Known for her work on Valkyrie and Warhammer, Torunn Grønbekk is taking on Captain Marvel in a new annual issue this week. Paired with Carlos Gomez, the story features everyone’s favorite space crew the Starjammers with Cyclops’ dad leading the show. Annual issues are always a good time as they offer a lengthier story and a done-in-one story at that. This issue is not only a fun space adventure, it also has a strong message about the evils of prison systems. Didn’t expect that, did you?
First and foremost, this is a tightly written and drawn issue. It sets up Captain Marvel’s focus, establishes the parameters she’s navigating, offers plenty of character moments, and gets out of the adventure in an entertaining way. All this, and offers an exceptional commentary on incarceration.
Much of this extra-sized issue is about Captain Marvel learning about an alien prison system that is nearly impossible to get out of and even when your time is spent, most don’t have the skills to move on and thus stay put. The commentary is certainly leaning towards for-profit prison systems, but the general idea is conveyed well. It’s also never preachy, but just a good fictional story that alludes to the horror of the concept of prisons and how it’s not there to help anyone but those who make profits off it.
This issue is also quite good at making you want a Starjammers book. The Starjammers don’t enter the story till a quarter of the way in, but once they do show up they’re all interesting and get a little something to do. Grønbekk is great at capturing their personalities through dialogue and Gomez captures a lot of personality in their faces. You’ll want to hang out with them and they’re quirky enough to feel distinct than the Guardians of the Galaxy.
Captin Marvel is surefooted and written like a great hero who follows a plan. She gets to show off her powers more than once and generally speaking it makes sense why she’d be entering a prison. There’s a bigger story here involving a specific person that needs saving. That culminates in an ending that is heartfelt and may even play a part in future stories.
The art is economical and does a lot on every page. As an annual, there are more pages, but even then there’s a lot more story here than even other annual issues. Gomez and Dijo Lima do a wonderful job with all the superpowers and futuristic alien prison environments too. The book never gets too flashy with full-page splashes, but there’s a richness in every panel as there’s no skimping on details and background characters. A lot of work went into this visually, and it shows.
I can’t get over how Captain Marvel Annual #1 offers a space adventure worth exploring while offering intelligent perspective on prison systems. This is how it should be done if you want to infuse superhero storytelling with social commentary.
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