As promised in this week’s Dueling Review, it’s time for the origins of the hero now known as Captain Marvel!

Sort of…  Your Major Spoilers (retro) review of Ms. Marvel #1 awaits!

MsMarvel1CoverMS. MARVEL #1
Writer: Gerry Conway/Carla Conway
Penciler: John Buscema/Joe Sinnott
Inker: Joe Sinnott/Dave Hunt
Colorist: Marie Severin
Letterer: John Costanza
Editor: Gerry Conway
Publisher: Marvel Comics
Cover Price: 30 Cents
Current Near-Mint Pricing: $120.00

Previously in Ms. Marvel:  Originally sent to Earth as a spy, the Kree warrior called Mar-Vell quickly became enamored of his new planet, and chose to defend it, even against his own people, including his former commanding officer Yon-Rogg.  Eventually convicted of treason, Mar-Vell narrowly escaped execution and became bonded to an Earthman named Rick Jones, who could switch back and forth with Mar-Vell (known to the humans as Captain Marvel, thanks to his rather euphonisous appelation.)  Mar-Vell even gained himself a lady-friend, one Carol Danvers of the United States Air Force.  During one of his battles with the villainous Yon-Rogg, Captain Marvel caused one of the villain’s devices (the amazingly-named Psyche-Magnitron) to overload, with Carol’s life in the balance!


Love that Gil Kane art, too.  This moment takes place, bee tee dubs, in 1969 in the pages of ‘Captain Marvel #18’, and constitutes the actual, complete and official origins of Carol’s super-abilities.  Obviously, my initial plan was to review THAT issue, but given that you’ve pretty much seen the extent of Carol Danvers participation in it, I thought we might instead turn our attentions to her super-powered debut in the Marvel Universe.  This was a different time in comics, after all, a time when not everyone in the 616 had super-powers…

...yet.  Cut to eight years later, as a new hero swoops of the streets of New York City…


Man, there are a LOT of words on that page, aren’t there?  I do love Ms. Marvel’s flying pose, though.  The story in ‘Ms. Marvel #1’ begins here, with five criminals are making short work of the security at the Third National Bank, escaping with all the filthy lucre they can carry.  Their triumph is short-lived…


While our hero has stopped the visible threat, the thugs and their smash-and-grab technique are only a red herring, a decoy mob sent in by Spider-Man foe The Scorpion!  Their job was distracting the security forces of the bank so that Scorpion could make off with the REAL score by emptying out the entire vault.  While the villain escapes, we get our first good look at Carol Danvers’ battle togs…


As a long-time fan of John Buscema, I will never turn my nose down to his art, especially when applied to the female form, but Carol’s costume is something of a mess.  The combination of booty shorts, long sleeves, scarf and open belly is puzzling on a number of levels, even as a deliberately feminized version of Mar-Vell’s battle suit.  1977 was also the year of Spider-Woman, who got a unique (albeit INCREDIBLY TIGHT) costume of her own, so it’s a little bit of a shame that Carol ends up sporting this peekaboo ensemble.  Of course, there’s another matter to consider: Carol Danvers doesn’t KNOW she is Ms. Marvel.  Carol has arrived in New York to accept a job from J. Jonah Jameson as editor of a new magazine for women called… “Women Magazine.”  At Jonah’s office, she hits the jackpot, bumping into Mary Jane Watson of all people, and explaining pretty much everything we need to know…


Mary Jane, against her better judgement, leaves Carol alone, at which point our hero collapses in her apartment, passing out on her bed.  At the same time, The Scorpion’s plan becomes clear: Pay off a sinister evil scientist to boost his powers so that he can take out his rage on the man who made him the monster he is today, one J. Jonah Jameson!  Moments after Scorpy absconds with the publisher, the mysterious unknown hero (*coughtotallyCarolcough*) arrives!


Carol’s power set includes a mysterious psychic “Seventh Sense” that allows her to track down the villain to his lair, but once she’s there, we get a good look at what Ms. Marvel is capable of.  In a world where the major superheroines use force fields or “hex bolts”, Ms. Marvel is something of a whole new breed….


Superhuman speed, strength, endurance and a mean sucker-punch?  This is NOT Mel Torme!  Or Marvel Girl, for that matter.  Also, her costume is not only peekaboo in the front, but also backless, proving that “lingerie-inspired” street wear isn’t a modern convention.  Still, the art throughout this issue is really good, especially by 70s Marvel standards, with Ms. Marvel clearly getting special care and handling in her big debut.  It’s hard to argue with the results, either, as Ms. Marvel’s first bout with The Scorpion (who Silver Age Spoilerites may recall, took Spider-Man for the proverbial full 9 rounds) is a short affair, with MacDonald Gargan giving her no trouble at all, and getting, in the wrestling parlance, squashed.


I like to think that the word balloon expressing her dismay at Scorpy’s fate is a late addition (and given the odd balloon shaping and script, there’s evidence for it) to try to lighten up Ms. Marvel’s two-fisted ass-kicking demeanor.  Having beaten her first villain, she tells JJJ that she has officially chosen the nom de guerre of ‘Ms. Marvel’, then ditches Jameson, leaving him still chained in the Scorpion’s lair.  The next morning, Jameson has a new superhero target for his rage…


Interestingly, this issue doesn’t actually reveal what we have known for decades in 2014, that editor Carol Danvers and superhero feminist badass Ms. Marvel are one and the same, a situation that only lasts for a couple of issues, as I recall.  The issues with her costume are somewhat ameliorated quickly, as well, with the tummy and back windows getting filled in quickly enough, and lasting a couple of years until she got her black-and-gold ice-dancing uniform.  As first issues go, it’s quite strong, setting up Carol’s character and showing her superhero identity to be a no-nonsense powerhouse, leaving Ms. Marvel #1 with a very impressive 3.5 out of 5 stars overall.  As 1977 Marvel comics go, this is one of the best, and one can see the seeds of the Captain Marvel she would become in these pages…



Good-looking art and interesting bits of story make for an impressive debut for Carol Danvers as a super-duper.

User Rating: 4.7 ( 1 votes)

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Once upon a time, there was a young nerd from the Midwest, who loved Matter-Eater Lad and the McKenzie Brothers... If pop culture were a maze, Matthew would be the Minotaur at its center. Were it a mall, he'd be the Food Court. Were it a parking lot, he’d be the distant Cart Corral where the weird kids gather to smoke, but that’s not important right now... Matthew enjoys body surfing (so long as the bodies are fresh), writing in the third person, and dark-eyed women. Amongst his weaponry are such diverse elements as: Fear! Surprise! Ruthless efficiency! An almost fanatical devotion to pop culture! And a nice red uniform.

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