Captain Marvel #15-17
Issue(s): Captain Marvel #15, Captain Marvel #16, Captain Marvel #17
Captain Marvel has been given super powers by an entity called Zo. In what feels like filler, Zo shows Mar-vell a series of unrelated images in what is supposedly an attempt to convince him to destroy a building/icon on the Kree homeworld called Tam-bor.
The building is important to a religious cult on Hala, but it will also destroy the world if Mar-vell doesn't stop it. Captain Marvel agrees to go to Hala and as part of his strategy, surrenders himself to a Kree army.
Then Archie Goodwin takes over the writing duties, and it turns out that Zo is actually a false entity created by a disaffected Imperial Minister named Zarek (we saw him briefly in Marv's first appearance in Marvel Super Heroes #12 and Captain Marvel #1 (same entry, behind Ronan)).
He and Ronan the Accuser were plotting a takeover of the Kree empire, and it involved them blaming Captain Marvel for the Tam-bor device. They are blue skinned Kree, and they don't like the pink skinned Kree.
Meanwhile, Carol Danvers, who is disoriented from a recent injury, wanders out of the hospital and is kidnapped by Colonel Yon-Rogg. Goodwin attempts some sort of racial commentary by giving us the following dialogue between a white cop and a black cop who were intending to interview Danvers:
White Cop: Son, you ain't just whistlin' Dixie!
No, i don't really know what it means either.
As a reward for his help in stopping the rebellion, Captain Mar-vell is allowed a request. He asks to be allowed to return to Earth to defeat Yon-Rogg single-handedly, sparing the Earth from the Supreme Intelligence's solution of just blowing up the planet. The Supreme Intelligence grants the request, but because of his sympathies for the Earthlings, he is stripped of his standard military costume and given a new one, and he is told that he will never be able to advance beyond his present rank as Captain.
It's weird seeing Ronan acting disloyally to the Kree empire. In later stories, he is generally depicted as being the ultimate loyal Kree. Maybe this incident changed his perspective on things.
Then the creative team changes again. Now Captain Marvel seems to have gotten himself stuck in the Negative Zone. He uses a hologram of Captain America to lure Rick Jones out to a cave in the desert....
...where he finds the Nega-Bands and puts them on. By clanking them together, he swaps places in the Negative Zone with Captain Marvel.
This is of course a "homage" to the Billy Batson/Shazam Captain Marvel. That Captain Marvel was a Golden Age character which stopped being published in 1953 due to a lawsuit from DC. It wouldn't be until 1973 that DC would subsequently acquire that character and start publishing him again. Therefore while it may seem like a real rip-off to modern readers, this really should be seen as Thomas' homage to another of his Golden Age favorites, with no expectation that the original version would ever be seen again.
The issue ends with a brief altercation with Yon-Rogg and a Carol Danvers-shaped bomb.
For Rick Jones, this is his third or fourth (depending on whether or not you count his Avengers position as separate from when he was just Captain America's sidekick) new position in his Sidekick of the Stars career. So far he's been side-kick to the Hulk, the Avengers, and then Captain America.
Rick must say "Faaaaan-tastic" about every other panel in issue #17. Guess he was trying to establish a catch-phrase.
You can feel the floundering as creative teams change and the book's theme lurches in different directions. The original idea seems to be that Mar-vell would be taking orders from Zo for a while, working as a rebel against the Kree, but when Thomas comes on he quickly abandons Zo as a traitor and turns Captain Marvel into a full-fledged super-hero. Because of Jim Starlin's upcoming successful run with this character it's easy to say that this was a good move, but the truth is that the original idea for this series, with Captain Marvel as a spy for a hostile alien army, was a lot more unique and interesting; it just seemed that Marvel wasn't willing to fully go down that route.
The art in all these issues features Steranko influenced panel layouts and Colan influenced atmospherics, but the actual art is very poor, resulting in some very messy looking comics.
Quality Rating: C
Chronological Placement Considerations: Issue #17 starts with Rick Jones still wearing his Bucky costume and upset about the incident where the Red Skull impersonated Captain America and rejected him.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (11): show
Goodwin's story was a good way to eliminate all the junk that Arnold Drake heaped on the title, but it was too late to save the book from cancellation later that year anyway.
Roy Thomas and Barry Smith tried to launch a title with Rick-as-Bucky, Quicksilver, and the Red Raven as a super-team whose name I can't remember. It didn't get published(though uninked pages were produced) and Roy stuck Rick here instead.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | August 7, 2011 12:50 AM
Huh, I'm surprised to see that there's no publication gap after #16; I always thought the series had gotten cancelled then, and Roy's "screw it, if we're using the name to keep the copyright away from whomever buys C.C. Beck's characters, then we might as well just do a Rick Jones-as-Billy Batson riff and be done with it" makeover was part of a later revival attempt. I guess it was just a last desperate ploy, and then they kept it when they brought Marv back the next couple of times, too.
