Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Think of me then as God

Captain Marvel 51 - 54 ("Crazy like a fox")

"Read it, you fools, or else they'll cancel it and then you'll ... er I'll ... be sorry."

You know what it's like. You've got a comic book you absolutely love, but you weep when you reach the circulation figures. Each month you wait for the axe to fall, hoping that the assembled mass of comic book readers might wake up. Almost certainly, they won't.

Peter David's Captain Marvel is gone now. It struggled on till issue #60. By this arc, there were about 30000 of us. Perhaps we right and you were all wrong, or maybe you spotted something we missed.

The major theme of these later issues is the insanity of the eponymous hero. Genis (Captain Marvel) is a cosmic level hero who has been simply unable to deal with this level of power. He responds in increasingly bizarre fashion, telling everyone he is god. Most horribly (I can't bear to reread this arc), he gives a psychopathic mass murder a healthy dollop of power.

At the start of issue #51, Genis instructs veteran sidekick Rick Jones, with whom he is molecularly bonded, to commit suicide. Rick jumps out of the nearest window, and dies. Genis then goes on a rampage, blowing up spaceships and killing various aliens he believes will one day conquer the galaxy. Genis' family, the Titans, turn up in an attempt to stop Genis. They include Elysius, Genis' mother, a minor character who was killed for no good reason years ago. Feeling lonely, Genis resurrects Rick. Another Captain Marvel, Phyla, fights Genis. Phyla is Genis' sister, despite Genis having no sister - two different universes appear to have merged. They end up in limbo, where Genis eventually claims to have been cured of his insanity. The Titans let him go. In the final frame, we are left not knowing whether or not Genis is insane or not.

I'm of two minds about this whole storyline. If you respect a writer, and Peter David is the only reason I would ever contemplate buying a "Hulk" comic, then you have to want to go where they take you. Having an uber-powerful and insane lead character is a novel idea which deserves exploration. On the other hand, I like my heroes to be heroes. I despise vigilantes like the Punisher. I don't read Batman and Wolverine, a passionate devotee of knife crime, deserves a long spell in chokey. I quit Elektra when I figured out she was just a sociopath with expensive lingerie. I suspect that Genis' insanity may have destabilised the audience of what was already a marginal book. In these issues, we have a resolution which allows Genis either to continue being (covertly) insane, or cured - an advantage for the writer, but I felt short-changed.

The strange limbo world had an awful lot of similarities to Jim Starlin's work - it could have been taken straight from the "10000 Clowns" issue of Warlock. Nevertheless, it's not every day you see a Marvel character fired into a pile of elephant dung, so we'll forgive him. And there were some good jokes

Mentor: "I am Mentor, leader of the Titans"
Rick: "I thought Robin was leader of the Titans"

Elysius: "I should never have let her start monitoring earth television."
Eros: "Don't be that way. Besides, you've been monitoring it as well, and it hasn't affected you."
Elysius : "Oh, fine. Whatever"

It seems to me that runs by even the best of writers start to deteriorate somewhere around 50 issues. Perhaps the insanity episodes show the decline had begun, but it would have been good to have the opportunity to find out. Give Peter David a couple of years to recharge his batteries, and a relaunched Captain Marvel would be top of my pull list. Hopefully without the insanity.


Blogger Phillip said...

Wait, I thought Cyborg was the leader of the Titans? Seriously, though, that's hilarious. Maybe I should pick that up...

10:23 am  
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