Life of Captain Marvel is a beautiful, personal story about family, that also shows how to properly retcon a character’s origin.
When Carol Danvers starts having panic attacks brought on my memories of her childhood, she goes home to Maine to face her demons head on.
The story is written by Margaret Stohl, with pencils by Carlos Pacheco, inks by Rafael Fonteriz, colors by Marcio Menyz (with Federico Blee), and letters by Clayton Cowles. Flasback art is by Marguerite Sauvage (issues #1-3 & #5), and Erica D’Urso & Marcio Menyz (issue #4).
This is an incredible, intimate story. Captan Marvel is one of Marvel’s heaviest hitters; writers can use her to tell grand, epic action stories on a cosmic scale. The fact that Stohl uses Carol to tell a deep, complex story about family dysfunction is a testament to both the writer and the character.
Family is messy, and Life of Captain Marvel explores that in depth. It’s a story about feeling like you’re an outsider in your own home. It’s also about overcoming that, and realizing that your parents are just people – flawed, confused people just trying to get through life, same as you. Not everything is black and white, and things aren’t always how they seem on the surface. This is a comic exploring the grey areas of life.
The artwork really reflects these ideas, too, especially the flashback work by D’Urso and Menyz in issue four. D’Urso makes Carol’s parents look so young and bright-eyed. Even when they’re trying to raise a family, the artwork makes you think, “oh, they’re just kids themselves, figuring it out as they go along.”
And there’s also a big, action-packed alien fight. But the family drama is what drives this story, and why you should pick it up.
Life of Captain Marvel also retcons Carol’s origin in a MAJOR way, but it’s done in a very satisfying way. There will be spoilers from here on, so step away and come back after you’ve read the story if you want to be surprised.
It’s revealed that Carol’s mother was a Kree warrior all along. Carol (who’s name is actually Car-Ell, Kree for “champion”) never inherited her powers from the original Captain Marvel; the incident with Mar-Vell only activated her natural, dormant Kree powers.
Now, admittedly, at first this reveal might make you say “ugh, seriously?” It seems like an unnecessary change that relies too heavily on coincidence. However, that hesitation fades away after a few words from Carol’s mother:
“They’re not anyone’s [powers] but yours. They never have been. … Light and power and speed and strength, because it’s who you are.”
And suddenly everything clicks into place. The change to her origin makes Carol a stronger, more independent superhero. She doesn’t owe her powers to anyone else; they come from her.
Not only that, but this finally gives her the connection to her mother that she’s been craving. She doesn’t feel so alone anymore. Her mother was a warrior, just like she is, only she never knew it. Again, this goes with the themes mentioned earlier: parents are just people. They lived whole lives before having children, and they went through the same struggles that we go through. We just have a hard time thinking of them like that.
So that’s why this retcon works as well as it does. It not only makes for a stronger story, but it also develops Carol’s character. It’s not a retcon just for the sake of shaking things up or generating sales.
If you like deep, fulfilling superhero stories that put heart and soul before action, don’t sleep on Life of Captain Marvel. It’s not your normal Marvel comic; it’s a Marvel comic with indie comic vibes.
The Life of Captain Marvel trade paperback is out Wednesday, January 16th.