KJ (owlmoose) wrote,

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Stepping into the Marvelverse

Despite being a fan of the superheroes in general, and a long-time reader of graphic stories, I've never gotten into reading mainstream superhero comic books. The canons are gigantic and in some cases go back for decades, which makes them intimidating for a newbie, and I don't like the way that canon is treated as a moving target: endless retcons, the fact that new writers can take the characters in new directions and completely rework a character's personality. So I've always been content to consume my superhero media in the form of movies and occasionally television shows, because they're much more likely to tell a coherent story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. But being even peripherally in the Marvel Cinematic Universe fandom has exposed me to a lot of comics talk, and between that and a number of strong recommendations from outside fandoms, I recently picked up two Marvel TPB collections: Captain Marvel Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Black Widow: Name of the Rose by Marjorie Liu. And I really enjoyed them both.

Of the two, I'd have to say I liked Captain Marvel better. The theme of Carol Danvers coming to grips both with taking on the new identity and with her decision to accept her superpowers, rather than taking the opportunity to rewrite history, was a really strong one, really well executed. Plus I like her character concept: a female superhero who is strong and fast, not sneaky or clever? Not that Carol isn't smart -- she's clearly a veteran military officer with a good grasp of tactics -- but she mostly seems to punch her way out of trouble, which I find refreshing. I also just liked having such a woman-centered cast, not just Carol but Helen Cobb and Banshee Squadron and the women who fight their way into the astronaut training program. The only male presence to speak of was the brief appearance of Steve Rogers at the beginning, and their friendly colleague dynamic was fantastic, as was the way he encourages her to step up into the Captain Marvel name. The writing is strong, the artwork is great, and overall it just made me really happy.

Name of the Rose was also really well done, and I loved Natasha, but I had a harder time connecting with the story. In comparison, Captain Marvel is fairly self-contained, whereas Name of the Rose feels more like an episode in the continuing tales of the Marvelverse. So many named heroes make brief appearances without much context (I'm thinking particularly of Elektra and Bullseye), and without that context I was a little lost as to how they related to Natasha's story. For example, it took me until I'd almost finished reading the first time through to realize that Captain America and James Barnes were the same person in this story, although at least I recognized James as Bucky/Winter Soldier (even though neither name was ever mentioned). I liked it better the second time, mostly because I had a much clearer picture of what was going on. It's a really strong character piece, and it's great to see a story that centers around a different kind of hero, with such an intriguing past. Even though I know it's not strictly the same story or the same characters, it left me even more eager to see more of them in Captain America 2 next year.

So, is this my gateway into the world of superhero comics? Particularly the Marvelverse, which I'm finding more compelling all the time? Well, I certainly will get the next Captain Marvel collection when it comes out. And I'm game for more Natasha Romanoff stories, too, especially if they are as good as this one. And then there's this all-female X-Men book that's supposed to be out soon, and I keep hearing good things about Hawkeye, and... is this where the slippery slope begins? Um, maybe. I guess we'll see! But more than anything, these two great books have made me even more disappointed that there are no female headliners scheduled for MCU yet. Come on, Marvel, you could make a fantastic Carol Danvers movie, and I don't think I need to tell you how badly I want a Black Widow film. Let's make this happen.

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Tags: books, comics, marvel

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