Review: Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell

Mitch Nissen Mitch Nissen
September 19th, 2017

Grew up reading comic books in the 90's. Marvel fan at heart. Hulk, the Midnight Sons, and Marvel's cosmic universe are my favorites.

Review: Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell

Marvel Comics continues their promotion for the Marvel Legacy event with the Generations: Captain Marvel & Captain Mar-Vell one-shot. ComiConverse contributor Mitch Nissen digs deep into Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell’s legacy.

The history of the Marvel Comics Captain Marvel is a winding and convoluted epic. But once you begin unraveling the story you’ll learn that it is one of Marvel’s best kept secrets. Many great and wonderful characters have donned the mantle: Mar-Vell, Monica Rambeau, Genis-Vell, Phyla-Vell, and finally Carol Danvers.

Current Captain Marvel scribe, Margaret Stohl, with artists Brent Schoonover and Jordan Boyd have come together to bring Carol Danvers face to face with Captain Mar-Vell once again.

Brief Synopsis

Without warning or explanation Carol finds herself in the Negative Zone battling Annihilus’ hordes. As Carol is overrun by the enemy a stranger comes to her rescue. In moments she sees Mar-Vell step forth from the smoke of battle. The two heroes join forces and ultimately drive Annihilus and his swarm off planet. After a brief respite Carol disappears, presumably back to her own time.


Carol Danvers is character with several legacies. There’s her legacy as Ms. Marvel, Binary, and ultimately Captain Marvel. Her team legacy as a member of the Avengers, X-men, Starjammers, Guardians of the Galaxy, A-Force, Ultimates, and Alpha Flight. Then there’s her legacy in relation to Captain Marvel (Mar-Vell) and those who have carried on Mar-Vell’s legacy in between.

Margaret Stohl and Brent Schoonover explore the latter of Carol’s legacies in Generations. Carol and Mar-Vell are reunited for the first time in a long time. But what should be a huge moment for Carol is quickly brushed over once she realizes she’s in the past. Carol's thoughts and feelings when reunited with a long dead friend would've made for a compelling read but the story barely touches on it. Where the book started off with Carol’s internal monolog, Carol’s thoughts are then denied us or sparse at best once Mar-Vell enters.

Instead of learning how being with Mar-Vell again is effecting Carol, Carol’s thoughts become closed off to us after she briefly questions his legitimacy. From this point on the book becomes a standard team-up scenario. Mar-Vell and Carol appear to mean little to one another and Mar-Vell’s significance to Carol is scarcely explored.

To learn what Mar-Vell means to Carol read Ms. Marvel vol. 2 #48-50 by Brian Reed.

Credit: Marvel Comics

This story appears to take place before Mar-Vell contracts cancer. Carol mentions how he died of cancer but she never once ponders giving him information that could prevent him from succumbing to cancer in the first place. This is curious since her character was completely driven by using information from the future to prevent deaths and disasters in last year's Civil War II event.

Marvel History. Way back in Captain Marvel #34 (Mar-Vell’s original run) Carol was in charge of a convey transporting deadly experimental chemicals across the country. Her convoy was attacked by the villain Nitro where he attempted to steal a canister of the chemicals. Mar-Vell arrived and defeated Nitro but was exposed to the chemicals. That exposure was directly responsible for him contracting cancer and dying. Carol was responsible for guarding those chemicals. Carol’s feeling on having played a part in Mar-Vell’s death have never been explored.

Mar-Vell is written rather melodramatically in his speech, depicted as inept in battle, and rather bland overall. His presentation isn’t that of a particularly great or powerful hero. The reader doesn’t come away feeling they’ve glimpsed a Marvel Comics legend. He doesn’t have any dynamic action sequence nor does he come across as an effective combatant at all, his only highlight being when he acts as a sniper at the beginning of the issue, something particularly uncharacteristic of Mar-Vell.

