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Uncanny X-Men #164, art by Dave Cockrum, Bob Wiacek, and Janine Casey

Looking back on Carol Danvers' time as Binary

Contributed by
Mar 6, 2019

With Captain Marvel right around the corner, we’ve been looking back a lot at the long and winding road our girl traveled to make it to where she’s at today. Carol Danvers is one character with a history full of both the highest highs and the lowest lows, and even Carol herself would admit that she’s made a lot of mistakes along the way.

Well, we can’t judge Carol Danvers until we’ve walked a mile in her thigh-high white boots. There is one basic truth in this woman’s life and that is that she has been through the wringer. But every now and then, she does get to spend months or even years in deep space going sick house on Skrulls, so it’s not without its upsides. To that end, we propose taking another look at Carol’s time as Binary, otherwise known as the time when the alien species known as the Brood experimented on Carol in outer space and accidentally gave her the power of a white hole. We don’t even know what that is. It sounds amazing.

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Uncanny X-Men #164, art by Dave Cockrum, Bob Wiacek, and Janice Casey

Ms. Marvel fallout

Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme, Carol Danvers gained the powers of Captain Marvel when her DNA was accidentally blended with that of an extraterrestrial warrior, named Mar-Vell. What exactly that even entails is pretty ambiguous, but long story short, Carol Danvers got a bunch of superpowers and she knew deep down inside that great power means great responsibility, so she became Ms. Marvel, champion of the oppressed (except in Civil War II).

Carol had a pretty rocky career as Ms. Marvel, and by the time her series ended, she had quit the Air Force, been fired from her job as an editor, and had her boyfriend murdered by Mystique, who very randomly appointed herself as Carol’s arch-nemesis. The chips were down, but Carol joined the Avengers to regain some sense of purpose and stability in her life. Unfortunately, that led to Carol being kidnapped, brainwashed, and impregnated by the bizarre cosmic entity known as Marcus, who took her away from the team. Marcus then proceeded to rapidly age to death, thereby freeing Carol from his control, but not before she was traumatized and her trust in her teammates was severely compromised.

That story is terrible and we all know it, but that’s not the end. When Danvers attempted to return to Earth, she was attacked by Mystique and her adopted daughter Rogue, who was then a villain. Rogue’s touch-based power absorbed Carol’s powers as well as a portion of her persona, leaving Carol to undertake therapy with Xavier. She read the Avengers for filth for abandoning her and moved in with the X-Men instead.

The Brood Saga

In the first issues of The Brood Saga, a depowered Carol breaks into the Pentagon while a brawl between the X-Men and her mortal enemies Mystique and Rogue rages outside. She marches to a specific office, finds her complete file, and deletes the entire thing. Gone is all information on her time in the Air Force as well as her time as Ms. Marvel and in the Avengers. Hoping for a blank slate, Carol leaves with the X-Men, apprehensive of what the future might bring.

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Uncanny X-Men #158, art by Dave Cockrum, Bob Wiacek, and Glynis Wein

The insectoid alien species known as the Brood had aligned with the Shi’ar usurper of the throne, Deathbird, who attacked her sister Princess Lilandra and her allies the Starjammers and the X-Men. Having defeated her enemies, Deathbird delivered them to the Brood, who used them as test subjects. Wolverine was the only X-Man capable of rejecting the experiments due to his healing factor, while the X-Men were doomed to suffer a long, deadly complete transformation into Brood. Wolverine grapples with the knowledge he will have to kill his teammates to spare them this fight. Storm pushes herself out into space to avoid becoming Brood and apparently dies but is saved by telepathic space whales, for a time even becoming a telepathic space whale herself. It’s about as good as a comic can get, folks.

While the X-Men were experimented on to become hybrid Brood, Carol Danvers was experimented on separately and accidentally given the power of a white hole, which could mean anything but more or less it entails her becoming incredibly powerful and suddenly capable of mass killing her tormentors. Letting loose on the Brood with the righteous fury in her first moments as Binary, Carol is reborn as a nearly omnipotent spirit of vengeance.

Wolverine does not end up murdering his friends and the X-Men do not become Brood. They return to Earth. Carol does return with them to briefly to visit her parents. After her interaction with them, she goes home to the X-Mansion to find Rogue in the house. Carol immediately attacks her, but the fight is broken up when it becomes clear that Rogue is traumatized by having absorbed much of Carol’s powers and persona, and she has come to beg Xavier for help in regaining her peace of mind. Carol and most of the X-Men are unsympathetic to her plight, to say the least, but Xavier insists that she deserves his help. Carol is disgusted by what she justifiably feels is a betrayal, and she leaves Earth once more. Not long after, she joins the Starjammers, and she and the X-Men go their separate ways for a long time.

This story is one of the greatly underrated arcs of early X-Men mythos, and it sees the X-Men and Binary pushed to their absolute limits. Scenes where Binary casually brushes off traumatic moments in her life with a single tear in her eye are just as impactful as panels where she mournfully admits that she no longer feels that she belongs on Earth.

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Uncanny X-Men #164, art by Dave Cockrum, Bob Wiacek, and Janice Casey

The Starjammers and Galactic Storm

Unfortunately, The Brood Saga will have to remain the highlight of Danvers' time as Binary, because after that, she more or less only showed up in an occasional guest-star capacity before once more losing a great deal of her power during the‘90s Avengers crossover Operation Galactic Storm. Why there wasn’t a greater focus on her time as a guerilla fighter in space with the Starjammers and Empress Lilandra is anyone’s guess, but effectively by turning Danvers into Binary creators wrote her out of much of Marvel’s timeline for the ‘80s.

Still, what was seen of Carol was a lot of fun. In the 2-part series X-Men Spotlight on… the Starjammers, part of the creative team for much of The Brood Saga, Chris Claremont and Dave Cockrum, teamed up once more to follow a space adventure with the Starjammers. The team is separated and sent to various different planets on missions before reuniting. Carol is teamed up with the warrior Raza as they are left on a planet with an overwhelming number of insectoid aliens. Carol is disgusted and wants to kill them and their queen, but Raza, surprisingly, is forced into the role of the voice of reason as he insists the queen is sentient and that killing her would be unethical. This is a startling glimpse of the effect Carol’s time with the Brood had on her psyche.

Coming back to Earth

In the end, Carol returned to Earth, significantly depowered, donned her Ms. Marvel costume once more, and took up the name of Warbird. She rejoined the Avengers, but it was found that she suffered from alcoholism in the time since her return, and she underwent therapy for some time to recover.

Although Carol did eventually become more grounded over time, we can’t ignore the importance and the far-reaching effects of PTSD in her life. Even as recently as 2018’s The Life of Captain Marvel began its tale with Carol having an anxiety attack during a fight and needing to take a short leave from the Avengers to recover. Unfortunately, she encountered more trauma at home, and lost her mother during the “break.” As we said at the beginning, this is a lady that can’t really catch a break.

Binary might have been the angriest and most bloodthirsty take on Carol Danvers, but she had a pretty long list of excellent reasons for her actions. In truth, the anger she felt after the Marcus story and being attacked by Rogue then experimented on by the Brood was more than justified. So seldom are female characters allowed to express anger, and indeed Carol is surrounded by people that treat her responses as irrational throughout her time as Binary. For someone who was betrayed repeatedly by those she trusted to the point of feeling a need to divorce herself from life on Earth entirely, Carol’s eventual heroic turn as Captain Marvel is all the more admirable.

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Uncanny X-Men #166, art by Paul Smith, Bob Wiacek, and Glynis Wein

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