Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2

First Published: March 2013

Contents: Captain Marvel #22 (September 1972) to #35 (November 1974), and #37 (March 1975) to #46 (September 1976); Iron Man #55 (February 1973); and Marvel Feature #12 (November 1973)

Key Creator Credits: Gerry Conway, Marv Wolfman, Mike Friedrich, Jim Starlin, Steve Englehart, Al Milgrom, Chris Claremont, Wayne Boring, Alfredo Alcala, and others

Key First Appearances: Lou-Ann Savannah, Thanos, Drax the Destroyer, ISAAC, Chronos, Mentor, Starfox, Blood Brothers, Eon

Story Continues From: Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 1

Overview: Mar-Vell! An alien warrior of the ancient Kree race, linked by destiny for some strange, inexplicable reason with Rick Jones, a youth in whose mined rests the power to save the universe… or destroy it. This is Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2.

Following the events of the Kree-Skrull War (see Essential Avengers Vol. 4), the Captain Marvel title returns to the newsstands after a two-year hiatus. Captain Marvel now has a sidekick of sorts, with pal to the heroes Rick Jones. Now wearing the Nega Bands, Mar-Vell and Rick exchange places with each other between Earth and the Negative Zone. The length of time that one can spend in the Negative Zone tends to vary from issue to issue. Regardless, spending time away from Earth is really putting a crimp in Rick Jones’ dating life (sorry Lou-Ann!) and his budding music career.

After a couple of issues, Jim Starlin takes over the book and the book just explodes in greatness. Captain Marvel (and Rick) head off to space, where they are fighting to stop Thanos from capturing the Cosmic Cube. But before they can get to Thanos, they must face off against the likes of the Blood Brothers, the Super Skrull, and the Controller. And let’s not forget that the Supreme Intelligence still takes great pleasure in trying to make things difficult for the Kree’s wayward son.

Eventually, Captain Marvel and Rick find a way to extract themselves from the constraints of the Nega Bands. As much as they are tired of being linked to each other, they find that they still need each other and choose to remain as travel companions across the galaxy.

What makes this Essential?: This collection is way more interesting than the first volume. Captain Mar-Vell really comes alive when Jim Starlin comes on board as the writer and penciller. Transforming the character from a stranger on a strange world into a cosmic entity that can hold his own with the most powerful beings in the universe makes him much more interesting. And giving him a main enemy to be fighting against rounds out the character and provides an even better reason to keep reading.

Footnotes: Captain Marvel #36 is a reprint of Marvel Super-Heroes #12, the first appearance of Captain Mar-Vell. That issue can be found in Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 1. The new cover and three new framing pages are included in this Essential.

Iron Man #55 is also reprinted in Essential Iron Man Vol. 4.

Marvel Feature #12 is also reprinted in Essential Marvel Two-in-One Vol. 1.

Captain Marvel #33 is also reprinted in Essential Avengers Vol. 6.

If you like this volume, try: The Thanos Quest mini-series from Jim Starlin and Ron Lim from 1990. Given the incredible success of Avengers: Infinity War, everyone is trying to get the back-story on Thanos. Once we get past the Captain Marvel run, Thanos is barely used in the 1980s, usually only in flashback. It’s not until the early 1990s, when Starlin returns to Marvel, that Thanos’ story resumes. In an effort to win the love of Death, Thanos seeks out the Elders of the Universe, who each happens to possess one of the Infinity Gems. If Thanos can acquire all six gems, he can wield the gauntlet and destroy half of the universe. This is an intriguing look into the character, and at times makes him more human. The original issues are quite pricey in the back issue market, so you may want to opt for a trade collection or as a digital read to find these two issues.

Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 1

Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 1

First Published: May 2008

Contents: Marvel Super-Heroes #12 (December 1967) and #13 (March 1968); Captain Marvel #1 (May 1968) to #21 (August 1970); and the Captain Marvin story from Not Brand Echh #9 (March 1981)

Key Creator Credits: Stan Lee, Gene Colan, Roy Thomas, Arnold Drake, Don Heck, Gil Kane, Gary Friedrich, Dick Ayers, and others

Key First Appearances: Mar-Vell/Captain Marvel, Una, Yon-Rogg, Carol Danvers, Mordecai Boggs

Story Continues In: Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2

Overview: Unbeknownst to most of the people of Earth, alien races have been keeping an eye on our home planet. One of those races, the Kree, has parked a spaceship in orbit to do a further observation of the Earthlings. Captain Mar-Vell is sent to the surface for further investigation, finding himself near a military base in Florida. Mar-Vell’s commander, Col. Yon-Rogg, despises his assignment and wants nothing more than to blast our planet to bits and return to the Kree home world. Finding himself at odds with his commander, Mar-Vell breaks ranks with the Kree and vows to protect the Earth as Captain Marvel!

