Captain Marvel #1
Issue(s): Captain Marvel #1
On the first point, both Dwayne McDuffie and M.D. Bright were African-American, and were probably much more tuned in to how black women were wearing their hair at the time than John Romita Jr. was when the character was first created.
But i remember seeing this book in realtime and being disappointed that they had changed her; unaware of whether or not it made sense for anyone to have an afro in the 1980s, it was a part of her iconic look to me. Regarding her powers, McDuffie does a good job giving her similar looking powers and even a kind of bait and switch (in a good way) that allows him to describe her as seeming more powerful, all while providing limitations that should have allowed other writers to use her without having to always include a villain with darkforce abilities or something to keep her from easily winning every battle.
One thing the book doesn't really do is address her personality. I don't personally have a problem with this, but i've seen objections that Monica is too perfect and therefore boring, because you can't do stories about her struggling with her own foibles in the classic Marvel way. It might have been an interesting hook to embrace that "too perfect" aspect and show her as coming off like too much of a goody goody or just a type A personality that rubs others the wrong way. You could even come at it from a feminist perspective and show her dealing with people not accepting her strong personality even though it's not too different from, say, Captain America's. This is all probably way too much for a oneshot; i'm just spitballing about the character since this book does bring her back just to have her fade back into obscurity again.
The issue begins with Monica having recovered from her weight problem and resigned to having lost her powers (while still having nightmares about it). She's taken a job as a captain on the ship of a former colleague, Ron Morgan. Morgan is in the shipping business, and Monica's job is to take the boat down to the Caribbean to exchange American wheat for soybeans.
The book actually does take a stab at the "perfect" personality problem and seems to suggest that the foible going forward would be fear based on her traumatic power loss (and weight loss, despite what the other guy misunderstood), but this isn't developed further in this issue.
That conversation is interrupted by the invasion of a group of hijackers, who kill that guy and the rest of the crew. They try to take her hostage, but she escapes thanks to training she got from Captain America...
...and then she plays a bluff, changing into her old Captain Marvel costume to try to convince the goons to surrender.
That works until the arrival of their super-powered boss, a guy named Powderkeg.
He's near invulnerable and he sweats nitroglycerin, so his punches can get explosive.
Captain Marvel lures him in and buries him in wheat.
For some reason, Marvel thought, "I don't care how strong he is, six tons of wheat ought to hold him for a while." was the quote to use to promote this issue on the Bullpen Bulletin page.
Powderkeg does manage to punch his way out, but he ignites the wheat dust with his explosive punch, setting the boat on fire. Monica goes back to rescue him and finds him searching for a crate. When he refuses to leave, he calls her bluff on using her powers. But she has been feeling "strange" throughout this event, so she gives it a try, and the unexpected happens.
She tries to transform herself into x-rays to get back into the ship, and again is surprised by what happens.
And when she re-engages with Powderkeg, we see that her powers are much more physical than they were before.
She knocks out Powderkeg and rescues him. We then cut away to an office in Brazil, where we find that a Ms. Ramos is the one behind Powderkeg and his men.
She decides that the ship they attacked was a decoy, and she sends "our best agent" to search the offices of Ron Morgan.
Two days later, we find Captain Marvel getting tested by Mr. Fantastic. He has an explanation for her new powers.
So she still looks like she did before (although her energy form is white instead of yellow), and she can still fly really fast and it looks like she can still shoot energy beams. So to anyone not paying close attention, she's a lot like she always was. But in practice she's not turning into energy so she's not intangible and can't just fly through everything, and in reality her powers are more super-strength and (limited) invulnerability, which is a more standard super-hero power set that should have made her more easy to integrate into regular stories. And she's also got an array of weaknesses: a strong enough hit will hurt or kill her, and she's vulnerable to surprise attacks and lapses in concentration.
There's probably an essay to be written about how Captain Marvel's character was forced to conform to super-power norms so that she could integrate into super-human society but you get the idea.
I like this scene where it's explained how Captain Marvel navigates. When flying at incredibly high speeds, how does one know where one is? The answer is that she follows known waterways. That's not a new thing; it would have been true with her old powers as well.
Captain Marvel flies down to Morgan's office and finds that it's been ransacked. He starts to spin a story about what happened but she reveals that she's his friend Monica. So he explains that he once found a crate of circuitry from Stark International, and since Stark was out of business at the time, he tried to sell it to Stane International. Stane didn't want it, but Morgan was then contacted by Kristina Ramos, and she offered to co-sign a loan in return for the circuitry. After signing the loan agreement, Morgan found out that Ramos is the most powerful crime-lord in Brazil, so he held back on giving her the circuitry.
According to the flashback, Morgan found the crate in the water, and he did try to return it to Stark. But before Monica leaves for Brazil to catch the people that raided his office, she tells Morgan that she is obligated to turn him in for possession of stolen property. Instead, he calls Stark, which is now Stark Enterprises, and we'll see what that leads to in a second. First, Captain Marvel reaches the plane arriving from the US with the person who raided Morgan's office, and it turns out to be Moonstone.
We see Moonstone commenting on the fact that Captain Marvel seems stronger than she knew ("I never knew she could hit that hard").
But the fact that she's solid now makes her vulnerable to Moonstone's attacks. After the first hit, Captain Marvel has trouble concentrating enough to reactive her powers.
It's a cool battle, but you can definitely see it as a demonstration of Monica's new strengths and limitations. Eventually she does manage to beat Moonstone, and again in a much more physical way.
But then Ramos shows up, and it turns out she's in a Guardsman suit. She wants the extra Stark circuitry to enhance it further.
