The Life of Captain Marvel has been teasing major changes to Carol Danvers’ long and at times befuddling comic book origins. After bringing in a shocking twist last month, its new issue this week has lifted the lid on a huge new backstory for Carol — and she’s not the only one affected by it.
The last issue of Life of Captain Marvel ended with a shocking cliffhanger — the Kree tracker who had come to interrupt Carol’s period of familial relaxation and reflection back in her hometown of Maine wasn’t actually looking for her, but her mother, who transformed into a Kree Warrior before Carol’s stunned eyes.
After that moment of shock sidelines Carol from the scrap with the Kree interloper, leading to Ma Danvers taking the charge and pummelling it into a retreat, Life of Captain Marvel #4 — by Margaret Stohl, Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, Marcio Menyz, Erica D’Urso, and Clayton Cowles — slows down and re-confirms one big thing: Carol Danvers is actually Car-Ell Danvers, daughter of Mari-Ell.
The psyche magnetron accident didn’t give Carol Kree powers — or to be specific, the powers of the first Captain Marvel, Mar-Vell — but instead awakened the ones she always had, as a half-human, half-Kree child. Her power is her own, and always was.
Carol learns the truth about the psyche-magnetron. Image: Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, Marcio Menyz, and Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics)
Carol’s new origin story also has another behind it in her beloved ma, and that’s really the story that The Life of Captain Marvel #4 tackles. We get to see Mari-Ell raised through the Kree empire’s harsh and militaristic school of survival above all else, inducted into the ranks of its Empress’ honour guard, and tasked with a mission of infiltration on Earth.
Naturally, as with all good origin stories, things don’t actually work out the way they were supposed to. After being blown off course and crash landing in Boston, Mari-Ell meets her future husband, and begins to bond with him — at first for her cover as Marie, but then because she realises life on Earth represents all the things she and countless other Kree children were denied on their path to becoming all-encompassing warriors of the Empire. It’s a chance for love, for actually living a life rather than simply surviving it. A life she wants to share with Joe, and slowly does so, at first by sharing her alien secret with him (and her decision to run away from her mission), and eventually through marriage and their first child together.
Lil’ baby Danvers has a new meaning behind her name. Image: Erica D’Urso, Marcio Menyz, and Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics)
But while Joe is at first accepting of Mari-Ell’s otherworldly life (and is even excited by it), the danger it represents is where the cracks in Marie and Joe’s relationship first begin to form — the woman Marie Danvers wanted to be wasn’t the secret alien warrior Joseph Danvers had fallen in love with. The threat of the Kree coming after their missing Captain of the Supreme Protectorate slowly turned him paranoid, impacted even further by the fact he now had a daughter who’d need to be protected from their wrath, too.
Carol’s inquisitive nature growing up, and her desires to be in the skies and among the stars — and her father’s disapproval of it — becomes something more tragic when it’s framed in this context: a man petrified of his daughter discovering the dangerous legacy his wife had fled from. It doesn’t excuse his cruelty towards Carol, or the breakdown of his relationship with Marie — the heady mix of Joe’s fear and his own growing alcoholism twist him into a man different from the one Mari-Ell fell in love with.
Carol’s new origin story doesn’t change her frosty relationship with her dad. Image: Carlos Pacheco, Rafael Fonteriz, Marcio Menyz, Erica D’Urso, and Clayton Cowles (Marvel Comics)
The heartbreak of Mari-Ell’s origin story brings with it a re-centring for Carol’s own, one that grants her powers a familial bond rather than an accident, or simply the inheritance of Mar-Vell’s legacy. It doesn’t make her family life any less messy and complicated as it has been lately. If anything, it’s even messier now, especially as she’s still dealing with her brother’s accident from the first issue, and her own latent feelings about her father’s passing. But it’s a story that is both very human and a way to bring Carol into a more cosmic legacy of her own. Very fitting for a child of both Earth and Hala, don’t you think?