It is not hard to see where Marvel Studios get all their ideas from as they sit upon a rich heritage of characters and storylines that will take decades to exhaust. I am somewhat of an old school Marvel fan and know the classic runs. Therefore, the newer creations flummox me. Captain Marvel is more new wave than my knowledge allows, but that has not stopped me looking forward to the upcoming feature film. What better way to enter the theatre, but by doing some revision in the form of Tess Sharpe’s Captain Marvel: Liberation Run?
Carol Danvers is better known to most on Earth as Captain Marvel, one of the most powerful heroes on the planet. Thankfully she is on our side and is Commander of a force that protect us from external threats. One such threat appears when a hole rips in the sky and an alien spacecraft crash lands. Captain Marvel is first on the scene and rather than facing a formidable foe, she finds a frightened young woman who is in need of Earth’s greatest hero.
There is something very present day about Liberation, this is a book that appears on the surface to be about aliens and superheroes, but is actually more about feminism and the #MeToo movement. Captain Marvel is perhaps the strongest superhero on Earth and she just happens to be a women. Sharpe uses the book to not only explore the power of the superhero, but also the lack of power that women can have. On her off days Carol Danvers is not really allowed to bring out her flaming arms when confronting misogynists.
The book opens as it means to go on with an interesting scene in which Danvers protects a young women at the bar from a predatory male. This idea expands when we meet the piolet of the crashed spacecraft. Rhi has escaped from the planet of the Damarians, a race that subjugate women. Not only that, Rhi is from a faction of Inhumans who left a decade earlier to find a new life. Their superpowers proved interesting to the Damarians and they have enslaved all Inhumans, men and women.
There is more than a touch of Handmaid’s Tale about this book and that is even reinforced in the narrative itself when one of the characters reflects on this. The way that the women are treated on this far away planet will fill most readers with a righteous anger. At times it is as if Sharpe leans heavily into this to allow some quite brutal scenes as the women get their vengeance. The arguments for freedom and equality are great in this book, but at times a little more subtly would have worked just as well. You don’t always need Thor’s Hammer to crack a walnut.
Liberation Run also has the mixed blessing of being an up to date Marvel creation full of fresh characters. This is great for those who are reading Marvel comics today, but is a little full on for fuddy-duddies like me. It appears that Sharpe was well aware that not all the characters are the best known in the Marvel Universe as the first 80 pages or so are introductions to different characters and some development of their personality. One of the benefits of using established heroes is that you can skip some of the preamble as people will know Spiderman’s origins etc.
With the likes of Ant Man and Mantis joining The Cap (not that Cap) there is some great banter between the heroes. The cast is mainly female and you do get a deeper and different perspective on events because of this than the normal male heavy ensembles. That is not to say the action is lacking. The scenes towards the end are full Marvel action and would look immense in a graphic novel or on the screen – although it may just have to be a 15 certificate.
There is a sense of morality to Liberation Run that allows it to stand out from the crowd as you know our heroes seek true justice. It is just a little heavy handed in places. There is a touch of naivety about the characters themselves and this informs their actions. With so many younger characters the book slips between being a rather brutal action novel into something more akin to a YA book. Being introduced to new characters and having my outrage buttons pressed was great fun, if a little exhausting at time. I would certainly read more Captain Marvel as it always good to read books from the perspective of a powerful female character. Really, it does not matter if she is a woman or a man as Captain Marvel just rocks.
Written on 2nd March 2019 by Sam Tyler.
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