Secret Empire. If you read comics (or have read our articles) you know about the event. There’s no reason to rehash what it’s about here, and frankly, the less said the better. The bad news is that for the next couple of issues, Carol’s story is tied to the event. The good news (and it’s pretty good news, folks) is that Margaret Stohl is still writing. Also, there is a new artist team in Michele Bandini, Michael Garland, and Erick Arciniega. We’re still getting top-notch art, and a continuation of the direction Stohl has been taking with Carol. So, love the event or hate it, rest assured, Carol is still Carol, and this book is still good.
The events of the first arc of Mighty Captain Marvel righted the ship after Civil War II ended. We only got five issues between events, but what a great five issues they were. Carol has put her Alpha Flight team back together and reconciled with her earthbound chums (most of them anyways). She also suffered some heartbreak when the Hala child called Bean won a place in her heart, and then was swiftly taken from her. If that wasn’t enough, a crazy geneticist “broke” Carol’s powers, and she sometimes overloads and does tons of damage. So there’s that. Poor Carol. It’s not going to get better any time soon.
The book opens with Carol taking stock of her life. She’s got her Alpha Flight team and her great gig in the sky. (That’s a Pink Floyd reference for you young kids out there). She’s also started a new Alpha Flight Cadet program. Her first three recruits include a kid Black Widow recommended, the winner of a Stark science expo, and a Wakandan robotics prodigy. They are here for on-the-job educations in whatever it is Alpha Flight does. (What do they do again?) The first thing she does is chuck them in the “Blood Shed”, a hand-to-hand combat sim not unlike the X-Men Danger Room or the Mud Room in Detective Comics.
While the cadets train, Carol meets with the Stark scientist she rescued from Tony’s Polar HQ. He’s figured out a temporary countermeasure for dealing with Carol’s power overload. (If she goes bonkers, she just has to stab herself with a special Hala star, no biggie). While there, she’s alerted to a bunch of ships that have come to Alpha Flight. It seems that the Chitauri swarm is on its way to Earth. Most of the Guardians of the Galaxy have come for support (not Drax, he’s a pacifist now), along with Monica Rambeau, America Chavez, and Quasar.
Big Ol’ Space Fight
The cadets continue to fight imaginary Chitauri and get to know each other while Carol prepares for battle. It seems the planetary defense shield is down, so Carol and Alpha Flight are Earth’s last line of defense. (I guess that’s what Alpha Flight does). Readers of the event comic may already know what’s going on with Steve, the Chitauri, and the planetary shield, but Carol doesn’t. She scrambles her forces and heads out to meet the threat head-on like a hero does.
Carol and pals fight the oncoming storm of Chitauri while Steve and the rest of SHIELD presumably work to get the planetary defense shield up. The cadets exit their training sim only to find actual Chitauri warriors at their doorstep. They hold their own against the real thing well enough. Soon the shield is up and the first wave is over. Everyone assesses damages while Carol chats with Steve. It becomes clear that this was all orchestrated by Steve himself, and they are locked out of Earth as part of Steve’s false flag operation. Carol is none too pleased about it. Carol is someone you don’t want to piss off.
Secret Empire is the most divisive event Marvel has concocted in recent memory. Most fans are either singing its praises or boycotting it entirely. We’ve not seen or heard much in between. As part of the latter group, it was disappointing to see that Mighty Captain Marvel was one of the tie-in solo series. We don’t like Secret Empire, but we love us some Carol. Ultimately, love for Carol won out, and we’re glad it did.
This book is a beacon of hope in an event that is dragging one of Marvel’s most beloved heroes through the mud. Carol is doing the best she can with what she has, and Stohl and company are bringing fresh new diverse faces into the story. Carol’s cadets have great representation, particularly Glory, who is Filipino, queer, and to top it off, has a disability. She proves to be the most capable of the three.
Likewise, Carol’s team of heroes includes Monica Rambeau and America Chavez. All told, this book on its own has better representation than entire runs of other comics, and we think that’s tops.
The new art team is a good fit. The action (of which there is a lot in this issue) flows really well panel-to-panel, and never loses us. The new cadets’ interactions are enhanced beautifully by body language and expression, and we get to know them pretty well almost right away. Glory’s artificial legs are very cool looking to boot. We love their rendering of Kris Anka’s Captain Marvel redesign. (We just wish she used the cowl more often. The cowl is cool!)
The book starts off with a look inside what Carol’s been feeling since she lost Bean. She’s had things pretty tough but is just starting to feel some sense of normalcy. Unfortunately, all that comes crashing down with the arrival of the other heroes and then the Chitauri swarm. You can’t help but feel bad for her, or empathize with her frustrated promise of retribution at the end.
Carol and her team stand up against impossible odds, prove what kind of heroes they really are, and ultimately win the day, though not without a few bumps and bruises. Their victory is short-lived. The last few pages of the book are Carol’s slow realization that she’s been betrayed, intercut with images of the rest of the team nursing their wounds. It’s a heart-wrenching moment punctuated by Carol realizing the actual stakes. She’s mad as hell, and after reading this, we hope she’s the one who gets her hands on Hydra Steve first so she can punch some sense into him.
Margaret Stohl has proven she knows Carol and can write a fricking comic book. Love or hate Hydra Cap, this issue is a great one, and we’re champing at the bit to see what happens with Carol next. Too bad it’s a month away.
Fandomentals Rating: 9/10 Dead Chitauri
The Mighty Captain Marvel #5: Band of Sisters Part 1 of 4
Writer: Margaret Stohl
Artist: Michele Bandini
Colorists: Michael Garland & Erick Arciniega
Letterer: VC’s Joe Caramagna
Images Courtesy of Marvel Comics and CBS