Monday, March 4, 2019

A Star Is Shorn

We can probably all agree that, aside from her status as one of Captain Marvel's first Earth contacts in the Kree soldier's premiere appearances from the late 1960s (and continuing into his first series), the woman known as Carol Danvers is primarily known for becoming the '70s heroine named Ms. Marvel, as well as for her conflict with the mutant named Rogue, whom she fell victim to shortly after her return to Earth from the dimension of Limbo.

Given the circumstances of her "decision" to leave Earth in the first place, Carol parted company with the Avengers and began spending time with the X-Men, due in part to Spider-Woman's involvement in her rescue from Rogue's attack.  Eventually, she would cross paths once more with Rogue, a meeting that naturally reopened old wounds but also proved to be life-affirming for her in terms of moving on from the past and charting a new future course for herself.

And it's indeed Carol's future we address today--specifically, an identity she adopts which would be explored in comics stories for roughly fifteen years but seems barely mentioned in comparison to her history as Ms. Marvel.

And that calls for exploring yet another

Marvel Trivia Question

When did Carol's identity as Binary cease to exist--and why?

To answer that question, we have to start at the beginning--and since the X-Men have never been known for staying out of harm's way, that takes place when Carol and the team are captured by the Brood, alien enemies that they had prior dealings with and who now have the intention of implanting a Brood egg within each X-Man so that, when it hatches, only the nascent Brood survives, absorbing the genetic potential and abilities of the host. But their examination of Carol has yielded results that warrant further study--and for Carol, that unfortunately translates to almost sadistic experimentation by her captors.

The Brood are obviously willing to proceed recklessly, and certainly irresponsibly, almost in an effort to see how bad bad can get in their pursuit of greater power and resources in the advancement of their race. Yet Wolverine, whose healing factor has destroyed his own implant, is on the loose, hunting for the rest of his group--and while he sees that the Brood holding Carol pay in full measure for their actions, he may not have arrived in time to prevent the changes that appear to be taking place within her.

Thanks to the rescue efforts of Wolverine and Carol, the X-Men, along with the Shi'ar Majestrix, Lilandra, escape their captivity and launch to freedom, with the Brood in pursuit. The Brood, however, must be careful in recapturing their prey, so as not to cause harm to these "hosts" of their progeny--but they have no way of knowing that Carol is now struggling with the ramifications of their tampering of her genetic makeup, becoming a being who now strikes back and deals with them without mercy.

Soon enough, as Lilandra and the X-Men begin to conduct repairs on Lilandra's ship, it becomes clear to everyone that Carol's power is now off the scale--but what to call this new force that is sorely tempted to make the universe her home? Carol may still be undecided on the latter--but her name, at least, is settled on, representing the duality between Carol and her status as a living star.

But there is still the X-Men's problem to deal with--and after much prodding, Wolverine at last reveals the grim details--and prognosis--concerning what's been done to them. Carol--Binary--is furious at the news, blasting out of Lilandra's vessel and seeking out the nearest Brood world-base on which to vent her anger ("venting" being foremost on the X-Men's minds, as well, having to deal with the sudden decompression caused by her exit). Let's just say the X-Men fare far better than the Brood when their experimental subject returns to deliver the first installment of payback against this hunter-race that has pushed their luck too far.

To make a long story short, the X-Men eventually triumph against the Brood, in addition to escaping the fate intended for them (though returning to Earth too late to save their mentor, Charles Xavier, from his own Brood egg--but that's a horror story for another time).

While on Earth, Carol, at least, has a happy ending for the time being--at least as happy as one can be, coming to grips with facing a life following the attack of a mutant who stole her memories and her former powers. Yet Binary offers Carol an exciting if uncertain future, one that she is ready to embrace.

Dropping in on Xavier's Westchester school, however, Carol discovers an unpleasant reminder of the violation she suffered at the hands of Rogue--the woman herself, who in desperation has come to Xavier for help in learning how to control her power. Yet it's Carol who gives her the reception she believes Rogue deserves.

While what happens next is perhaps a fine moment for what Xavier's school represents, in Carol's eyes the choice she's asked to make is an impossible one. And later, when the Starjammers briefly return to Earth and Scott Summers comes aboard, Carol is ready to make her choice as to how's she'll spend her life--and where.