He doesn’t engage in direct battle until the end of the book where he is easily defeated by Annihilus. When Carol discovers an ominous secret passage he tells her to enter first. And he doesn’t speak up on Carol’s behalf at the council of Mydonia, instead he lets her put her foot in her mouth. In the end the lesson Carol learns from him is to think first then act. A lesson to which Carol seems to forget by the end of issue where she tells Mar-Vell their strategy of, “Punch the badguys.” Instead of outthinking their enemy they merely defeat him with pure force.

If this book was a reader’s first exposure to Mar-Vell it’s doubtful this depiction would gain traction. As it is it hardly exemplifies the title, “The Bravest” as there is little real peril in the book.

It’s hard to feel any strong attachments to the characters when the writer appears to have none themselves. What comes across here is an apparent lack of interest on Stohl’s behalf for Mar-Vell or complete indifference. This is shown through not only Mar-Vell’s depiction but also the setting Stohl chooses for the story. This story could’ve taken place during Mar-Vell’s legendary battle against Thanos. Or Mar-Vell saving the universe during the Kree/Skrull War. Or Mar-Vell vs Nitro or even Mar-Vell’s deathbed, which Carol was absent from.

Credit: Marvel Comics

The setting Stohl did choose, that of Mar-Vell vs Annihilus, is ripe for potential. But Stohl treats Annihilus similarly to how she treats Mar-Vell. Annihilus comes across as just another melodramatic villain, spouting clichéd dialog like “Puny Mortals!” and is easily dispatched at the end of the day. And Carol appears to have no knowledge of Annihilus at all. True, she’s never directly faced him, but you’d think she’d have heard about him during her time as a Starjammer or a Guardian of the Galaxy or even as a leader of the Avengers pouring over villain files.

The melodramatic approach is relegated to only the male characters, portrayed as stubborn, inept, and spouting standard heroic or villainous dialog throughout. The female characters are the only characters in the book with any reality to them. But yet, even Carol has moments of clichéd dialog, specifically at the beginning with the constant Wizard Of Oz comparisons. Hasn’t she been through enough crazy adventures not to be startled by a simple alien planet?

The dialog as a whole is awkward and clumsy. From the onset Carol’s internal dialog sets the tone of this book as a simple and stakeless one-off. And within those parameters the story functions adequately. The tone channels the essence of classic comic books from the 60’s and 70’s, those single issues where two heroes met for a simple fun adventure.

The Art

Schoonover’s approach to the book is in keeping with Stohl’s lighthearted tone. The art has a cartoonish appeal, realistic yet fun. Characters expressions sometimes miss the mark though. Schoonover’s rendering of Carol’s face is especially inconsistent. Aside from the main character’s countenance the pencils are sharp and detailed.

Jordan Boyd’s vibrant colors are perhaps the shining aspect of the book. Boyd’s colors jump right off the page, lending that extra pound of excitement where the writing falls short. Boyd’s colors bring out the best of Schoonover’s art and the two artists compliment each other well.

Credit: Marvel Comics

Brent Schoonover’s art is reminiscent of Kris Anka’s style and design. Anka supplied the art for the majority of the previous volume of Captain Marvel. Anka’s rendition of Carol added a prominent nose and a body builder physique. Schoonover’s work here continues Anka’s distinctive look for Carol.

Anka’s design for Carol is curious as she has never been depicted as such in the past. It also doesn’t make sense with her story. Carol’s powers are derived from a cosmic powered Kree machine, the Psyche-Magnitron. Her strength is not a result of her musculature, yet Marvel has made a point of highlighting Carol’s muscles, and has done so again here. She-Hulk being musclebound makes sense. Carol could be out saving lives instead of wasting her time at the gym.

Perhaps this was the direction Stohl and Schoonover were given for the book too and perhaps the writer had no one at Marvel to help her understand Mar-Vell and learn why he is a great character. Maybe the book ended up this way due to the decisions of the editorial staff. I can only speculate.

