Thursday, January 18, 2018

Review - Captain Marvel: Stay Fly by Kelly Sue DeConnick and David Lopez

Short review: Captain Marvel gets her ship back, finds out her cat is an alien, foils and then accidentally enables a royal wedding, gets letters from home, and gets a favor from Santa Claus.

Cat is a flerken
Royal wedding is in rhyme
New York swamped by rats

Full review: Stay Fly is the second volume in Kelly Sue DeConnick's run of Captain Marvel, and it is a gloriously silly book made up of three nearly ridiculous stories that are, at best, only loosely connected to one another. Many graphic novels are deep and meaningful, with political and social commentary conveyed through their characters and stories. This is not one of those graphic novels. This is a graphic novel that revels in the goofiness of the Marvel interstellar universe, with teleporting rock stars, arranged royal marriages, Santa Claus, and cats who aren't cats that can access extradimensional space.

The book picks up shortly after the conclusion of Higher, Further, Faster, More, with Captain Marvel, also known as Carol Danvers, having a disturbing dream about Rhodey's death, blaming herself for his loss. The atmosphere lightens up shortly thereafter when Tic trying to convince Carol to allow her to continue to travel with the hero, making her case by providing breakfast and suggesting she could serve as Captain Marvel's second in command - a role that Carol reminds Tic that Spider-Woman already fills.

This somewhat playful banter is interrupted when the two manage to track down Carol's missing starship and find that it is under the care of none other than Rocket Raccoon. Given that Rocket had previously attempted to kill Carol's cat Chewie claiming it was actually a member of an incredibly rare and dangerous species called the "flerken", Carol is somewhat nonplussed by this revelation. She is even less pleased when she discovers that Rocket has reprogrammed the AI in her ship to speak in meows in an attempt to communicate with Chewie and apparently sent a message out to the universe that he had a flerken for sale. This, quite predictably, results in somewhat hostile fortune-seekers showing up to try and claim the rare creature, leading to some rather hilarious action sequences as Carol and Rocket try to hold off the mysterious attackers while dealing with an incomprehensible AI and sniping at one another as Tic tries to deal with a somewhat recalcitrant Chewie who lays a couple hundred eggs during the fight. And that's more or less the punchline to this portion of the book: Rocket was actually correct and Chewie is in fact a flerken. Nothing that seems to be of lasting consequence really happens in this segment, especially once Carol decides that she will simply ignore the fact that Chewie is actually a flerken. This kind of ultimate triviality seems to be a running theme in this volume, as three out of the four stories essentially amount to little of import.

The second story in the volume starts with Carol and Tic's shared love of teleporting interstellar rock star Lila Cheney, a love that winds up causing Lila to teleport onto Carol's ship. After Carol and Tic fangirl a bit over Lila, the mutant rock star tells them about how she got accidentally betrothed to a prince on an the alien world of Aladna when she was younger and jaunting about the galaxy before she mastered her powers. In short order, Cheney recruits Carol and Tic to help her extricate herself from this betrothal - and by "recruits" I mean she simply teleports them to the faraway planet and asks that they help her now that they are there. This is the point where Cheney reveals that everyone speaks in rhyme on Aladna and that Prince Yan, the man Cheney is betrothed to, cannot ascend to a position of leadership without being married. There is some humor made of the fact that Carol is terrible at rhyming and everyone assuming that she is Cheney's mother (which doesn't stop Yan from making romantic overtures in her direction), but things become temporarily serious when Marlo of Sleen shows up to try to claim Yan's hand by force. Carol handles the problem with her usual rough diplomacy but things seem to be headed towards an unwanted union between Carol and Yan before Tic steps in and offers herself as a bride, reasoning that due to the short lifespan of her species, this will be her best chance for a fairy tale wedding. As with the first story, there isn't anything of much lasting consequence here - even Tic's marriage is little more than a marriage of convenience with no real long-term impact on the heroes.

The third part of the book takes the form of a series of letters from Carol's family back on Earth as they recount their adventures dealing with the machinations of the nefarious Grace Valentine. The first letter is from Kit, also known as "Lieutenant Trouble", and recounts how Valentine fooled the prison authorities into thinking she had reformed while she set her plan to take control of the city's rats into motion. The second letter is from the rat-phobic Spider-Woman, detailing her efforts to fight off and (with Barbara Kawasaki's help) neutralize the threat of the swarming rats. The third letter is from Rhodey, as he details trying to get Valentine to disclose where she planted her bombs and take her into custody, an effort that also involves Kawasaki's help and includes a brief detour into outer space to dispose of an explosive device. The final letter is from Barbara Kawasaki telling Carol that Tracy Burke is not doing well health-wise, a revelation that drives Carol to return to Earth for a brief visit. Other than the note concerning Tracy, everything else about this section of the story is essentially ephemera - there is a problem, Spider-Woman and War Machine deal with it, and the world is reset back to the status quo ante.

The last section of the book details Carol's visit to Earth to see the comatose and dying Tracy Burke, a visit that is interrupted by Grace Valentine and June Covington. After they slap some power-dampening cuffs on Carol and knock her out, they then proceed to trying to steal Captain Marvel's powers with a plot that seems to involve a handcuffed grungy mall Santa Claus. After some heroics on Carol's part, the whole fracas is interrupted by the actual Santa Claus who puts an end to the villains' plots and saves the day. Carol then asks Santa for a favor and puts on a rather explosive light show for Tracy as a farewell gift and the volume ends.

Stay Fly is not much more than four kind of silly stories strung together, but they are all pretty fun to read silly stories. There's not really anything profound about these stories other than possibly showing what the day-to-day headaches that an interstellar super-hero might have to deal with in between the big missions. That isn't to say that Carol's heroics are trivial here, even though they are combating relatively small-scale problems, they are definitely important to the people involved. There isn't anything Earth-shaking contained in this volume of Captain Marvel, but it is an enjoyable read.

Previous volume in the series: Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More
Subsequent volume in the series: Captain Marvel: Alis Volat Propriis

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