And deep space is indeed where Binary roamed, with various appearances in this title and that, for the next decade and a half. But a turning point for the character appears to occur* during twin instances that have her dealing with the theoretical "white hole" phenomenon that her power as Binary allows her to tap into; as a result, it's a very different Binary who shows up out of the blue to make her bid to be on the new Avengers team that forms when that title is re-launched in early 1998 by Kurt Busiek and George Perez.

*The "white hole" experiences, either individually or in tandem, are widely attributed by various sources to be responsible for Carol's steady loss of her abilities as Binary--though in my opinion, those claims remain unsubstantiated. Neither her actions in saving our sun from destruction by utilizing a white hole during Operation: Galactic Storm, nor her subsequent involvement with the phenomenon while being telepathically manipulated by the Inciters in a story appearing in X-Men Unlimited, is directly ascribed by any story as the cause of Binary's power loss, at least to my knowledge. (Though do correct me if your sleuthing turns up otherwise.) My guess is that Busiek simply wanted to tap Ms. Marvel for the team, rather than a powerhouse like Binary.

When the new title's opening crisis has passed, it looks like Carol has, out of necessity, made her choice as to which identity she will adopt as an Avenger, though she's yet to settle on a name--a struggle which continues as she and the Beast check off one name after another.  (We could presume that she still associates the "Ms. Marvel" name with the incident involving Rogue--though the fact that her powers are different might have something to do with it.)  But Tony Stark (as Iron Man) notices another struggle that Carol is engaged in, though an observation she deftly sidesteps.

In addition, the woman now calling herself "Warbird" becomes adept at changing the subject during those instances when Captain America raises the issue as to why she isn't utilizing her Binary form in situations where it would be appropriate. Combined with her growing problem with alcoholism, it isn't long before the matter boils over.

Finally, a formal tribunal is convened on Carol's behavior--and while her defense is robust, so is her level of denial.

Consequently, Carol is demoted to inactive status, sidelined indefinitely. But when further incidents take place following her departure (including downing a commercial jet while inebriated), she finally comes clean with the government, and with herself--and in time, she rejoins the Avengers, with Binary by this point being relegated to a footnote in a life that has hopefully found direction again.

"Wait a minute!" you're saying? "Back it up there, pal!
"You said the X-Men weren't able to save Charles Xavier!?"


Anonymous said...

What a coincidence - I was in my local supermarket this morning and I saw a "bookazine" (sort of a cross between a book and a magazine) about Captain Marvel (Carol Danvers) featuring strips throughout her career from Ms. Marvel to her present incarnation as Captain Marvel. But also included was her time as Binary and that very X-Men cover was featured.

Tiboldt said...

'Carol parted company with the Avengers and began spending time with the X-Men, due in part to Spider-Woman's involvement in her rescue from Rogue's attack.'

Mmmm. Rather, Chris Claremont stepped in to save Carol - a character that he had a major part in developing - from comics (and actual) limbo and brought her under the auspices of a book he controlled.

Of course, he then empowered her to such a level as Binary that she was unusable and had to consign her back to comics limbo - in space this time.

I never much cared for the name Warbird anyway. Did she ever battle Deathbird with that name?

Big Murr said...

I'm interested to see if the movie will finally create a usable character. Bring her into actual focus after fifty years of (what's her name this month?) and (what is her power set?)

Comicsfan said...

Colin, I imagine the shelves will become a little bloated this week and the next with C.M. material. The publicity machine appears to be working overtime to promote the film. (Kudos also to Larson's publicist--the actress is curiously benefiting from a lot of press attention that didn't seem nearly as swarming with her peers in other Marvel flicks.)

Tiboldt, to my knowledge, Warbird and Deathbird never clashed; as to her name, though, the interesting tidbit about it was that, in the process of choosing a new name for herself, she was mentally rifling through a list of warbirds as prospects but wasn't able to settle on any of them, until finally she decided to choose "Warbird" itself. Talk about shortlisting it!

Murray, I'm not sure if/when I'll see the film, but whenever a new C.M. appears I'm always curious how the character arrives at designating themself a captain--to say nothing of "Captain Marvel." In the wisecracking world of Marvel films, she'll no doubt receive her share of quips on the subject from Stark et al. until it grows tiresome. (Which won't take long, I'd guess.)

Anonymous said...

My description of a "bookazine" is obviously just a trade paperback. Not sure why I didn't just say trade paperback :D