Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Unsung Issues of Captain Marvel

So much is written about Jim Starlin's revival of the Captain Marvel character and title (and rightfully so), yet there's almost never any mention of the excellent series of stories that the writer/artist team of Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom brought to the book after Starlin's departure. Their prelude to the main arc was the Lunatic Legion/Trial of the Watcher story, which led Mar-vell to return at long last to his home world of Hala in order to advise and warn the Supreme Intelligence:

Only to find that his enemy was--oh, heck, I won't spoil it for you. Just pick up the book with issue #36 and find out to your delight that there was, indeed, life after Starlin for the good Captain. All in all, Englehart and Milgrom crafted an interesting and thoroughly entertaining series of stories than ran for 11 issues. It may have also been my first exposure to Milgrom's work, at least on pencils. Over the years Milgrom has become such an "all-purpose" penciller (Secret Wars II would be a good example) that it's sometimes easy to dismiss his work as rushed or generalized; but I enjoyed his art a lot on this book, particularly with he and Englehart apparently working so creatively well together.

Once Englehart left, the book would flounder under various writers who didn't seem to want to take Mar-vell in any specific direction, something which Starlin proved Mar-vell could not only sustain but excel at with readers. And I think it was that indecision which signalled the beginning of the end for the book. Even at its peak, Captain Marvel was never able to free itself from its bi-monthly publication; so if you have the character at loose ends, in a long string of one-issue battles which really do nothing to show the character has (or even desires) a future or growth for himself, it becomes harder to even keep the readership you had established when Mar-vell was riding a wave of popularity.

If you haven't read them, the Englehart/Milgrom issues will usher Mar-vell out for you on a good note. The high note, despite its tone, would be the Death of Captain Marvel graphic novel, which almost leaves you the impression that something extraordinary ended much too soon here--and far too undeveloped.


Super-Duper ToyBox said...

the artwork on this is perfection!

Karen said...

I just finished the Marvel Masterwork that collects these issues last week (although I had read them all back when they first came out). I agree, they were entertaining books. Not to the degree of Starlin's efforts, but that would be hard to match. Still they filled in much regarding the Captain, and highlighted the dual personality relationship with Rick. And yes, Milgrom's art actually looked pretty good!

Comicsfan said...

I was very surprised by how much I enjoyed Rick physically tagging along with Mar-vell during this part of the series--a much more effective use of him than the floating-head-from-the-Negative-Zone communication we were restricted to seeing when the two had to switch places. Their adventure really served to solidify their friendship, as well as a different bond between them than the one that had been originally forced upon them.