Captain Marvel #1
US: May 2014
The concept of “having it all” is one of those fantasies that can easily become an unhealthy obsession. Sometimes it becomes so unhealthy that in attempting to “have it all,” the most common result is losing it all. The human mind and the human body can only handle so much. And while some are capable of handling more than others, few are ever satisfied with their limits. For someone with the superhuman limits of Carol Danvers, that creates a pretty distressing mentality. However, her desire and ambition to expanding those limits is what makes her persona in Captain Marvel #1 so appealing. She even manages to do this in a way that doesn’t come off as egotistical or petty. She’s basically the antithesis of the Superior Spider-Man.
Carol Danvers has already moved up in the Marvel universe. She graduated from her Miss Marvel moniker and adopted the title of Captain Marvel. This role didn’t just give her a more gender neutral title while reaffirming her role as one of Avenger’s heaviest hitters. Taking on that title also meant her skills and her power could no longer be restricted to one planet. Like the previous Captain Marvel, she had to see herself in a larger role with a much bigger mission. And it’s a role she’s eager in some ways to adopt and reluctant in others. The admitted Star Wars fan in her loves the idea, but the normal woman she used to be has reservations. It’s one thing to move to a new country for her job. It’s quite another to take it into the depths of space.
It also doesn’t help that Carol struggles to articulate those reservations throughout this issue. It shows every bit as clearly as her love of Star Wars. Even though her conflicts are drawing her away from Earth, she still maintains strong connections with family, friends, and a love interest in James Rhodes. In some ways it shows that Captain Marvel has done a pretty good job of “having it all.” She’s powerful, she’s beautiful, she’s an Avenger, and she has a family that she hasn’t alienated yet. That’s something even Bruce Wayne can’t say he’s achieved. Yet it’s still not enough for her. That’s why she wants to take her mission into space. She doesn’t give the impression that she’s bored with the constant Thanos attacks and Skrull incursions on Earth. She just sees this as the next logical step.
But even with the title of Captain Marvel, it doesn’t prevent Carol from being overwhelmed. If she weren’t overwhelmed by such a notion, she would be Lex Luthor and not the charismatic hero that has endeared herself to so many. But in conversations with both Iron Man and Rhodes, she shows a kind of restlessness that’s usually reserved for people waiting in line for the next Apple gadget. Even her own family notices this. She just can’t be content with her state of affairs and she realizes that on some levels. She just isn’t sure how to deal with it.
In that sense, the conflict Carol faces in Captain Marvel #1 is not unlike the conflict a lot of men and women face in their endless pursuit of “having it all.” TV, movies, and cheesy music have gone to great lengths to convince everyone that they can “have it all.” They can have a loving family, a successful and lucrative career, a body worthy of a supermodel, and a sex life worthy of its own lingerie line. It all seems so appealing and it is. What these gimmicks don’t say is that there are only so many hours in the day and only so many opportunities to achieve even one of these things. Being able to achieve them all is like hitting multiple lottery jackpots.
In that sense, Carol Danvers has already hit those jackpots and then some. She is young and beautiful. She has been imbued with great power that affords her the kind of stamina that stay-at-home moms and underpaid factory workers only wish they had. And in Captain Marvel #1, she is basically handed an opportunity to achieve even more. Yet at times, she still isn’t entirely sure of what she wants or what her definition of “having it all” even entails. For someone like her, the bar isn’t just higher. It’s in another time zone. But in the end, she chooses to go after it even if it means leaving other opportunities behind.
This is one of the most powerful messages within Captain Marvel #1. Despite all her reservations and her restlessness, Carol decides to shoot for the stars in both a literal and figurative sense. She doesn’t quite understand what she wants, but she knows how to go about finding it. This essentially sets the tone for the series as a whole. Captain Marvel is looking to go above and beyond to be worthy of her title. She shows the kind of ambition that makes her more than just superhuman. Despite all her power, she’s still very human and still very driven to be part of something greater. The Avengers may give her plenty of opportunities to flex her muscles, but they don’t offer many opportunities for personal growth. There’s really only so much growth anyone can achieve by fighting creatures like Thanos.
There’s a lot that goes into “having it all,” but everyone’s standard is different. Captain Marvel #1 shows Carol Danvers adopting a new standard for herself. That standard feels overdue in some ways. While her reservations may make her painfully human, they sometimes come off as excuses that cause her unfolding story to drag. But despite her hesitation, she eventually does make a few very important decisions that promise to affect the course of her character moving forward. It also gives her a chance to live out her every Star Wars fantasy, which may very well add to her ambition.
Sci-Fi Author Ursula LeGuin's Stories of Class War, Religious Dissension, Identity Politics and More