Captain Marvel (2019)

My knowledge of Marvel’s actual comic books extends to a bit just beyond the original Secret Wars, plus Grant Morrison’s 2004-ish run of New X-Men. The character of Carol Danvers has never occupied very much of my headspace within that. During one of those periods where – I think – her fans would tell you that her writers were just screwing with the character to be meaninglessly cruel, her powers got stolen by Rogue back when Rogue was a villain. This was when Rogue was drawn to be deliberately ugly instead of a supermodel. So Carol occasionally showed up in Uncanny X-Men when I was occasionally reading it, with a new power set and the name Binary.

About fourteenish years ago, I had a lot of extra cash and briefly entertained myself by buying most of Marvel’s line of Essentials reprints, and DC’s similar Showcase Presents. I bought the Ms. Marvel collection and I’m not sure why I kept it, except out of morbid curiosity over the unbelievably awful ending. Apparently the whole “Binary” business came about from X-Men writer Chris Claremont taking perfectly understandable objection to a previous writer being so clueless about what to do with a strong female lead character that he had her get brainwashed and pregnant while the Avengers stood by thinking how nice it was that Carol finally found someone to settle down and birth some babies with. A later writer decided that what Carol really needed was to become an alcoholic.

So in the last decade, some creative teams who want to actually portray the character as heroic and inspiring, led by writer Kelly Sue DeConnick, have apparently turned this mess of a character into something that a younger and more clued-in fanbase has loved. I haven’t read any of these comics, but they certainly sound a trillion times more interesting and more sympathetic to their audience than anything that was done with the character when I was a kid. And it’s this version of Captain Marvel – the one who flies jets for the Air Force and doesn’t wear a black bondage costume – who’s been incorporated into the Marvel movies, played by Brie Larson, and we all found it hugely entertaining.

The movie is set thirteen years before Iron Man, in the days of dial-up connections and Blockbuster Video, and it dots a bunch of Is and crosses a bunch of Ts you didn’t think needed noting. It gives us the early career of Ronan the Accuser and one of Clark Gregg’s first assignments as Agent Coulson. It answers all sorts of questions about Nick Fury and who he’s been willing to trust. They’ve got this digital de-aging business down to such an art that it looks like Samuel L. Jackson made this film immediately after he made Pulp Fiction in 1994.

Most importantly, though, this gives us a great character, one who has some confusion, but a great deal of confidence and incredible power. Like T’Challa and the cast from Wakanda, she’s here to inspire a wider and a more diverse audience than the narrowly-focused world of comics-based stuff typically does. I’m really looking forward to seeing her interact with the other heroes in next month’s Avengers film, and as for our favorite seven year-old critic, we saw the movie and had lunch and went by Payless to get some new shoes as the chain enters its dying days, and he picked himself out a pair of red sneakers with Carol’s logo on them.

Photo credit: LAist

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