Again, comments about her being "stronger".
They do mean physically stronger, but i think it works to soften or even erase the fact that Monica's new power set is a downgrade from her previous powers.
Eventually Morgan shows up with James Rhodes, who gives Monica a device probably left over from Armor Wars that will fuse the Stark circuitry in the Guardsman armor.
Captain Marvel is able to defeat Ramos and scramble her suit.
In the end, Morgan says he will be turning himself in, and he'd like Monica to look after his business while he's "away" (i really have a hard time thinking he'll do jail time for what he's done). And we see Rhodey hitting on Monica, which i'd like to think is a continuation of when he hit on her while he was Iron Man during Secret Wars.
The issue ends with a quote from the Harlem Renaissance writer Zora Neale Hurston.
If nothing else, for a $1.50 you get an issue that has fights with three super-villains and a decent amount of time devoted to each fight, plus guest appearances by Mr. Fantastic and Rhodey. On top of that, it's a well written story. Except possibly for the "wheat" line, this is not in the jokey style of McDuffie's Damage Control, and it's a much better story than She-Hulk: Ceremony. We're getting closer to the McDuffie style that i know from his later work. If i have any complaints about M.D. Bright's artwork, it's the choice to depict Captain Marvel's eyes as emitting light while she's in her power form. I think that looks a little weird. But beyond that, it's nice classic early-mid 80s style art, and i like that Bright's layouts are dense enough to include all of the story that is fit into this issue. With the decompression of art and increased prevalence of splash panels and the like happening by 1989, it's nice to see this kind of style.
Quality Rating: B+
Chronological Placement Considerations: Captain Marvel is shown with powers during Atlantis Attacks, starting with Avengers annual #18, so this has to take place prior to that. This issue takes place over the course of at least two days.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (3): showCaptain Marvel (Monica Rambeau), Frank Rambeau, Maria Rambeau, Moonstone (Karla Sofen), Mr. Fantastic, Powderkeg, War Machine
Hi fnord12, I realise this is a random question but how many pages are in this book? It appears that there's a lot of content and I wanted to find out how many pages it was done in.
Posted by: JSfan | October 17, 2014 6:07 PM
It's a 42 pager.
Posted by: fnord12 | October 17, 2014 6:16 PM
I always liked the character of Captain Marvel/Monica Rambeau. I knew this issue came out but I never picked it up; it looks really interesting, so I'll have to make it a point to grab it!
I wish she would have been put back onto the Avengers after this story since she got her powers back.
Posted by: Bill | October 17, 2014 9:16 PM
As a big Monica Rambeau fan I am biased, but this is one of my all-time favourite comic books.
Posted by: Dermie | October 17, 2014 10:59 PM
Lots of good things to recommend it, but they made a mistake changing her powers. It made her too generic. Would have been better to create a new villain, or use an existing villain that presented a challenge to her existing power set.
Posted by: Chris | October 17, 2014 11:09 PM
Impressive McDuffie writing, and nice Bright pencils.
People talk so much about Chris Claremont, but he can't hold a candle to Dwayne McDuffie in the characterization department.
The power change situation is a two-edged sword. It is a bit distracting, mainly because it makes the character so better a fit for the usual superhero fare.
Still, to think that the awful "Ms. Marvel" series from 2006 lasted a whooping 47 issues without even introducing its own main concepts or having the protagonist be the main character of the piece, while this one-shot was very much an one-shot...
Posted by: Luis Dantas | October 17, 2014 11:26 PM
From what I've seen, it's trademark that is the issue, rather than copyright.
Posted by: Erik Robbins | October 18, 2014 12:51 AM
Chris - She gets back her original powers in the "Starblast" crossover in 1994.
Posted by: clyde | October 18, 2014 8:18 PM
"When flying at incredibly high speeds, how does one know where one is? The answer is that she follows known waterways. That's not a new thing; it would have been true with her old powers as well."
I don't think this is true of most super-heroes. This is a good way for her to navigate because she was a lieutenant in the New Orleans harbor patrol.
Posted by: clyde | July 15, 2015 1:58 PM
I have a suspicion that this one-shot was intended as a miniseries.
It definitely reads like two (or more) issues fused together.
The first issue, which it seems wasn't even rewritten for the one-shot, would be the Powderkeg / re-origin story. It even has the "teaser" ending still present in the one-shot.
The next page is "two days later" and a splash page which looks remarkably empty in certain spots.
At this point I think we get a truncated version of #2 and possibly #3. Obviously some unnecessary recapping will have been removed, but I'm guessing #2 would have been Moonstone and #3 being the Guardswoman. It's noticable that Moonstone is just dropped after Guardswoman debuts - like would happen between issues.
There's a few panels throughout that look noticeably rewrote (characters with mouths opening, looking like they're speaking but are saying nothing, a lot of emptiness in some panels). Then a very quick "ending" for the one-shot.
I've not read it but the 1994 Captain Marvel one-shot by the same creative team but it might also fit into this theory. Might've just been left over stuff lying around that was scrapped in favour of making it a extra-sized one-shot.
Posted by: AF | May 6, 2016 11:13 AM
If X-Ray of the U-Foes -- who's intangible all the time, not just when concentrating -- isn't regarded as too powerful, why should Monica?
Posted by: Oliver_C | May 16, 2016 8:08 AM
Oliver - I agree. If anything, I think X-Ray is more powerful than Monica. X-Ray has the power to expel various forms of heavy radiation in the form of very potent blasts. That is what he would do without thinking.
Posted by: clyde | May 16, 2016 8:22 AM
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