Captain Marvel #17: “I Am Captain Marvel”
(This review contains spoilers: some key plot points and character developments are described)
Memory is essential to character, but in the wake of character amnesia story arcs, where characters forget who they are, readers might be concerned what new directions a character might travel in following their forgetfulness. My reaction to reading Captain Marvel #17‘s opening pages was a little fear that Captain Marvel – AKA Carol Danvers – might change into something unfamiliar. Thankfully, Carol has good friends who help her rebuild the gaps in her memory. The comic itself is positive, with great themes, and strong action scenes.
A sense of fantasy and whimsy would be a good way to describe the art style. Colour is bright: not just the red, yellow, gold and blue of Captain Marvel’s costume, but also the warm, orange hue that pervades each panel. Darker and violent scenes have a ruddy orange, and almost blood red wash over them. Action scenes use the energetic orange colours. Scenes where Captain Marvel flies over New York City, showing Kit what it’s like to be able to fly, have strong perspective.
There are other interesting touches throughout the comic: Marvel superhero celebrity endorsements turn up later on in the comic. Doop and Alpha are helping promote products within the Marvel Universe. Lettering is also appropriate, and gives a sense of specific character’s voice.
Captain Marvel has lost her memory – the Captain still saves kids from bullies, and defends New York from a villainous attack when no other Marvel Superheroes are available. She also is helping a younger girl named Kit with “Captain Marvel Lessons”, and helping a young boy called Gilbert build an Iron Man costume. When Gilbert’s costume falls apart, Kit comments that Iron Man’s first Iron Man wasn’t perfect either. I found Kit’s character positive, and upbeat despite the grim tone set by Captain marvel’s memory loss.
Grace Valentine wants the whole world to want to be her. In the face of enourmous success – creating an app that has recieved over a one million downloads, and the offer of television show – Grace want’s more recognition and more fame. when her article on absolute objectivism is rejected, she clashes with her colleagues: her success is not enough, and she targets Captain Marvel. While objectivism drives her character forward, the details of Ayn Rand‘s ethics are not elaborated on. It makes sense for her character, however, that she would be derisive, and despise Captain Marvel. From Rand’s perpective, individuals should build their own success instead of looking to others for intense support. She sees the fan following of Captain Marvel, and other Marvel superheroes no doubt, as individuals appealing to a higher power for help and identity, and therefore opposed to her point of view.
Themes, Ethics, Values.
Bullying, creativity, and resilience are three themes that appear early in the comic. Despite Carol’s amnesia, the theme of memory is not brought out, or heavily covered in the comic. In the clash between Carol Danvers and Grace Valentine, beyond the objectivism ethic raised in the comic, another theme that appears is the clash between high and low culture: Grace claims to wield fiercely intellectual writing skills that she believes is more valuable to the people of New York than the fan following, and general admiration, that Captain Marvel attracts. Marvel has such fervent support, however, because of her heroic actions. She inspires hope, and has grown into a symbol of resilience. Grace, however, has sold an app, and used it to collect personal information from her customers (locations, keystroke records, etc.) – Grace is a wealthy woman demanding respect rather than making an effort to earn it.
That’s the key clash of values here: Earning respect versus demanding it. Perceived High culture (discussions of absolute objectivism) versus perceived low culture (Captain Marvel punches a thing).
Stacking up Grace and Carol’s actions against each other reveals this pattern: Grace shows clear greed in her want for more attention on top of her wealth and growing fortune, while Carol is looking for a place to live, and helps to reduce the affects of bullying. Grace attacks an older man when he threatens to stop her stealing personal information, and Carol does her best to be a good Marvel superhero, and protect New York, risking injury. The key ethic here is not to follow Graces’ example of greed and personal information theft. In addition, when Captain Marvel is in danger, all the people attending the festival – people going through their day-to-day lives – band together to help Carol. They identify with her experiences, and are inspired by her example. Graces’ intellectual (and incendiary) rampage does not have the same impact as Carol’s heroics.
A bit more on Captain Marvel #17
Towards the end of the comic, there is an “I am Spartacus” Spartacus moment, where Captain Marvel’s fan’s help her to stop the attack on New York. It adds to the already positive and upbeat tone of the comic in general.