Captain Marvel / Carol Danvers: Where Do I Start?

captain-marvel-11Guys like Iron Man and Batman, they’re white-collar heroes — heroes whose billionaire status gave them an easy path into the role of superhero. But for more working class heroes like Spider-Man, you don’t have money to fall back on — only your mind, your body and the principles you were raised on. You might not think it, but Marvel’s Captain Marvel is just as much a blue collar hero as Spider-Man.

Created back in the late 1960s by Roy Thomas and Gene Colan, the future Captain Marvel Carol Danvers was introduced as a hot shot Air Force pilot who received super-powers when she hung out with the wrong crowd — Marvel’s original Captain Marvel — and was caught in an Kree bomb blast. Taking the name Ms. Marvel, Danvers started as a female counterpart to Captain Marvel but was written as a stead-fast stand-firm person with her skills and wits about her, standing on her own against the likes of Sabretooth and Mystique years before they’d become part of the X-Men franchise. She spent time with the X-Men (including being inside the head of Rogue for years), and went on to become an Avenger — but not without some ups and downs there too. With the death of the original Captain Marvel early in her career, she always felt she had something to prove with her ties to him but avoided taking it on headfirst until the recent new series Captain Marvel where she finally stepped up to the plate. Now, Danvers sits as one of the Avengers’ primary members and one of comics most popular female superheroes. Not bad for the daughter of a construction worker.

In this week’s Where Do I Start?, we cover the 40+ year history of Carol Danvers — from her years in the military to her roles as Ms. Marvel all the way to her current status as Captain Marvel. Her path in life is a bit convoluted, but we’ll do our best to give you the goods to get to know the House of Ideas’ Captain Marvel.

9780785124993_p0_v2_s260x420Essential Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1This immense tome collects the 23-issue run of the first Ms. Marvel series that ran in the late 70s, along with a two-part story soon after and up to her fateful confrontation with Rogue that led their unconventional pairing in Uncanny X-Men for decades following. These stories are written primarily by a young Chris Claremont, whose ability to write convincing and nuanced female characters is on full display here years before he took on Marvel’s mutant heroes. Danvers faces off with some greats here like a debuting Mystique and also some oddities like Steeplejack, but the stories here are a great tale of Danvers-as-Ms. Marvel coming of age as a superhero.

Captain Marvel, Vol. 2: Down: Although I’ll recommend the preceding volume later on, I put this second set of issues head and shoulders over the first six from this new series. Writer Kelly Sue Deconnick starts off here with original series artist Dexter Soy, but shortly after is joined by a vibrant new artist named Filipe Andrade that seems to pair much better with the character and the writer. In this story, we see Danvers trying to juggle a normal life with the demands and desires of being a working super-hero, and how the dangers of her job can seriously affect her life as a whole. I don’t want to spoil anything here, but this collection looks to be pivotal in the future of Carol Danvers as a character.

9780785165507_p0_v3_s260x420Captain Marvel, Vol. 1: In Pursuit of Flight: This first collection of Danvers’ tenure as Captain Marvel shows writer Kelly Sue Deconnick and artists Dexter Soy and Emma Rios going back her roots as a pilot when she ventures into an almost Quantum Leap-style story to investigate the mysterious death of an early 1900s pilot and a top secret NASA program. Tying Danvers into her roots as an aviatrix gives some new ground and a new base to establish Danvers in her new role as Captain Marvel, and Deconnick’s writing has a snap and irreverence to it that gives the lead character a memorable personality that makes her more than just a “female superhero.”

Ms. Marvel: Best of the Best: This book collects the first five issues in an early 2000s Ms. Marvel series which shows Carol Danvers stepping back up to the plate after years of being a B-list hero (or worse). Written by Brian Reed, this shows Danvers trying to live up to her potential as previewed to her during the then-recent House of M storyline. Danvers has some A-list powers, and this storyline shows her trying valiantly (and sometimes desperately) to match up to that in skills and presence. Although released years before she took over the mantle of Captain Marvel, this collection (and this whole run) works as a great prequel to the current Captain Marvel series to see her awkward early days trying to act like a hero before she became one herself.


  1. I feel its my duty to chime in whenever KSD’s Carol Danvers is mentioned. If you’re not reading Captain Marvel you’re doing yourself a disservice.

  2. I really enjoyed the Brian Reed series a lot, probably more than most other people did. I picked up the first few issues of the new series and it was pretty good, but I dropped it because my pull list was getting too big. Since I continue to hear good things about it I’ll be picking it up in trade for sure.

    • I liked the Brian Reed series as well, though it did start stronger than it finished, and it suffered a bit from the various events that interrupted it. The stories with her little squad of special forces SHIELD team were particularly fun. Was that still Reed? I can’t remember.

      She’s a complicated character who’s had a lot of conflicting writers, and I think without Brian Reed working through some of those issues it would have been much harder for Kelly Sue to have the good starting point she had.

      I also dug that big Kang story Busiek did where she had her brief romance with Kang’s son. It’s been ages since I read it, though, I don’t know if it holds up.

  3. Good list, but one small point of order – Claremont began writing Ms. Marvel after he was already well into his X-Men run, not before. Seems like he never slept in the late ’70s!

  4. Pre civil war I liked the character. But in civil war she was a fascist, post civil war she was Tony’s puppet in Avengers and I’d given up on the character. Now she’s got a DC name and a costume I don’t like and I don’t like the art in her book anyway. I’ll content myself with reading the old stuff where I liked her.

    • Yeah, I was really enjoying her solo series up until Civil War, where she became pretty unlikable. I think that kind of derailed the series. An argument could be made that a military woman would follow the orders handed down by her government, but I just never bought Carol siding against Cap.

      Regardless, I have really enjoyed the new series. The art, name, and costume (which I love) have all changed, but Carol is back to form, and I’m loving that.

  5. Anything out there that covers her becoming a cosmic-awareness imbued badass named Binary and hanging out with the Starjammers for a handful of years?

  6. I think I might have to try and track down some back issues of this series; there are just too many good things said about it to ignore any longer.

  7. I’ve read so many good things about the current series, I’ve already preordered that Vol.2 trade. Maybe I’ll dig into the rest after that. Thanks for this list…