Whenever I talk about Carol Danvers’ backstory, I tend to parrot the way I once heard Kelly Sue Deconnick say the words “Psyche Magnitron.” With a cartoonish condescending tone and a slight eyeroll. While Carol’s history has been up and down since her inception, the story of how she gained her powers never stops being so weird, at least in a modern sense. Carol Danvers gained her powers because she wished she could be as strong as the man she was trying to get close to and then received his powers through… DNA fusion transfer after the explosion of a Kree wish machine? It’s definitely a comics backstory.
Deconnick has admitted on panels that she did try to change Carol’s backstory to her saving herself at the time of the explosion due to time travel wackiness, but was stopped by editorial during the writing process. Writer Margaret Stohl, who has taken the torch of the Carol Corps with gusto since taking over the book after Civil War II, has hinted in her run about the planned changes to Carol’s backstory. However, it’s not until now with The Life of Captain Marvel that we’re seeing just how radical it might be.
The Life of Captain Marvel #1 opens with Carol’s memories of spending summers in Maine with her family, specifically how she would spend time with her brothers Stevie and Joe Jr, who have been alluded to in varying degrees throughout Carol’s history. Marguerite Sauvage does an amazing job of presenting a soft and idyllic memory that soon turns bad as Carol remembers the awful abusive nature of Joseph Danvers and it becomes interspersed with current day as Carol has a panic attack while fighting Moonstone and Tanalth on Father’s Day. The page of Carol’s mother looming over her, imploring her not to make her brothers’ abuse worse is probably the most memorable page of the issue and just proves the range of emotions Sauvage has at her disposal.
As Carol comes down, she and Tony end up having a long heart to heart about the complicated nature of family PTSD and fathers. This is probably my favorite part of the issue just from how heartfelt Stohl writes the friendship between Carol and Tony and just how warm Marcio Menyz’s colors are. Carlos Pacheco ends up being a bit hit or miss for me especially with regards to his faces, but he does intimate feelings and moments very well, which plays especially well to his favor in this issue because there are so many of those as things get more real. Not to mention his page of Carol flying through the air as she goes to visit her mom in Maine is just absolutely stunning.
Carol’s visit to Maine quickly becomes a lesson in “You can never go home again” though when in the middle of an argument about why Carol’s been away, she lets her brother Joe Jr. drive off drunkenly and he ends up crashing his car off a bridge. She tries to rescue him, but he ends up sustaining long term brain damage. In her guilt over the incident, a short visit turns into nine months as Carol helps her mom take care of JJ. Tony tries to get her to come back, but she refuses.
At this point, it seems like the entire mini-series might just be Carol coming to grips with her guilt and her trauma with not much superheroics. Stohl writes it in such a heart rendering way though that I could easily read six issues of Carol unpacking her past by just talking it out with friends and family.
But then… the bottom falls out, and suddenly, neither Carol nor the reader really know what Carol’s true backstory is. It’s a brilliant and unexpected twist that suddenly makes me want to read the entire story now.
Margaret Stohl’s take on Captain Marvel has all been leading up to this moment and if the first issue of The Life of Captain Marvel is any indication, it is the revamp/dissection has desperately needed for years. It just might be going in a different direction than any of us expected.
Story: Margaret Stohl Art: Carlos Pacheco and Marguerite Sauvage
Story: 9.0 Art: 7.5 Overall: 8.25 Recommendation: Buy
Marvel Comics provided Graphic Policy with a FREE copy for review