Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Scanned Thoughts: Captain Marvel #14

We all find ourselves caught in brutal, self-perpetuating cycles at some point in our lives. And I’m not just talking about the brutal cycles that involve trying to fix an old pair of shoes with duct tape and used chewing gum. I’m talking about the kind of shit that leads to interventions on shitty reality shows. It’s kind of like the worst kind of alcoholism. We drink because we’re depressed, but drinking makes us more depressed so we drink even more. It’s like trying to put out a grease fire with gasoline. We know it’s insane on some levels, but we do it anyways because we’re in that cycle and we’ve just become too comfortable fucking things up.

Since the Black Vortex crossover story began, the seeds of that brutal cycle have been blossoming slowly yet surely. It has made for an intense, compelling, dramatic story that has surprised everyone not pissing themselves over Marvel’s upcoming Secret Wars event. The Black Vortex is like alcohol mixed with meth mixed with gambling mixed with internet porn. It gives people everything they want and all the feelings they want, minus the hangover or having to blow some guy in a trailer park. Some of the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy have already succumbed. Some who have are starting to find out the Black Vortex can lead to shit way worse than a hangover.

Yet still, they’re tempting their friends to drink, snort, and indulge in its cosmic glory. Now someone like Carol Danvers is already powerful enough and is among those who doesn’t need cosmic power to be awesome. But in the same way Hugh Hefner is prone to hooking up with a new buxom blonde every month or so, Carol is just as vulnerable to temptation in Captain Marvel #14. But unlike Hugh Hefner, the Black Vortex can do way more than damage than bad pre-nup or a failed reality show.

The temptation is already there and not just because Carol Danvers is probably getting sick of receiving dick pics from Hugh Hefner. She drew the short straw at the end of Cyclops #12 in that she had to be the one to get the Black Vortex away from Mr. Knife and the Slaughter Lords. I’m pretty sure she’s given them the cosmic finger no fewer than ten times since then because the Slaughter Lords do catch up to her. And she even muses how she’s reached her limits many times before. This may be one of those times where she has to punch those limits in the dick, but she’s not quite there just yet.

The inner monologue here does more than just provide insight into Captain Marvel’s state of mind. It also provides a nice recap of what got her to this point and how fucked the X-men and the Guardians of the Galaxy currently are. In simplest terms, the tip is in and it wants to go further. It provides a nice bit of context for this part of the story, keeping the Black Vortex saga concise. And in an era where crossover stories are about as coherent as a schizophrenic acid trip, that says something.

Even so, not much context is needed to establish that Captain Marvel is up the cosmic version of Shit’s Creek. The Slaughter Lords surround her and attack her before she can get to Spartax where the rest of the Guardians and the X-men are waiting for her. She eventually takes one too many hits and loses the Black Vortex. Considering how Mr. Knife has tormented everyone since this story began, she’s still getting off easy. And that temptation to punch her limits in the dick just keeps getting stronger.

She eventually loses the Black Vortex and Thane is first in line to chase it with Mr. Knife following close behind. Knowing the universe has enough freshly torn assholes after the events of Age of Ultron, Captain Marvel goes after it. And she still has to do this without the aid of the kind of cosmic mojo that Thane already has and Mr. Knife desperately wants to dry hump. She’s able to avoid getting encased in amber like some of her friends, but she’s not able to avoid Mr. Knife being a dick. That’s one force that no amount of cosmic power can stop at this point. Her only advantage is that he’s got rocket skates while she has the power of the Kree and being an awesome blond female badass. It sounds like a Lamborghini versus a golf cart, but Mr. Knife is the kind of guy who fits his golf carts with surface-to-air missiles.

Even though Captain Marvel wins the race, Mr. Knife makes sure the finish line has a giant middle finger at the end. She has the Black Vortex for a grand total of five seconds before she crashes right into Mr. Knife’s floating base. Both her confidence and her pride are probably pretty wounded. And I’m sure Mr. Knife has a throbbing erection right now. Like a walking Cialis commercial, he keeps it up by showing off some of the gadgets that Starlord usually likes to play with. That includes the kind of illusions and tricks ripped off from a Dragonball Z rerun. The only difference is that Mr. Knife does it a way that makes even Freiza likable.

It really doesn’t need to be reinforced at this point, but every part of the Black Vortex saga seems to do it anyways. Mr. Knife is a dick and a shitty father. Even Darth Vader at this point would shake his head and tell him he’s overdoing it. It’s getting to the point where his assholery is being belabored, but it helps establish that this is a guy who should not come within a billion light years of the Black Vortex. And even if it is belabored, it does leave no ambiguity as to who the villain is here.

It’s because of Mr. Knife’s uncanny ability to be a total dick that Captain Marvel is on the ropes. She’s already been shot at and roughed up by Thane and the Slaughter Lords. Now Mr. Knife is violently shoving her to those dangerous limits of hers. This leads to that tantalizing temptation to just fire up her inner Game Genie and end this without breaking a sweat. The Black Vortex senses that temptation and offers her the power she needs. I imagine it’s like dangling a cold beer in front of Wolverine on a hot summer day. And like a crack head in Rick James’ old house, she is definitely tempted.

This is where nobody would blame her for embracing this power. Others in this story have been in similar situations and succumbed. It seems like the most obvious decision in the world that doesn’t involve choosing imported whiskey over diet Pepsi. But that’s not what happens. Carol Danvers shows the kind of will-power and strength that the Ted Haggards of the world would envy. She rejects the Black Vortex’s power.

