If you thought Captain Marvel’s backstory was complicated and haven’t heard of Monica Rambeau you don’t know the half of it. There is, in fact, another Captain Marvel superhero that was introduced during the 80s who gained her powers via a rift in space. She’s a bit different than Captain Marvel featured in Marvel’s upcoming film however as she can turn herself into pure energy. Here are three reasons why Monica’s TPB proves there’s room for two Captain Marvels in the Marvel Universe.
So what’s it about?
The official summary reads:
Before Carol Danvers took the name Captain Marvel, the mantle was held by Monica Rambeau! A police lieutenant with the remarkable power to transform into energy, Monica began as a reluctant super hero — but soon rose through the ranks to become field leader of the mighty Avengers! Now, witness Monica’s debut; her earliest encounters with Spider-Man and the Avengers; and an extradimensional team-up with Thanos’ brother, Starfox! Monica clashes with Powderkeg and the Sons of the Serpent in little-seen solo tales — but what prompts her to give up the name of Captain Marvel and evolve into the next phase of her heroic career?
Can I jump in easily?
Very easily. This collects the origin of Monica Rambeau as a superhero and her adventures in stories that originally published between 1983 and 1994. You get the sense when reading this collection Marvel was trying quite hard to establish this character be it via the Avengers series, Team Up, or special solo comics.
Reason 1: A cosmic origin tied to a real danger.
When I started reading this collection I had only known Monica Rambeau from her time as the leader of Nextwave from Warren Ellis’ excellent series. She was always a strong-willed character with great leadership skills, but this collection sheds light on her difficult time coming to grips with her powers and her place amongst the main Marvel superheroes.
One of the coolest aspects learned while reading this is how she got her powers. She gains them from an accident, but a very different one. A scientist seeking to do research ends up forced to work with a shady dictator due to the American government not being interested. This leads to his once innocent science being turned into a cosmic weapon far more dangerous than even the atom bomb. In Monica’s attempt to stop the dictator she is imbued with extra-dimensional energy allowing her to convert her body to energy. She ends up stopping the dictator by sacrificing herself but survives due to her tangible nature. This, in turn, makes her powers undefined and chaotic at times further complicating her place among other heroes. It’s an origin I could easily see Marvel Studios adapting to the big screen due to these cosmic powers being connected to a threat anyone can understand. Given how strong this character is I could easily see Monica being Captain Marvel at the same time as Carol Danvers. That is, if the film does well of course!
Reason 2: Girl power.
When you read comics from the 50s through the 90s there are definite signs many stories were written for boys based on how women are portrayed. The stories collected here, however, are far different representing Monica as a strong woman who stands up for herself in a society where men put her down. It’s visible from the very start before she even gains superpowers when she pushes back on her boss who keeps giving out promotions to the men at the shipyard she works at. Later when she’s a hero male villains take her abilities for granted and she shows them they’re wrong. Even Spider-Man comes off as chauvinistic in the opening chapter following Monica around when she’s in street clothes because he assumes she needs protection. You also see signs of this via some of the male heroes like Hawkeye who whines at one point about Wasp being the team leader. Captain America puts him in his place.
Reason 3: A hero trying to fit in while learning on the job.
A common theme throughout this collection is how Monica doesn’t quite understand her powers nor how to use them. It gives her a unique place amongst the Avengers since her powers were delivered to her via an accident and even the scientist who was involved in her gaining her powers doesn’t know how her powers work. It adds an interesting layer to the narrative since she must work through these strange abilities even while fighting. It also allows the series’ creators to play around with new abilities and evolve her as they go along. Her power set is so powerful it makes sense to have them change and make it difficult for Monica to keep track of what she can do.
Reasons to be wary?
Some of the plotting can be quite clunky and story choices can show signs of age when it comes to narrative structure. Take for instance Monica’s induction into the Avengers who seem to think her having superpowers is enough to let her join. Maybe have her test out being an Avenger for a bit? When the book goes to great lengths to feel genuine and deliver a believable story, like Monica’s home town of New Orleans being a big factor in her costume design, it makes clunky choices to progress the plot quickly.
Is there a rationale for the reasons?
I wasn’t sure what to expect from this read through but discovered some long lost gems of ideas and superheroism. The fact that I came away from this book thinking Monica should be a big-time movie Captain Marvel is a good sign of how well her story is pulled off.
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