The story of one hero taking on the mantle of another is among the most controversial that can be told, albeit for all the wrong reasons. No matter how great or terrible that story actually is, there will always be a certain contingent of fans who are ardent traditionalists. To them, Batman must always be Bruce Wayne. Steve Rogers must always be Captain America. Peter Parker must always be Spider-Man — preferably a version not foolish enough to make deals with Mephisto.
There’s nothing anyone can do to placate those fans, short of ending the story permanently and letting them fume in their own little world of utopian nostalgia. Since that’s not a very interesting story, Marvel Generations is doing the next best thing by adding depth and connections between the heroes of the past and the heroes of the present. The titles may be the same, but the characters, context, and narrative are very different. The only thing that doesn’t change is the incessant whining by those ardent traditionalists still arguing about why Gwen Stacy should come back.
Regardless of how ardent certain fans may be, most tend to agree that certain characters can benefit from that added depth more than others. At the moment, few characters are in need of that depth more than Carol Danvers. Through the masterful efforts of writers like Kelly Sue DeConnick, Carol ascends to a level of prominence that makes her the closest thing Marvel has to Wonder Woman. The fact that she takes the title of Captain Marvel in the process is almost secondary. Then, Civil War II happens and suddenly, she’s the most controversial non-clone character in all of Marvel.
That makes the stakes in Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 that much higher. Margaret Stohl already has a daunting task as the writer of Mighty Captain Marvel, which attempts to rebuild Carol’s status as Marvel’s premier female hero after Civil War II. The events of Secret Empire and Marvel Legacy put her in a position to recapture some of those elements that make Captain Marvel a title that anyone of any gender would be proud to have.
Part of that effort involves taking Captain Marvel back to basics, none of which involve superhero politics, visions of the future, or arguments about how long Carol’s hair should be. Instead, Carol finds herself in the middle of an war in the Negative Zone that involves an unfamiliar race of aliens, a familiar threat in Annihilus, and her old mentor, the original Captain Mar-Vell. It has all the ingredients to bring out the best in Carol Danvers. It won’t settle debates about her hair, but even Captain Marvel’s power can only go so far.
That power is enough for her and Mar-Vell to carry out the feats for anyone wielding that title. As with previous issues of Marvel Generations, there’s not a whole lot of context surrounding the Vanishing Point. There really doesn’t have to be. Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 is a bit more concise in that it establishes a clear connection between the events in this story and those of Secret Empire #10. That approach allows Carol to hit the ground running within a chaotic, sci-fi heavy alien war that maximizes Brent Schoonover’s colorful art style. Compared to the bleak circumstances of Secret Empire, it’s refreshing.
The same can be said about Carol’s interactions with Mar-Vell. Much of it is built around over-the-top sci-fi action, but that’s fairly in line with their history. Whatever their titles, both characters define themselves by their alien connections. It’s a big part of the connection they forge. The events of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 occur before that connection really blossoms, but it establishes that these two characters share more than a title.
In between battles against aliens and arguing with a race that isn’t used to these kinds of battles, there’s a fair amount of drama between the two characters. They both have different styles. Carol is more hot-headed and impulsive; Mar-Vell more cunning and diplomatic. There are times when Carol’s approach proves effective. There are times when Mar-Vell’s approach works as well. It creates tensions, but it’s a productive kind of tension. That may seem shocking in an era when tensions between superheroes serve as the basis for every other major event at Marvel, but Stohl shows how it can work.
Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell wield the same title, but are effective at honoring that title in their own unique way. They both say they work alone, but it’s only when they use those ways together that they prove most effective. It comes off as a lesson that both characters need to learn. In Carol’s case, it’s a lesson that’s worth re-learning, given her recent missteps among her fellow superheroes. It gives the impression that Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1 leaves Carol in a better place, as a character.
In that sense, the overall story has both the basics and a sense of purpose. It feels complete in the sense that it has a relevant impact on both Carol Danvers and Mar-Vell. There are some shortcomings, in terms of details. The story does drag, somewhat, in a few areas. Even with sci-fi settings and a major threat like Annihilus, it never feels as epic as other memorable space battles. Some of that may be due to the restrictions of the Vanishing Point. Like other issues of Marvel Generations, it can only do so much before the timeline snaps back into position.
Whatever limitations there are on the premise of Generations: Captain Marvel and Captain Mar-Vell #1, Stohl and Schoonover get the most out of it for the characters involved. By getting back to basics for anyone bearing the title of Captain Marvel, it demonstrates that there’s a legacy to that title and one that’s worth upholding. Whether or not Carol uses that legacy to improve her standing within the Marvel pantheon remains to be seen, but between gaining a better perspective and taking her frustrations out on Annihilus, she’s in a much better place now.