The Life of Captain Marvel #5 Review

by Charles Martin on December 19, 2018

The Life of Captain Marvel #5 Review
Writer: Margaret Stohl
Penciller: Carlos Pacheco
Inker: Rafael Fonteriz
Colourists: Marcio Menyz & Federico Blee
Flashback Artist: Marguerite Sauvage
Letterer: Clayton Cowles
Publisher: Marvel Comics

CAUTION: This is a very spoilery review. If you already think LCM #5 is a must-read, you (and your blood pressure) will not appreciate reading this.

Well! The Life of Captain Marvel is over. The biggest surprise for me, personally? Lou the Doughnut Dude survived, romantic strings and all. But we can't say the same for Carol's mom, oh dear. She shuffles off her mortal coil just 40 pages after reinventing herself as a magic alien super-woman.

This comic ends, like most stories built out of cheap clichés, with a heartwarming feel-good "look brightly to the future" finale. But in my view, it did nothing to earn that feel-goodery.

A Kree Terminator came to Maine to kill Carol's mom. It completed that mission and got away clean. 

That's a huge failure on Carol's part. Abject, even.

As a whole, the Life of Captain Marvel is also an abject failure. It attempted to make gigantic changes to Carol's backstory and even the Marvel universe as a whole. (The Kree have an Empress now?)

In this miniseries' earlier issues, the audacity of the changes and the range of possible outcomes kept things interesting. Now the range has collapsed and we're left with the painful evidence that the creators took the laziest choices at every opportunity.

Killing Carol's mom so soon after retconning her into a Kree warrior is, frankly, cowardly. 

It teleports Carol straight into wistful regret and fond memories while short-cutting past the messy, hard-to-script discussions mother and daughter would have to have after the revelation of such an enormous secret. But this issue also avoids handing Carol much in the way of guilt over her mother's death; that seems to me another scaredy-cat creative choice. Carol is better than the average bear at beating herself up. To think she wouldn't be gutted after letting her mother fall in battle is unrealistic in the extreme. 

The fact that this issue doesn't give us one line of dialogue between Carol and her brother after their mom's death is another cowardly choice.

I'm spreading my dissatisfaction around to the whole creative team because I have problems with this comic's visual storytelling as well as its script. As in past issues, the fight scenes are over-generic and under-clear. The core moment of the issue and the series, Marie's death, is dragged out over multiple pages without ever getting the visual impact it deserves. And the revelation that the baddie escaped unharmed is tucked into the middle of the death scene where it's far too easy to overlook - very poor storytelling flow.

Speaking of the baddie, there's another regrettable artistic/design choice in this comic's final act. With very little justification, she manifests sci-fi armour and a big generic spear out of thin air when it's time for the final showdown.

It's rather exactly like the creative team rolled up to the final act of the final issue and only then realized, "Oh, whoops, we have to kill Carol's mom, but we probably don't want to do it by having a naked blue woman beat her to death with bare fists."

To keep this from being a 2,000-word nitpick-fest, I'll gloss over the disappointing dialogue. It is deeply disappointing, though; clumsy fumbling of complex ideas, juvenile nicknames, and corny clichés abound.

Are there any silver linings? Yes. Believe it or not, I liked the romantic flashback to Carol learning Walter "Mar-Vell" Lawson's true heritage. The thematic connections to her mom's more recent revelations are rock-solid. 

(Though it also raises an issue of double-dipping on the same twist. You get the sense that if this series ran for another issue, Rhodey would be the next to pop up and reveal he was a secret Kree commando, too.)

The biggest and best silver lining is a matter of potential. For all their initial cheesiness, this series' retcons open up a lot of promising avenues for the next creative team. An extended story of Carol fighting the Kree, personified by an evil empress with built-in bad blood between them, could be just what the doctor ordered for Captain Marvel.

The Life of Captain Marvel goes out with a whimper, tying off its new plot threads with the weakest, most convenient knots imaginable. It is a profoundly unsatisfying finale, offering up mainly the hope that future creators will pick the knots apart and treat these ideas with the passion and creativity they deserve.

Our Score:


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Charles Martin's picture
If Tony Stark is going to show up calling Carol "spaceface" at the end, maybe don't let Carol call her alien Terminator opponent "ugly space face" in the middle.