Weekly Highlight: Captain Marvel #17

If you’re not overly familiar with Carol Danvers, don’t worry; neither is she.

Formerly Ms., now Captain, Marvel has had quite a rough year, culminating during this summer’s miniature event The Enemy Within with a display of audacity that saved the world and destroyed a decent chunk of her memory in the process. This week marked the final issue of this chapter in her story, with what can best be described as part celebration of who Carol is, and part prequel to who she’s set to become.

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The celebration begins on the opening cover, featuring members of the “Carol Corps.,” the de facto fan club surrounding all things Danvers. The cover implicitly acknowledges that which the story later acknowledges explicitly: Captain Marvel is bigger than one person, or even one creative team. She, and this issue, is a product of a great deal of love and support from a wide and diverse community, a symbol of Hope (with a capital ‘h’) to those whose lives she graces – regardless of which side of the fourth wall you’re on.

A fantastic narrative conceit frames the issue and justifies its Captain Marvel 101 approach despite being a double-digits issue, making this an ideal “jumping on” point for anyone who’s thinking about picking up the brand new series next year, or who simply wants to give the character and her world a shot. And it really is “her world,” because writer Kelly Sue DeConnick has populated Carol’s life with vibrant and lovable characters unusually strong for a supporting cast. The star of that cast is Kit, the 8-year-old superfan who, from page one, is devoted to helping her role model in Carol’s time of need. The relationship between these two is heartmeltingly sweet, reminding us that it’s not merely in the midst of planet-threatening battles that Captain Marvel is a hero, but also in the quiet moments between, stooping down to look a child in the eyes and tell him not to let the mean kids bring him down.

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The sheer exuberance of such moments is brought to life by Filipe Andrade’s wild (borderline erratic) pencils and Jordie Bellaire’s ever-gorgeous coloring. Bellaire’s talent is as obvious as it is omnipresent (seriously, how many books has she been on lately?), a strong case (if not the strongest) for why colorists need more attention from the industry. Andrade’s work is perhaps more divisive – honesty demands it’s a reason I’ve been reluctant to follow the book consistently – but here it shines in a story whose energy vindicates his originality. There is nothing predictable, hard-lined, or cold about Captain Marvel, and Andrade & Bellaire deliver a visual style to match that emotional tone.

In addition to Carol’s slow rehabilitation and a city recovering from yet another deflected-at-the-last-moment catastrophe, this issue introduces us to a new force to be reckoned with in the form of Grace Valentine, a tech-savvy media guru with an axe to grind and an all-too-blatant obsession with Randian philosophy. We meet Grace at a turning point, not only in her career but in her identity, and it’s an exciting tease at what DeConnick has in mind for 2014.

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However the real headline-grabber is the final-page reveal of a new hero, inspired by Carol to take up the title she hasn’t worn (much to the chagrin of die-hards) for a year: Ms. Marvel. Though there are on-panel cues, confirmation of the mysterious girl’s identity has already split the Internet wide, for Marvel’s latest heavy hitter is a brand new character named Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American Muslim teenager from New Jersey. A new series focusing on Kamala (named, appropriately, Ms. Marvel) will debut next year alongside the new volume of Captain Marvel, though it remains to be seen what (if any) the relationship between the two Marvels will be.

From cover to cover, Captain Marvel #17 is a celebration, of Carol Danvers yes, but also of the power of fans, of friends, and of community, delivering the often tacky “everyone can be a hero” message in a way that feels decidedly genuine and encouraging. I don’t remember the last time I read an issue of anything, let alone something I hadn’t previously been following, and felt this good about it. As such, whether you’re a fan of Captain Marvel who (how?) forgot this was coming out this week, or a complete outsider who has never even heard of Earth’s Mightiest Hero, I simply can’t recommend this issue enough.

5+/5 [Instant Favorite]

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