Characters Appearing: Captain America, Captain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Chaim Cross, Derek Freeman, Rocket Racer, Skinhead
Captain Marvel #1
Issue(s): Captain Marvel #1
Still, the strategy of publishing it as a oneshot instead of extending the recently cancelled Marvel Super Heroes series, which would otherwise be a logical place for this sort of thing, was probably due to the trademark consideration.
Coye wrote/co-wrote the Meteor Man adaptation and spin-off, and a short series called Kid 'n' Play, and he'll later co-write an issue of New Warriors. I can't find much else about him. As Scott33 notes in the comments "D. Coye" sounds like a pseudonym.
Another piece of evidence for the theory that this was written much earlier is the use of the villain Skinhead, who was introduced the same month as the original oneshot and hadn't been seen since. Skinhead's story arc resolves in this story, which may be why he hadn't been seen since his original story.
The other reason Skinhead might not have been seen since, though, is that he's a terrible character. And i'm actually surprised to see Dwayne McDuffie using him. It doesn't surprise me to see McDuffie tackling the topic of racism, but i'd expect more subtlety. On the other hand, i would have probably dismissed this entire issue as being too cartoonish a depiction of racism. But i'm writing this in 2017 not long after a large group of white supremacists marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the images that came out of that looked a lot like this.
The Sons of the Serpent are attacking minorities and riling up hatred at Empire State University. Captain Marvel first becomes involved when some of the Serpents attack a pair of Chinese students. The Serpents try to convince CM that Asian students (the Serpents ignorantly call them "Japs") hurt African Americans as well, but CM of course isn't buying it.
Captain Marvel tries a new power trick during the fight.
The Serpents turn out to be ESU students as well.
After the fight, Captain Marvel returns to a hotel room where she is staying. She's contacted by FBI agent Derek Freeman, who reveals that he knows her secret identity.
Freeman asks CM for help monitoring a black student named Ray Washington. Captain Marvel gets the wrong idea and alludes to the FBI's COINTELPRO history ("I don't like the idea of blacks working for the FBI, and spying on other blacks") but Freeman explains that Ray is his nephew, and he actually wants Captain Marvel to protect him in light of the racially motivated attacks at ESU. Ray is working to create a coalition among minority organizations against the Serpents, which is why Freeman is worried that he could be targeted. The fact that it's the Sons of the Serpents and not a "normal" racist group is why the FBI is going to a super-hero for help.
Captain Marvel goes to Avengers Mansion to get information about the Serpents from Captain America and the Avengers' records.
A lot in the above script points towards this taking place not long after Captain Marvel's powers were restored. I think that's odd/interesting considering that Dwight D. Coye was probably scripting it closer to 1994 (based on his other credits which were closer to that time period than 1989). You'd think that Marvel would have wanted to either update the script to place the story in the present or put in a footnote confirming that it took place in the past.
Looking at the Avengers' files, it almost looks like there's an Untold Tale of Iron Man where he fought the Sons of the Serpent during his Silver Centurion period, and the colorist doesn't want us to know about it.
Captain Marvel declines Captain America's offer to get the full Avengers team involved, saying that she thinks she can handle it herself. She goes to ESU as Monica Rambeau and introduces herself to Ray just as the Serpents are marching on the university. Ray's coalition organizes a counter-protest which seems larger than the actual protesters (which sounds familiar) but the Serpents pull out some high tech weaponry and fire on the crowd.
Captain Marvel flies in to stop the attackers. She's observed by Rocket Racer, who is in civilian garb without access to his costume.
The leader, Serpent-Prime, is extra-strong and has a pair of super-charged nunchucks, but Captain Marvel is able to briefly emit pure light energy to break free.
The police arrive soon afterwards. Interestingly (again in parallel with today), Captain Marvel expresses to the police that she's worried that a radicalization of the students in response to this might be "worse" than what's already happened.
Meanwhile, though Serpent-Prime begins to transform. He's really Skinhead.