Captain Marvel finds that the Kree are not happy with his decision, as he is forced to face off against Yon-Rogg and Ronan the Accuser. And given that the Kree are the mortal enemies of the Skrulls, of course, the Super-Skrull has to cross paths with Captain Marvel.

In issue #17, Roy Thomas returned to script the book and brought along with Gil Kane for the art chores. Captain Marvel was given his more familiar red and blue costume, and the story starting progressing in new directions. Rick Jones, the official sidekick of the Marvel Universe, joins up with Captain Marvel, and the two find themselves bonded via the Nega-Bands. Because of that, when one is on Earth, the other is transported to the Negative Zone. (And if you know your Marvel history, if Rick Jones is around than the Hulk will soon follow!)

One of the supporting characters created for this series was Carol Danvers, a security officer at the military base during the origin issues of our hero. However, in issue #18 (November 1969), Carol is caught up in an explosion with Captain Marvel. After she has fully recovered, she later finds out that her DNA has been fused with Kree DNA, and it has given her many of the same powers as Captain Marvel. Carol’s story will continue in the pages of her own comic, which have been reviewed in Essential Ms. Marvel Vol. 1.

What makes this Essential?: OK, full disclosure and SPOILER warning time. I never really got into the Captain Marvel character. Want to know why? Because the first time I ever saw the character was in Marvel Graphic Novel #1: The Death of Captain Marvel. He was killed off the first time I read him! And it was a shocking move by Marvel, having a heroic character die not in battle but in a bed from cancer. So given the dramatic finale to his career, I had not desire to go back and read his adventures. In all fairness, the early 1980s still was part of the era where characters that were deceased stayed deceased. Of course, Marvel would reuse the name Captain Marvel (to protect the trademark) with later characters. But in today’s era, sometimes the best characters to use are the dead ones, and a good writer finds a way to resurrect the dead.

So I read this volume only knowing the character’s end. This is a mixed introduction to Captain Marvel. I fully believe this is a book that got much better as the story progressed, so I am looking forward to reading Essential Captain Marvel Vol. 2 sometime soon. (You can read into that if the book got better as the story progressed, then the early issues must have been a rough ride to get through.) The Gil Kane issues in the end of the book were my favorites, as the artist finds a way to make Captain Marvel feel more alive. (I’m still a big fan of Gene Colan, but these issues just didn’t do it for me. Thankfully I have plenty of Colan Daredevil and Dracula issues to enjoy!) Bottom line – I think this is worth reading, but I don’t know that this is worth owning.

Footnotes: Captain Marvel #20 and #21 are also reprinted in Essential Hulk Vol. 3.

Read my review of Showcase Presents SHAZAM! Vol. 1 to learn about the name battle between Captain Marvel and Captain Marvel.

If you like this volume, try: the Captain Marvel series from 2000 by Peter David and ChrisCross. This is a new Captain Marvel, Genis-Vell, who is the gentically-engineered son of the late Mar-Vell. Introduced in a 1996 Captain Marvel mini-series, the character went by the code name of Legacy. He rose in popularity when he was included in Avengers Forever maxi-series, as a future Avenger plucked from time to fight in the Destiny War. At the climax of that story, Captain Marvel finds that he must use the Nega-Band connection to save Rick Jones. Following that series, Genis-Vell moved into his own monthly book, still bonded to his father’s former side-kick. The series ran for 35 issues, before being rebooted in a Marvel promotion in 2002. The reboot, still written by Peter David, ran for another 25 issues. David is one of the best comic book writers, so any of these issues are a treat. Sadly, this is not a series that has been reprinted beyond one trade paperback, so you may need to dive into some back-issue bins to track this one down.