's guess, but with double-page spreads of her versus Thor, Iron Man, and She-Hulk, anyone who loves a good knock-down, drag-out fight will be more than pleased.
Perhaps the most important (and the most specific to Thompson's voice) part of the comic has been the metacommentary around the "angry fanboy" response to Brie Larson in the Captain Marvel film. The writer often attributed for redefining Carol, Kelly Sue DeConnick, was no stranger to working feminist commentary into her story in a way that clicked with a lot of fans. Thompson's arc took the next step forward by revolving the first story arc around the openly misogynistic Nuclear Man, who trapped Carol behind a barrier that distorted time and was impenetrable by the male Avengers. In this small world within a world, Carol teamed up with Jessica, Echo, Hazmat, and She-Hulk to bring down the Nuclear Man. Creating a women-led revolution in response to misogyny? Sounds like an incredibly Carol Danvers move to us.
Now that 2020 is kicking off, Captain Marvel certainly has a bevy of great stories behind her, but it's been a heck of a lot of fun to read about where she's been and where she's going to be going next. One of Thompson's specialties is believable dialogue that spans across adversarial relationships as well as tender and loving ones — and that, combined with the necessary sense of epic stakes that all great Captain Marvel comics have, has made this one of Marvel's undeniably strongest books.