This leaves me to wonder who this book was aimed at. Certainly not fans of Mar-Vell or Annihilus. Not fans of Carol’s Ms. Marvel days either as none of that era of her life is touched on. If it’s intended for new readers unfamiliar with one or both heroes, at least one of the titular characters was left diminished by the end. So, who exactly is this for?

I am a big fan of Mar-Vell and I like Carol as Captain Marvel, albeit I feel she was more interesting as Ms. Marvel. I was really looking forward to this book and would’ve thought I’d be an easy target to hit. But after reading the book I don’t feel someone like myself was ever the intended target.

While Mar-Vell has been featured in promotion for Marvel Legacy, his inclusion appears at odds with both Stohl’s approach to the Captain Marvel ongoing series and the Marvel Legacy numbering.

Stohl has written nine issues prior to this book. The story so far has been very female centric with men acting as little more than window dressing. This has been the direction the previous two volumes as well, so such writing is expected. But Stohl has shown no signs of bringing Mar-Vell into her story whatsoever or even really talking about Carol’s connections to Mar-Vell. It is evident in Generations that the writer has little interest in Mar-Vell’s character.

A part of Mar-Vell’s legacy is also being the cosmically appointed Protector of the Universe. Quasar ( Wendell Vaughn) was Mar-Vell’s successor in that role, carrying on Mar-Vell’s legacy. Stohl never once mentions this connection between Captain Marvel (Carol) and Quasar (Avril Kincaid) during the four issues they were together in the Secret Empire tie-in arc.

Why is someone who cares nothing for a main character in this book writing this book? It isn’t like only Margaret Stohl could’ve written this story because of its ties to the ongoing Captain Marvel book. There are little to no ties in Generations to Stohl’s Captain Marvel. Marvel could’ve easily assigned this book to another writer who cared about both characters.

Credit: Marvel Comics

And with Marvel’s renumbering only Carol’s comic books are included in the total. I understand Mar-Vell and Carol are different characters but so are Jane Foster and Thor (Odinson), Riri Williams and Tony Stark, Amadeus Cho and Bruce Banner. Yet these different characters books are combined in their numbering. Why aren’t Carol’s Ms. Marvel books included in Kamala Khan’s numbering? The exclusion of Mar-Vell and Genis-Vell’s volumes from the Captain Marvel numbering drives home the point that fans of Mar-Vell probably won’t be satisfied with this book.

Margaret Stohl picked up the reins of Captain Marvel last year, continuing many of the characters and plot threads laid down by Tara Butters and Michele Frazekas in the previous volume as well as the fallout from Bendis’ Civil War II event. And after only four issues of Stohl crafting her own adventure for Danvers the scribe was forced to write four issues tying into the Secret Empire event.

And now it seems Stohl is forced once more to write Carol into yet another event. Although within these forced directions there is opportunity to do something great but so far the last two years of Captain Marvel books have failed to build any positive momentum. And Generations is a prime example of the problems plaguing these books. Each subsequent volume of Captain Marvel grows shorter and shorter every year before being relaunched with new numbering. The current Captain Marvel book is no exception as it will be restarted after issue #9.

Get a powerhouse artist on the book for a change. Get a writer who cares about all the characters and knows the history. And quit forcing it to tie into your events every other story arc.

And have it make sense. Carol simply decided one day to take the moniker of Captain Marvel. This book could’ve shown readers that “Captain Marvel” is more than just a code name or title. It’s about being the bravest. It’s about doing what’s right when everyone is telling you to do something wrong. It’s being the protector of the universe. It’s being the greatest hero of the Marvel universe.

But Generations wasn’t about any of that.

Marvel’s intentions with these Generations books is sketchy at best. From everything we were led to believe from Joe Quesada, Axel Alonso, and the rest of Marvel’s execs, these books were to remind readers of Marvel’s history and revive their great cast of classic heroes. Generations: Captain Marvel does little if any of that. Whether that’s Margaret Stohl’s fault or merely the directive she was given by her employers in unknown.

But this book missed its mark.


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Mitch Nissen is a Contributor to ComiConverse. Follow him on Twitter: @NinjaMitche

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