Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Beware The Hatred of... Una!

For many of us, the story of Una, the love interest of Captain Marvel who accompanied him on his mission to Earth under the command of Col. Yon-Rogg, was before our time. In the world of comics, that wouldn't necessarily present a problem, as memorable, classic characters have a way of remaining popular and reigniting interest despite when they first appeared on the scene; but Una had a few things working against her in that respect. For one, she was as low on readers' radar as Mar-vell himself was in those late-'60s stories as the character struggled to catch fire, his stories about as two-dimensional as himself as well as the book's cast of characters. Also, Una's apparent raison d'ĂȘtre was as a focal point for Yon-rogg's enmity towards Mar-vell, as Yon-rogg's desire for Una went unrequited due to her attraction to Mar-vell.

Yet, until Elysius came along to take her place by Mar-vell's side as the book neared the end of its run, Una held on as Mar-vell's only meaningful love interest long after she'd been literally written out of his life--perhaps because, with the exception of the off-again/on-again interest of Carol Danvers, Una was the only woman stories could refer to as the one who held Mar-vell's heart.  A status likely helped by the circumstances of her tragic end--caught in the crossfire of a pointless battle between the Kree and their enemies, the Aakon.

Obviously Mar-vell is thinking from the hip here, knowing that he must escape from the Kree as well as from the confines of Earth and thus becoming an outlaw to each race, but in the process forfeiting any options he might have to save Una's life. And thus it's in space, within a primitive Earth rocket, where Una eventually meets her end--and Mar-vell decides to transport her to an asteroid located near Mars, where she will forever lie in repose.

But, later, when Mar-vell again crosses paths with Yon-rogg, the Colonel implies that Una's death isn't necessarily final:

Nothing ever comes of Yon-rogg's claim that he can restore Una to life; such was the state of Yon-rogg's anger toward Mar-vell in regard to Una that Mar-vell turned out to be essentially correct when he boiled down Yon-rogg's claim to "taunting, torturous ravings." But this scene would prove to be an essential part of Eon's argument when bringing Mar-vell to revisit Una that a bloody vendetta for the sake of love is ultimately self-defeating.

So it would seem the character of Una has reached (pardon the expression) a dead end, and you can almost hear the cries of "good riddance" as Una really never made much of an impression in terms of readers keeping her alive in forums or clamoring for her return. But return she does, in body if not in spirit, in a story written nearly two years later by Steve Englehart who takes advantage of the fact that Eon, the entity who gave us a very different and much more sellable Captain Marvel, can nevertheless neglect to tidy up after himself.

As we can see, Una is still in the state that Eon left her--a corpse brought back to life, but without a soul. Easy prey for a passing parasite that finds exactly what it needs in the Una-that-was.

My problem with this scene is the same problem I had with Jim Starlin's portrayal of this soulless form during Mar-vell's experience, in that a walking corpse isn't likely to struggle or scream, in horror or otherwise, when it comes under attack. (How does one react with "mindless horror," an oxymoron if ever there was one? Wouldn't one need to have a working mind, with its resident emotions, to be horrified?) As we'll also learn later, the creature feeds on the hatred of Una's past memories; but since when does a corpse have memories?

But for this story to work, we have to elbow such concerns aside--and it's frankly worth it to do so, because it turns out to be a cool read. Starting with Una arriving at Cape Canaveral, and seeking out the woman whom she loathes almost as much as Captain Marvel:

For Una went to her death believing that Mar-vell and Carol Danvers were developing feelings for one another (an impression Yon-rogg naturally fomented at every opportunity); and while Una remained loyal to Mar-vell, clearly there remained some unresolved feelings of resentment that the creature inhabiting Una wishes to fan to a flame.

