Marvel's New Captain

It's an unfortunate coincidence that Sally Ride, the first American woman to travel outside of our planet's atmosphere, would pass away, at the age of 61, in the wake of Kelly Sue DeConnick's new Captain Marvel series. Instead of celebrating those woman who have managed, despite not only the force of gravity but also a sexism that similarly serves to try to keep them grounded, to touch the sky, we are, instead, mourning one of them. 

Of course, DeConnick got me thinking along those lines even before Ride's death-- Captain Marvel #1 is so good, in part, because its author problematizes stereotypes about gendered work without ever seeming heavy handed. Ride's death, which weirdly mirrors what goes on within these pages, does, however, put a fine point on these critiques; that the comic's first piece of dialogue ("LUCKY ME! IF IT AIN'T CAPTAIN AMERICA'S SECRETARY, MS. MARVEL!) is meant to suggest just how little distance we've come from the days when a journalist asked Ride if she wept if things on the job didn't go quite right. 

To tell you the truth, I don't feel I'm well enough versed in gender studies to properly analyze the book any further along those lines, so, putting it in the only adequate language I can muster, its unfortunately striking just how feminist this book is. When I say its unfortunate, what I mean is that it is unfortunate that it is striking at all; in the best of all possible worlds, every mainstream superhero comic would be as aware as this one is. Sexism is so entrenched in the genre that the two often seem to go hand in hand, but if this book can manage any traction at all, its a good first step towards a more enlightened status quo. 

Which is to say, basically, that Captain Marvel #1 should be very good. And, in fact, it is, if you read it out loud and do your damnedest not to look at the pictures. The unfortunate fact of the matter is that Dexter Soy is a terrible artist, and in particular a terrible partner for DeConnick-- while the writing is alive, almost crackling with energy and ambition, the art is stiff, sludgy, painterly in the worst possible way. At his best, Soy is a low rent Mike Deodato and, at his worst, well, you get zombie Captain America: 

Sorry for the crappy iPhone picture, but you see what I mean.
The cynic in me says that Soy's assignment to the book is Marvel's desperate attempt to get it canned. I can't imagine the book will sell very strongly if it continues to look this dismal, particularly in comparison to both Jamie McKelvie's clean design and to Ed McGuiness's truly excellent cover (which you can see above). There does, however, appear to be hope at the other end of the gutter, since Captain Marvel is shipping twice in October, and both issues are drawn by the far superior Emma Rios and I can only hope that, from that point forward, the book will thrive. We need more books like this; as sad as it is, we seem to need a reminder that it isn't only Tony Stark and Thor who can touch the sky, that there is as much, and probably much more, to admire in Carol Danvers and Sally Ride.

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