This moment carries a lot of weight because it helps switch things up from the rest of the X-men and the Guardians, who seemed to be leaning towards succumbing the first chance the going gets tough. Carol Danvers isn’t ready to resort to cheat codes just yet and that puts her right up there with Jennifer Lawrence in terms of awesome blonds. That said, there isn’t a lot of emotion in this decision. Sure, she describes the power as being akin to injecting meth while beating up every player on the Dallas Cowboys’ active roster, but there’s not much else that goes into it. There’s not an emotional push here. She just says, “Fuck it! I don’t need this shit.” That’s badass and all, but nothing we haven’t heard Chuck Norris say.

Without the aid of the Black Vortex, Captain Marvel pushes herself to be a little more badass and it works. She’s able to pull off some flashy theatrics that effectively kills Mr. Knife’s boner. He’s still in one piece so it’s not entirely successful, but it does give Captain Marvel one less asshole with cosmic ambitions to worry about.  Granted, that asshole is the son of Thanos. It’s like exchanging one shitty car for another. But so long as that car isn’t a Kia, it’s still an upgrade. It’s still satisfying, seeing her take down Mr. Knife. The man hasn’t been humbled much in this crossover event. He needs it almost as much as Simon Cowell at this point.

She should probably do the same thing to Thane. However, she’s willing to bet that Thane isn’t quite the same asshole as Mr. Knife. This is actually as safe a bet as she could get without being accused for insider trading. She challenges him to question whether helping Mr. Knife will actually aid his goals or if Mr. Knife will only screw him over the moment he gets bored with his new cosmic powers. It’s wholly reasonable, but it backfires in ways that most internet videos involving bottle rockets backfire.

Thane considers who is more trustworthy with the help of an imaginary friend that has been very poorly defined to this point. Is it Mr. Knife or some pretty female Avenger who has played a part in pissing off his father on multiple occasions? Rather than hold his nose and flip a coin, Thane decides they’re both full of shit and neither deserve the Black Vortex. It is a dick move, but it’s the most logical decision an admitted asshole can make in a situation like this.

As part of this decision, Thane tries to encase both Captain Marvel and Mr. Knife in amber like he did all of Spartax. He ends up only succeeding in part. Captain Marvel shows that she can be pretty damn cunning in addition to being powerful and sexy. She uses the Black Vortex in a way Captain America would probably approve of, redirecting the amber right at Mr. Knife. He ends up getting encased in amber, ensuring he won’t get that same raging boner again. It still might have been more satisfying to see Captain Marvel and Thane crush his skull and use it as a coffee mug. But this is a close second.

It also effectively proved that Captain Marvel didn’t need the Black Vortex to win this fight. Sure, it probably would’ve been easier and she would’ve been able to torment Mr. Knife in all the ways he deserved. But that’s not her style. That’s not the kind of superhero she is. In the same way Superman resists the temptation to use his X-ray vision on the Lakers Cheerleading squad, she resists the temptation to gain more power to solve her problems. That’s why she’s one of Marvel’s biggest heroes and why she’s getting her own movie.

Sadly, we don’t get to see Mr. Knife suffer in his fancy new state. Before Thane can take another shot, Gara shows up. She’s the ancient Frieza rip-off whose people first used the Black Vortex, as shown earlier in the crossover. For some reason, she chose this random moment to come back and fuck things up a little more. Sure, it helps that she hits Thane with the kind of punch that sends him to the nearest black hole. And yes, that’s very satisfying. But it’s still a bit random and doesn’t fit as cleanly as some of the other developments in the Black Vortex. It’s still way more concise than 80 percent of most major crossover stories that don’t involve the Simpsons so I can’t make too big a deal out of it.

This is one of those stories that could’ve become painfully predictable just by changing a few minor details. It could’ve become the Dark Phoenix Saga featuring a pretty blond instead of a pretty redhead. It could’ve become the same story that Chris Claremont perfected back during the Carter Administration. But it didn’t. It nicely continued the clusterfuck that began to unfold in Cyclops #12 and put Carol Danvers at ground zero of the shit storm. Yet somehow she managed to come out of it without smelling like an unwashed pair of Bill O’Riley’s underwear. That’s both an achievement and a testament to the strength of this story.

Like Carol Danvers, the Black Vortex saga has resisted the urge to follow the same tried and true formula involving powerful cosmic mojo. It hasn’t become the Phoenix Saga. Carol Danvers didn’t become Jean Grey. And the Black Vortex hasn’t become the Infinity Gauntlet. Carol Danvers had to fight Mr. Knife and Thane in the kind of situation where there was an easy out. She could’ve just punched in the cheat code and flossed her teeth with their entrails. She chose not to. She resisted the urge to start another brutal cycle and ended up defeating Mr. Knife in a much more satisfying way. He’s the only one who left this story with shit stain and it couldn’t have happened to a nicer asshole.

The appearance of Gara at the end still felt a bit random, but her story was never meant to be cast off at the beginning so it doesn’t keep Captain Marvel #14 from being both awesome and coherent. I give this comic an 8 out of 10. It continues the story without resorting to the kind of bullshit cycle of power corrupting that we’ve seen in every Macbeth rip-off. That in and of itself is an accomplishment. Nuff said!


  1. Does Thane die then? If so, good riddance.

    I've had an embargo against buying "Captain Marvel" since that whole memory thing happened. I confess to almost buying this issue, though.

  2. Love the DBZ mentions.

    It's a shame though that Mr Knife meets his end like that. He should have died at the hands of one of the X-Men or the Guardians of the Galaxy.

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