Skinhead leaves after thinking that he's killed Captain Marvel by burying her under rubble, but she has of course survived. She's approached by Rocket Racer, who reveals his secret ID to her and tells her that he can lead her to Skinhead. He takes her to Skinhead's father's house. As we learned in Skinhead's previous appearance, Skinhead's father, Chaim Cross, is Jewish. Chaim is still blaming himself and his pride in his heritage for his son's turn to Nazism. Captain Marvel tells him it's not his fault and convinces him to help stop his son. When Captain Marvel gets back to Ray's coalition, she learns that they've arranged a large counter-protest. This makes Captain Marvel nervous.
But the counter-protesters have an amazing Care Bear-like effect on the Sons of the Serpent.
There is still Skinhead to contend with...
...but his father is able to reach out to him. The Skinhead "skin" tries to act without Skinhead, but Captain Marvel takes care of it.
The story is kind of a mixed bag. As a Dwayne McDuffie fan, i'd like to argue that the plot was good but the script was bad, but if anything it's the reverse. There's a lot of smart dialogue and discussion of issues. It surprised me to see skepticism of the FBI expressed in a mainstream comic book. And it's interesting how our protagonist is scripted as being more cautious and not in favor of "radical" protest (which certainly feels in character), but it's the protestors who are proved right in the end. The use of the goofy character Skinhead and the highly ridiculous way that the Sons of the Serpent are won over in the end, on the other hand, are marks against the story, and those are definitely elements of the plot.
Oh well. It's still always nice to see Captain Marvel in action, and the ending aside it was a good story with nice art by M.D. Bright.
Quality Rating: C+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The destruction of ESU's Afro-American studies building is said to have happened "recently", and the students are meeting at a lounge in the Commons because the building hasn't been rebuilt yet. The explosion happened in the Skinhead issues (Web of Spider-Man #56, although it's incorrectly footnoted as #59 here).
It's also the case that Captain America is interested in Captain Marvel's "altered powers" so that he can incorporate them into the Avengers battle strategies, and he's also happy that she's "back in the swing of things". This all suggests that CM's powers are still relatively newly returned.
This all suggests placement some time in 1989, soon after the first Captain Marvel oneshot. A wrinkle is the status of Avengers Mansion. When going to Avengers Mansion to get information from Captain America, Captain Marvel thinks that the visit "also gives me a chance to check out the Avengers Mansion since its reconstruction" (and it is in Manhattan, not on Hydrobase). That has to push things forward into 1991, when the mansion is at least partially restored in Manhattan. That's not ideal, but it's still relatively early enough that Captain Marvel's powers are "new" and that the Afro-American studies building at ESU might not have been repaired. So this should take place after Avengers #314-318, when the Mansion is in place and repairs have begun (the Mansion doesn't necessarily have to be completely repaired for CM's visit).
This placement also works better for Rocket Racer: before he's working regularly for Silver Sable.
I should note that the MCP doesn't take any of this into account and places this issue just prior to the Starblast crossover which alters Captain Marvel's powers back to something like her original powers. This definitely does have to take place prior to Starblast, but based on the above evidence it needs to go much further back.
Continuity Insert? Y - inventory story
My Reprint: N/A
Nice art, but any appearance of Captain Marvel that's not inked by Tom Palmer never really looks right to me.
Posted by: Bonez | October 2, 2017 9:15 PM
"it almost looks like there's an Untold Tale of Iron Man where he fought the Sons of the Serpent during his Silver Centurion period" That is weird since Tony doesn't fight the sons of the Serpent until 2000.
Posted by: Michael | October 2, 2017 9:41 PM
The name Dwight D. Coye sounds like a ... decoy name to me.
Posted by: Scott33 | October 2, 2017 10:49 PM
Good point, Scott33. But he has a number of credits (and/or that pseudonym was used a fair amount). Per the UHBMCC, besides this issue:
Meteor Man #1-5 (co-written with Bertram Hubbard)
And he was also a letterer for a number of issues of the Marvel Handbook Master Edition. Seems weird for a letterer especially to use a pseudonym.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 2, 2017 11:06 PM
I have never read this, so my comments are limited to this review.
The good: 1) Mark Bright's artwork. 2) Nice to see an old Stern recurring character in Derek Freeman.
