Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Back From The Dead--Captain Marvel!

During the Marvel Civil War comics event, I was one of those who picked up a number of the secondary issues associated with it. Links-in-a-chain stories that seemed meant to entice the reader in a sales cycle toward the main series, and, by extension, more of those issues that were scripted separately yet closely tied to it. Those linked stories never really resolved the disagreements or divisions that were ripping through the main title--mostly, they were supplemental reading, and some of them were actually nicely written and fairly satisfying. Some, however, like "The Return"--the issue that heralded the original Captain Marvel coming back in his own title--couldn't help but remind you of a carrot on a stick, enticing you with the promise of something good but instead leading you on and leaving you with very little of substance.

I took this cover at its word: "A Marvel Comics Event," it proclaimed. I guess that depends you how you define the term. Instead of saying, "Wow, what an event!", you're likely to finish the story saying, instead, "That was an event?" Perhaps the stark white cover should have been a tip-off, with its virtual promise of an extraordinary tale within and which wasn't about to give you even a peek of what the story was about. You'll notice the iconic "star" graphic which of course resembles the one on Mar-vell's uniform--but in the spirit of full disclosure, I've enhanced its outlne and coloring, since on the original cover you can only barely make it out (assuming you squinted, and caught the cover in just the right angle of light).

All of that said, the story does its job of opening the door for Mar-vell's return. You could even regard it as Captain Marvel #0, before going on to pick up a copy of his first issue. It probably goes without saying that the truth behind his miraculous return from the dead (as well as his identity) would be reserved for the later main title; but in this particular issue, we find Mar-vell going over in his mind the circumstances of his death and rebirth, as well as the complications that would arise as a result. But, boiled down, the story could be summarized by a quote from Jean-Luc Picard: "A lot of questions. Damn few answers."

Most intriguing of all, perhaps, is how and where the story begins--in the special incarceration facility in the Negative Zone known as "42," built to detain those super-beings who refused to comply with the Super-Hero Registration Act. And guess who the warden of the prison turns out to be?

The facility, we find out, is in dire straits, with its prisoners escaping and the facility headed toward destruction. Which, aside from everything else, means that Mar-vell finds himself on the verge of finally returning to an existence in normal space, among those who had long since mourned him and gone on with their lives. And so, amidst this crisis in "42," Mar-vell does something very un-Mar-vell-like:  spending his time pondering more personal matters, rather than stepping up and dealing with the facility's crisis and safeguarding the men and women depending on him.

Specifically, he remembers one of the periods where he'd been floating in the Negative Zone (presumably during the time when he was exchanging atoms/places with Rick Jones on Earth), and was drawn to a mysterious portal--a result of the experiments which created the conduit to "42" and which took hold of him and drew him forward in time to the facility. The Sentry was present at the time, and after confirming Mar-vell's identity he conferred with Iron Man and Reed Richards and presented Mar-vell with a startling request:

Mar-vell, of course, has some counter-questions: How is it that he's dead in this time period? Do his friends and loved ones still live? And he learns of the circumstances of his death, from cancer which developed from his exposure to nerve gas during a battle with Nitro. But as to why Stark, Reynolds, and Richards want Mar-vell to remain in "42" as its warden, the answer--like this issue itself--ties in with the Civil War.

As is evident, the story relies a great deal on Mar-vell's sense of duty. Mar-vell's normal course of action might be to attempt to return to his own time, given that he'll die from the cancer in either case--why complicate matters with trying to acclimate to a future time period, given his reluctance to re-enter a life where he's been deceased for so long? We're forced to assume that Mar-vell accepts the assignment as Warden in order to give himself some time to to come to grips with his situation. Yet now, with the facility about to fall, he's forced to finally decide on whether or not to remain in this time period and face the ramifications of that decision:

Mar-vell's lingering over his nega-bands while in self-reflection is likely meant to heighten the drama of the final page of the story that has him soaring back to the Marvel Universe, though their removal in the first place is a little curious. If I had to take a guess, I suppose it has something to do with wearing them while in the Negative Zone; and it would take a team of scientific minds to later discover that his nega-bands were actually slowing the progression of his cancer, so Mar-vell as yet has no reason that he knows of not to remove them. (Though you'd think Reed might have informed him in that respect.)

And so the final page has Mar-vell making his decision and not looking back:

...er, back, that is, at the facility where he was its Warden.  The facility (along with the men and women under his command) that he's abandoning like a sinking ship. It seems this new Captain Marvel has already made his first impression.

Did you enjoy "The Return"? Did you manage to snag that carrot? No?

If you picked up the issue, you were in for another surprise: the book only dedicated half its space to Mar-vell's story, while the other half featured a battle between the Sentry and the Absorbing Man:

The Sentry, at this point, has not yet made his decision in accordance with the Registration Act, and this second story focuses on that decision and his reason for making it. In the meantime, a fight that features someone of the Sentry's power level with an opponent like the Absorbing Man has its level of fascination--i.e., if Creel absorbs that kind of power, how could even the Sentry prevail against him? Let's find out:

Loki obviously didn't mention to Creel that his power had limits--though perhaps that was intentional, should Creel ever decided to turn on his benefactor.

As for the Sentry, he makes his decision to register mostly as a safeguard against his becoming a menace to the world:

Though I'm guessing those nervous-looking policemen are hoping it won't come to that.

Civil War - The Return #1

Script: Paul Jenkins
Pencils: Tom Raney
Inks: Scott Hanna
Letterer: Dave Sharpe

1 comment:

yeahaw berlin said...

I'm sorry, but i belong to those who would have liked this captain marvel to return.
It's a damn shame and a fraud to boot (since this book cost money).
Raney would have been a fitting artist. And yes, the story with the 42 prison made no sense but could have provided for interesting interaction with the rest of the MU.
ah, could've should've...