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Credit: Marvel Comics

The strange loves of Carol Danvers

Contributed by
Jan 2, 2019

Carol Danvers has been popping up everywhere these days. Not only is she the star of her own book, but she’s had flashback miniseries and guest appearances all over the Marvel Universe, and with her full-length debut on the horizon, chances are that’s not going to change anytime soon. It’s easy to see why — Carol is a stubborn, strong, cocky, brave, and sometimes foolish woman who seems to win everybody over via charm, but perhaps more importantly, with her complexity.

That also must be why she’s left a trail of broken hearts in her wake. Out of all of the Marvel superheroes, Carol’s love life has been one of the most tumultuous, and that's saying something. The very intense tragedy surrounding her romantic interests is extreme, even for a comic book character.

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Wonder Man

Well, because all of Carol’s romances tend to go pretty far off the rails, there’s really no great place to start. Buckle up, it’s going to be a bumpy ride, because our first story is all about Wonder Man. While appearing as the leader of the Mighty Avengers, Carol started an illicit affair with Wonder Man, and… that’s about the extent of it. They dated for a little while but while he grew attached and Carol almost immediately lost interest.

Classically unlucky in love and most other things, Wonder Man really does just have a habit of picking emotionally unavailable women, and it can be pretty brutal to watch after a while. He calls Carol things like “the most beautiful woman in New York” while she’s thinking about how boring she’s starting to find it to date superheroes. To that end, she finds a Standard Handsome Guy to start seeing. That’s where she goes super wrong though because of course, it turns out this guy is a Kree and, well, he gets kidnapped by Skrulls and we never see him again. Meanwhile, her relationship with Simon is in ruins, but she shows up for sad sex. Comic books aren’t for kids anymore, folks. This story was actually pretty messed up.

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Wolverine

Logan is a guy who could and does have his own Strange Loves, and one of them just happens to be Carol. This is a relationship that occurred mostly off-panel, but it comes up in most of their interactions since. While nowadays they would be considered old friends, the level of intimacy they knew in the before times when she was in the Air Force is pretty much a sliding scale for whatever vibe the writer happens to be going for.

These are two of Marvel’s characters best known for uncertain and unreliable memories, so that might be why their constant references to the past are still surprisingly vague. Regardless of anything, they do love hanging out and being rude to each other while making esoteric references to random things that happened to them in the past and lowkey alienating everyone else in the room. That sounds like exes to me.

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Mar-Vell

The first person to take on the name Captain Marvel in Marvel Comics was the Kree warrior known as Mar-Vell, who was sent to Earth to spy on humanity and deem whether or not we are a threat to the universe. Even though we definitely are a threat to the universe, Mar-Vell let himself go soft on us and was ultimately put on trial for treason against the Kree. He escaped and was lost in space for a while.

Mar-Vell had met a woman named, you guessed it, Carol Danvers in his days on Earth, and the two of them had fallen in love. Well, more accurately, he had fallen in love, and she thought he was a pretty cool guy. While he was lost in space, she gained the powers of the Kree through a blood transfusion, and did what anyone would do: stole her possibly deceased ex’s identity.

When Mar-Vell returned to Earth wondering why there was a lady superhero dressed like him and using a similar name, things got pretty awkward. In typical Carol manner, she gave him a winning smile, they made out, she bounced, and all was forgiven.

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Mike Barnett

Oh, Mike. Oh, Mister Barnett. Trigger warning for excessive violence, folks. This one is not going to be pretty.

Mike Barnett was Carol’s therapist in the ‘70s, and they started dating while she was his patient. In fact, we discover that they are on a date when they’re in their swimsuits on a beach and Carol says, “Oh, this is a date, not a session.” Now, generally, if someone shows up to do their job and you say, “just kidding, this is a date and I’m not paying you,” that person will sue you and you will never see them again and that is right and just. Don’t surprise people with dates! Ever! Mike Barnett is into it, though, which should, in turn, cost him his license. Look, we don’t need to belabor the point, I’m just saying, this whole thing is unethical and you need to throw it out.

This was a really weird time for Carol. The first Ms. Marvel solo series definitely has some satisfying moments in it, but as with most female-led solo books of the late ‘70s, the emphasis on the sexism of the male characters is agonizing to read. Her love interests were “regular” guys during this time. Carol dated Mike, but then sometimes made out with a reporter from her job, and later ended up going on some dates with another guy that was only around for a couple issues. This was when Carol worked as the editor for Woman Magazine, a job she kind of hated. Understandable, considering the fact that J. Jonah Jameson owned it and spent most of her time on the book just openly yelling at her in front of everyone.

What’s that? What happened to Mike, you ask? Ah, yes. Well, while Carol was mostly playing the field and in general not paying that much attention to Mike at all, he was having thought bubbles about how he wanted to marry her. All of that came to an end, however, when the eventual X-Men villain Mystique showed up, and, for incredibly tenuous reasons, graphically murdered Mike over several panels. Then... the series ended.

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James Rhodes

We saved the best for last! Of all the people Carol has dated, the greatest of them all is absolutely our guy James Rhodes, otherwise known as War Machine. Rhodey is best friends with Tony Stark, so right off the bat you know this guy has the patience of a saint, which is probably why he was such a good match for Carol. He’s one who walks the very fine line between being completely there for Carol while never infringing on her freedom, and that is exactly the kind of guy our girl needs in her life. Oh, what’s that? She accidentally caused his death during Civil War II and even though he’s back now that’s really weird and nobody knows where they even stand and love is a lie? Okay, great.

Anyway, at least it was cute for a little while. Even though this was a mostly short-lived and off-panel romance, it was still great. When Carol went to outer space for a year at random, Rhodey refrained from asking her to stay or even fully defining what that would mean for their relationship. When he had the chance to help her from afar, he did. He even wrote her letters. Folks, James Rhodes is a heck of a guy, and he was a great influence on Carol. It didn’t really do him any favors in life, but, well, that’s love for you.

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