Writer: Kelly Thompson
Artist: Lee Garbett
Colorist: Tamra Bonvillain
Letterer: VC’s Clayton Cowles
Cover Artist: Mark Brooks
Editor: Sarah Brunstad
Publisher: Marvel Comics
After relaunching the ongoing tale of Carol Danvers ahead of her big-screen debut, Kelly Thompson begins her second year on Captain Marvel with a new arc (very ominously) called “The Last Avenger.” But what does that mean? Based on this first installment, I’m not sure.
As someone who wasn’t a very big fan of Carol’s immediate post-Civil War II status quo, Thompon did a pretty admirable job of reinvigorating my interest in the character when she took over the title right before Captain Marvel hit theaters earlier this year. I think a big part of the reason why I’ve been enjoying Thompson’s run thus far is because it grounded her back on Earth and delved into her relationships with others, instead of keeping her in space like most of this decade’s Captain Marvel stories have done. Even though she’s a cosmic being and one of the Marvel Universe’s most powerful characters, she’s still (half) human. I’ve always preferred Carol when she’s portrayed more like Clark Kent or Hal Jordan as opposed to their superhero alter egos, Superman and Green Lantern.
So, because of my recent on-and-off history with the Captain Marvel title, it’s pretty surprising (to me, anyway) that I’m intrigued by “The Last Avenger.” It’s hard to talk about this storyline from the onset because it begins in medias res without context or explanation for what’s happening, which makes for an exciting — but mildly confusing — reading experience. Essentially, we find Carol in a very different mode, picking a fight with Thor that basically spans the entire issue. At the end of the issue, Carol’s goal is made very clear in a way that I won’t spoil here, but I will say it left me wondering how quickly the end cliffhanger would be walked back and resolved. It’s not a criticism per se, because I’ve been reading monthly superhero comics long enough to know that they live and die on twisty turns that will undoubtedly be undone sooner than later, but it’s still pretty effective as a “WTF?!” moment. I also wonder how effective the apparent villain of the story will be to those who aren’t familiar with them, as they’re a newer character who debuted in a comic that I assume not many people read — certainly not Captain Marvel fans, anyway. If you have to identify a pivotal character in the letters column after the fact (which this issue does), that’s probably not a great sign.
While Captain Marvel #12 moves along briskly, it’s pretty emblematic of decompressed monthly comics at their worst, comprised mostly of pages that look nice and are fun to read but ultimately don’t move the story much. It wouldn’t be a problem in a trade paperback collection, but with individual issues being as expensive as they are these days, you kinda want them to have more substance than this issue does for what you’re paying. I don’t mean to knock Thompson’s script in saying that; it’s a criticism of the format opposed to the writing. When you read a single issue of Unbeatable Squirrel Girl (RIP), for example, you know you’ll be sitting there a while to digest every last nook and cranny of detail. Thompson’s script here is fairly sparse in relation to Lee Garbett’s art, which means you’ll be flying through it just as quickly as Carol does.
Speaking of the art, Captain Marvel #12 is the first issue following the departure of its original monthly artist, Carmen Carnero (she left to draw one of the next launches in the Dawn of X line, apparently titled X-Corp). Thanks to Garbett and returning colorist Tamra Bonvillain, however, the transition is fairly seamless, with visuals that are consistent with Carnero’s style but not totally identical. Bonvillain’s colorwork in particular proves how vital colorists are during artist turnover; your eye won’t necessarily notice if a penciller/inker has changed if the colorist remains the same. She applies the same dimension and tone to Garbett’s linework used for Carnero that you’d be forgiven for not noticing something is different than before. I also quite like Garbett’s “dark” Captain Marvel design featured prominently here, which riffs on the now-standardized Captain Marvel uniform with darker colors and eerie impersonality (and I’d be remiss not mentioning that Thor spends the entire issue in his brawny, hairy-chested glory, as wonderfully drawn by Garbett).
Captain Marvel #12
- Intriguing story premise that leaves you asking questions
- Artist turnover from Carnero to Garbett is seamless
- Hairy Shirtless Thor
- Begins very jarringly and might leave you wondering if you missed an issue
- Very decompressed and little "there" there in terms of story in relation to the page count
- Carol fans might not enjoy yet another dark turn for the character