As for Mar-vell, he's closing out his affairs on Earth and preparing to return to the Kree homeworld. To him it seems only fitting to return to the Cape, the place where his life on Earth first revolved around, and say his farewells to the people he'd met there. Imagine his shock at seeing sidewinder missiles fired toward him--and, as a distraction, having to avoid a rocket launch. Only a hail-Mary pass with one of his nega-bands saves him from disaster:

But the horror of the evening truly hits him as Carol appears in both pain and shock--two things which are in evidence in another confrontation that follows.

On some level, it's clear that Mar-vell realizes that what he deals with is not truly Una; but the sting of her words, sounding so convincing from the source that appears to be his lost love, begins to sufficiently distract him so that he's unsure of a course of action. But as it grows stronger, the creature's exuberance returns Mar-vell's attention to where it should be: the thing which has violated and corrupted the form of the one who had meant so much to him. Una is dead, irrevocably--and it's an issue that both Mar-vell and Englehart put to rest once and for all.

Una's second death in his arms is the impetus that makes Mar-vell's departure from Earth all the more easy, his memories of Una rushing back and closing the circle on how his life was ripped apart upon his arrival due to his mission and the machinations of his superiors. The story also sets up Mar-vell to be reunited with Rick Jones, who has likewise found Earth no longer to his liking and wishes to accompany Mar-vell off-world, setting up a new series of stories involving the Kree.

Interesting enough, there's no mention this time of where Una will be interred, as the following story seems to indicate that her body wasn't returned to Hala (at least by way of Mar-vell's own ship). If that somehow suggests that we might be seeing Una again one of these days, it's probably the consensus by now to let sleeping medics lie.

Captain Marvel #40

Script: Steve Englehart
Pencils: Al Milgrom
Inks: Al McWilliams
Letterer: Tom Orzechowski


Anonymous said...

gosh, what a difference from Starlin. We have to be even more thankful to Mr. Starlin.

david_b said...

I know I've been corrected a few times, perhaps inconsiderate to the Englehart/Milgrom tenure on MarVell, but it just didn't hold any significance for me without Starlin.

It's like a Gerber-less Howard the Duck.

Comicsfan said...

While I've already gone on record as being a fan of the Englehart/Milgrom run on CM, I do agree that Starlin is a hard act to follow. I wouldn't have minded seeing more of his work on this book without an epic to tuck Mar-vell safely into, since his stories with both Mar-vell and Warlock hit such high notes when they were dealing with expanded storylines and grandiose concepts that were plotted out over months.

Would Mar-vell have continued to be as impressive if he'd remained on Earth, even under Starlin's watch? I think it's unlikely; for one thing, what do you do with all that cosmic awareness, even if you're tagging along with the Avengers? And if he instead hung out in the cosmos, as Warlock did, he'd have to lose Rick Jones and hopefully find the readership and intriguing concepts that Warlock let slip away. I think that Milgrom and Englehart picked up Mar-vell's reins as well as anyone; and in time, perhaps Starlin would have found himself just as daunted as anyone who tried to breathe new life into this character and sustain his interest.

Anonymous said...

Mar-Vell is actually a hero for our times. A soldier deserting from his war-mongering people. It pratically writes itself, just look around. Snowden is in Exile in Moscow, Mar-Vell hides on earth. There would have even been another mega-crossover possible (although Marvel was more hesitant at that time): Exile on Earth. With the avengers arguing whether they should subject earth to the risk of hosting one enlightened e-soldier. Of course, Mar-Vell would have to had access to some super-secret stuff from the supreme intelligence... Oh my, this is probably more than just fan-fiction :-)

Anyway, I stick to the point that more would have been possible with this highly complex character. Even your post with the old stuff from before the change to the blue and red uniform would seamlessly fit into this.

Tbh, I never read any of the books that followed Starlin. I did read the second last and last books however, with Moench writing and Borderik pencilling and found those stories quite interesting, too (CM having adventures on Titan in a story drwaing upon the ramifications of Thanos' terror on Titan - again, drawing on concepts by Starlin).

So, a lot would have been possible with this traitor, but no one had the courage?

Mirko, YeaHaw!