The bad: 1) Wrong plot for Captain Marvel. Even with her revised powers, she should be a major power with plots appropriate for it. This is obviously a general plot McDuffie wanted to write and shoehorned Monica in. 2) Someone just happens to figure out her secret identity? Ugh. Terrible. That kind of thing should either be a major plot point, or Monica chooses to inform who it is. 3) Terrible, boring villains. I am sure someday someone will write an interesting Sons of the Serpent story. But it hasn't been written yet, and probably won't during my lifetime. 4) Terrible resolution of the plot. This is just lame.
I don't think Dwayne McDuffie is that good of a writer, and don't see what other people see in him. He has decent craft, but his stuff is fairly generic. Much like his friend Jim Owsley/Christopher Priest, he's obviously smart with good dialogue, but I'm usually just bored with what he writes. He brings an interesting perspective, but he was probably better suited to be an editor than a writer. At the same time, this level of craft is better than a lot of the dregs Marvel was putting out at this time. But in the Shooter era, he'd be at the bottom tier of publishable writers. Hard to understand this is the same man who worked with Bruce Timm on the excellent DCAU Justice League.
Posted by: Chris | October 2, 2017 11:21 PM
Chris, it is worth noting that it isn't just "someone" who figures out her secret identity--it is an FBI agent, who has not only worked with her on a few occasions but has also dated her (or at least asked her out on a date--Stern left AVENGERS before he actually got a chance to show them on a date on-panel). I think Derek figuring out her identity isn't exactly unreasonable.
That said, I would have been just as happy to have it revealed that she had revealed her identity to him back during whatever short-term relationship/flirtation happened between them in the late Stern-era.
This one-shot was not as good as the previous one...but Monica has always been one of my favourite characters, so anything that spotlights her like this is positive in my books.
I did also appreciate the fact that the story did explicitly acknowledge gays as one of the minority groups being targeted in the Serpents attacks, and then at the end of the story Monica quoting from a lesbian author. Given that it was still relatively rare to see the word "gay" be published in a comic book in this period, it was nice to see.
Posted by: Dermie | October 3, 2017 12:08 AM
Dermie, I don't like secret identities being discovered offhand. It should be a big reveal. I find it to be lazy writing to handwave learning about it. Either make it something the hero chooses to divulge, or make it a big deal for the character to figure out. I don't mind that Derek figures it out, but I want a real story and effort to establish that. I don't think secret identities should be treated lightly.
Posted by: Chris | October 3, 2017 12:31 AM
Monica has always had some pretty unique and distinctive hairstyles that would make maintaining a secret identity pretty difficult.
Posted by: Brandon | October 3, 2017 8:53 AM
It seems a bit, well, odd that a story plotted by an African American writer and starring an African America character is seriously pondering the idea that counter-protests might make a bad situation worse. I realize that this was written in the late 1980s or early 90s, but it feels tone deaf in 2017, what with the various attempts to create a false equivalency between white supremacists and the Antifa & Black Lives Matters movements.
Posted by: Ben Herman | October 3, 2017 2:51 PM
There IS a real danger of the United States turning into Weimar Germany in the 1930s, with its street fights between Nazis and Communists. Monica WAS right to be concerned about the protestors striking back with violence. That would have made the Serpents into martyrs and advanced their cause. Note that Monica never says the counter-protestors are morally equivalent to the Serpents- she's mostly worried about the protestors' safety and the only reason the protestors weren't killed is writers' fiat.
Posted by: Michael | October 3, 2017 9:28 PM
Possibly "Dwight D. Coye" was a shared pseudonym similar to "Alan Smithee", i.e. used in situations where the real person didn't want his name to be used for whatever reason? For example, in this case it could be (like you suggest) that someone was brought in to finish a script McDuffie had left behind before leaving Marvel, and that person felt he didn't do justice to the original plot, so he asked his real name not to be used. This would make sense especially if "Coye" was a white writer, and he didn't think he was able to approach the subject matter of racism as well as McDuffie would have.
Posted by: Tuomas | October 4, 2017 6:34 AM
The U.S. is NOT in danger of becoming like Weimar Germany unless the GOP and The Democrats have private armies that I don't know about. At the conservatives also had murder squads who killed predominant politicians. Also the Nazi stormtroopers were funded by the army to act as a secret black ops army.
Posted by: OrangeDuke | January 9, 2018 11:17 PM
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