Tuesday, 18 November 2014

Captain Marvel, Volume 2: Down Review (Kelly Sue DeConnick, Christopher Sebela)

After reading her surprisingly good Avengers Assemble series, I thought it’d be worth revisiting Kelly Sue DeConnick’s Captain Marvel – was I too harsh with the first volume? Welll… not really, unfortunately. 

Here’s why I think her Avengers series is basically the opposite of her Captain Marvel series, and why they differ so much in quality. Avengers Assemble is a series which has volume-length arcs that are self-contained, hence no Volume 1, 2, 3 etc. and anyone can pick them up and enjoy them – it’s great for casual readers. Structurally they’re the standard superhero template of villain wants to take over world/steal something valuable, hero stops them, though DeConnick sprinkles lots of cute moments throughout to make it stand out from the dross. You get to read Avengers talking like witty, contemporary people, cracking jokes, being silly – it’s a fun time and it’s clear that these comics are playing to her strengths as a writer. 

Now Captain Marvel. The colourful cast of Avengers is reduced to one and replaced with a dreary band of nobodies that just aren’t interesting. There’s the woman who’s doing a doctorate or something, there’s the little girl who idolises her, and there’s the old lady in the park who feeds the bird. Cripes, that is one boring group! And in a series that is numbered, you want long story arcs that play out and pay off – and DeConnick can’t do it. 

Her story in the second volume is a mishmash of unconnected things. She fights a transformer robot in the ocean for some reason, then battles something called Deathbird for way too long (three issues, I think), and discovers she can’t fly due to a brain tumour. There’s not a lot here to get excited about and DeConnick can’t make the reader excited about them with her writing. 

She treats them as background distractions while she tries to shovel in as much clever dialogue as she can but, without the sounding boards that are the other Avengers, they fall flat as it’s mostly just Captain Marvel herself (to be fair, Jessica Drew and Steve Rogers cameo but these are much too brief appearances to make much of an impression on the book as a whole). Plus the stories are so predictable – d’you think she beats the transformer robot/Deathbird/dinosaurs/anything that crops up? Duh!

The art is something of a problem with this series too. The Jamie McKelvie and Joe Quinones covers are awesome and I did like Emma Rios’ art in the first volume, but in the second book we get Dexter Soy and Filipe Andrade. Soy’s art over the first two issues (the transformer/ocean story) is actually quite decent. Andrade’s? it looks like he drew the whole thing in marzipan! Syrupy anime-esque drawings of human-ish characters with bizarre arms and legs slop across the pages while their faces are a constantly warping miasma of features (is that an eye or a mouth?!). It’s such a thick, convoluted drawing style that it looks like there’s a barrier between yourself and the page – and the art is right in front of you! 

The irreverent approach to Avengers Assemble is fine for that title – there are loads of Avengers comics out there, why not have a comedy one? But there’s only one Captain Marvel comic and it needs to be better than this. She’s being pushed front and centre thanks to the forthcoming movie and she’s only going to become more popular. Her comics need to be more interesting, more emotional, and more developed than they are under DeConnick, because right now it’s a meandering bore. Like the first volume, I have to say that I want to read a great Captain Marvel comic – but this ain’t it.

Captain Marvel, Volume 2: Down

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