Still, it's a good time to take stock of what a hash the title has been from #6-16. The basic "enemy alien" plot does seem to be something that Stan didn't really want to commit to in the book's early days (a full-on FBI manhunt for "Lawson", as in #16, could have had a lot of potential) and so Drake just spun his wheels random alien stories and Carol/Mar-Vell/Una/Yon-Rogg romance "tension" until he got approval to do the "Zo" remake and ditch much of the initial premise. Which was rightly a giant bust (IMO they should have abandoned Earth-based stories at that point) and now we've got our second reboot in six months, followed by Thomas's further re-do, and it's just a mess. This book is probably the clearest example of why the non-Stan titles needed a non-Stan editor at this point (the Dr. Strange-as-"Dr. Sanders" episode, and the wandering mess that Subby's book becomes also qualify), since Stan clearly didn't have a vision for where they were headed. Some books (Roy's Avengers, Archie's Iron Man) could handle it, but not so much for others.
As to the art, I love Don Heck and I like Dick Ayers, but who on Earth thought that assigning them to a *space-oriented* book once Colan left was a good idea? During the whole "Zo" period, we've seen lots of innovative Steranko/Smith-influenced paneling, but it's been from artists who were either not used to working that way (Ayers/Springer) or were just getting started and were rough (Sutton). If they'd given Sutton the book six issues earlier and let him run with it, he might have become a prototype George Perez, but instead the book was getting kicked around and around and showing the ill-effects. More's the pity.
(Also, I really should go back to the Marvel Super-Heroes issues and write this there, but Yon-Rogg not being so blatanly evil would have improved the book immensely. Mar-Vell is always being criticized for being emotionally involved with the humans, and there's the idea that emotionality is just Not The Kree Way...and meanwhile, Yon-Rogg walks around completely sprung over Una, and practically twirling his mustache. Make him conflicted, make Carol Danvers less clueless, and you've got a much better series. Oh, well.)
Posted by: Dan Spector | July 9, 2014 12:45 AM
The song Dixie originated in the blackface minstrel shows of the 1850's. It was about an escaped slave pining for the plantation of his birth. I believe The black cop is basically saying "As a black man I don't appreciate that saying and would prefer you find a new one.
Posted by: Silverbird | July 17, 2014 6:57 PM
Avoiding GotG movie spoilers, I find this story's depiction of Ronan as weirdly the first to come to mind when watching it.
Posted by: Ataru320 | August 4, 2014 9:50 PM
I got to sit around with Arch quite some time ago. Great guy. I appreciate that he put as much effort into dialoguing the bit parts as he did with the major players. It makes for an enjoyable reading experience on every page...something Chris Claremont, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Alan Davis and other subsequent writers took to heart.
Gil Kane's work looks fantastic to me here (Rick paid me to say that...damn check keeps bouncing)!
Posted by: Vin the Comics Guy | August 3, 2016 7:24 AM
Roy Thomas stated in Back Issue #93 that he wanted to take the title over(before Gil Kane got involved),and that after clearing things with Goodwin, he designed Captain Mar-Vell's new costume, basing it mostly on an obscure Golden Age superhero called Atoman.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | January 16, 2017 2:16 PM
The New Costume and Rick Jones character lends vulnerability and some familiar ground to the Marvel character that saved the title in issue #17. Starlin came in a nd took it home on a great run of storyline hitting the screens
Posted by: Rocknrollguitarplayer | May 8, 2017 12:38 AM
Sha-zam! (I mean, Faaan-tastic!) I never knew anything about Billy Batson/Captain Marvel as a child, so I never realized that Rick Jones/Captain Marvel was an homage to that character until many years later.
Some odd and somewhat trivial coincidences I never really noticed until today:
Both Captain Mar-Vell and the Falcon were created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan (with some help from Roy Thomas on Mar-Vell).
Mar-Vell and the Falcon both originally wore green in their costumes, which was somewhat unusual because the usual convention was for heroes to wear primary colors (blue, red, and yellow are subtractive primaries), and for villains to wear secondary colors (green, purple, and orange).
Both heroes were eventually revised to wear primary colors. Both heroes also had white in their costumes (Mar-Vell's first costume and Falcon's later costume), which is unusual because white is so hard to keep clean.
Posted by: James Holt | September 30, 2017 1:49 AM
One comment here interestingly mentions Barry Smith. I came into possession of a copy of Cap Marvel 16 the other day, and just read it this evening. Many of the pages, in layout and figure-work, of the credited as Don Heck artwork, is, I swear, much more likely to be the work of young Barry Smith. Compare with his Ultron issues of Avengers (66,67 if memory serves), where he is also inked by Syd Shores. Hold these side by side with many frames of CM 16 and tell me it ain't so.
Posted by: ILYA | December 14, 2017 5:23 PM
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