Woman empowerment is an important topic to cover in all forms of media. We live in a time when there are so many inspirational and powerful women to look up to in politics, television, films, and books. Some of my favorite media characters are women. These include women like Buffy Summers, Wonder Woman, Katniss Everdeen, and Hermione Granger. What I love about these characters is that they aren’t strong because they are women, they’re just strong people who happen to be women. Their entire identities and accomplishments aren’t defined by their gender. Instead, they are just examples of what strong women can accomplish.
Then there’s Captain Marvel. My biggest issue with her is that she always seems to be a self-righteous character that’s overly confident to a fault. I thought maybe that was just her film persona, so I went into Captain Marvel: Liberation Run with an open mind. In the past, she was one of my favorite characters to pick in Marvel games. Maybe she would return to her roots in this book. I was wrong.
This book features a completely original story not based on the comics. A ship hurtles towards Earth, and Captain Marvel swoops in to save its pilot from a fiery fate. It turns out that she is a refugee from a planet that has enslaved her people and oppresses the women of her race. Captain Marvel decides that she is going to help save her people and enlists the help of Mantis, Ant-Man, and Brawn.
There really isn’t anything bad about the story, but there isn’t really anything good about it either. The pacing really starts off slowly, taking fourteen chapters to finally get to the point. That’s not good, considering that there are only thirty-three chapters. Also, I feel like the concept is an interesting idea. However, the writer was a little too heavy-handed with the message. Basically, it can be summed up as “woman good, man bad.” Not to say it can’t work. It’s just been done to death already and in a far better way.
My biggest issue with the writing was that the quality was more of what you’d find on a fan-fic website rather than an officially licensed novel. The writer has the habit of rambling. Case in point, this excerpt from chapter 10.
“Okay, maybe not precisely calibrated,” he muttered, tapping a new coding sequence into his tablet as the tall silver monstrosity he’d spent the summer creating in his free time tugged its arm free of four feet of reinforced concrete wall and rounded on him, the flat discs at the end of its arms flipping sideways and starting to spin with deadly speed.
It may not look that bad on a computer screen, but in the book that’s an entire paragraph right there. It just a lot of unnecessary filler that didn’t add anything to the story.
Preaching to the choir!
Another issue is that the writer made it very apparent this was a feminist book written by a feminist for feminists. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. As I stated previously, I’m all for strong women. However, I feel like in this book it was done in an overly preachy way. For instance, when Rhi questions what’s wrong with romance novels Mantis answers with:
We still have some major problems with how we treat women here too. And one of those problems involves putting down the things that women like.
It’s just such a ridiculous statement given that Rhi comes from a society where women are tortured and treated like livestock. Yet, Mantis finds is prevalent to mention that women on Earth have it tough too because society doesn’t treat romance novels like fine literature. It just comes off like the author has a major chip on her shoulder that has made her bitter towards society. Of course, it’s fine if she does, but does this book about superheroes going on a space adventure need to be filled to the brim with complaints about US society? Acknowledge injustices towards women, totally! However, focus on real issues. It just trivializes the struggles women actually have to face.
Captain Marvel/Carol Danvers – The star of the book. She saves Rhi’s ship from crashing and makes it her mission to help the young girl rescue her people.
Rhi – A young girl whose people were exiled from their home planet. While trying to take refuge on a new planet, they are captured and enslaved by the oppressive society that runs the planet. Her special abilities allow her to escape and seek out Carol, an ancient legend told by the people on their planet.
Mantis – A young empath that helps Rhi overcome the trauma of her past. She cares for her teammates and serves as a mediator.
Scott Lang/Ant-Man – A con-man turned superhero who cares a lot for his daughter. Carol states they need a man to serve as their “handler” while on their mission.
Amadeus Cho/Brawn – A scientist and successor of Bruce Banner, aka the Hulk. Like Bruce, he can turn into the big green brute, but instead of taking on his name he refers to this form as “Brawn” as he is “the brains.”
What I really enjoyed was that the writer picked characters that aren’t necessarily prominent in the Marvel universe, aside from Scott. Mantis has been showcased but in a more alien form. Amadeus is fairly obscure, and a nice change from just resorting to Bruce. We see a clear motivation for Scott. He sees his daughter in Rhi so he feels compelled to help her. Mantis is an empath, so feeling Rhi’s pain drives her forward. Amadeus is a bit less clear, maybe just being intrigued in working on alien technology. Carol’s motivation is pretty straight forward. She hears injustice is being carried out, so she needs to stop it.
My biggest issue with Carol is she is so damn unlikable. In the beginning, she was overly hostile towards Medusa for no clear reason other than she doesn’t like her. When she decides to reach out to Scott she begrudgingly does so because she doesn’t like asking a man for help (her words, not mine). All of the characters seem to put her on this pedestal and Rhi downright worships the ground she walks on. It just comes off as a bit much.
Like most of Titan Books’s series, this one is decently sized. It has 33 chapters which puts it at the medium book-length mark. It’s not too long, but also not too short. My only issue, as previously stated, is that the writer spends too long to get to the point. A lot of what goes on in the first half of the book is just plain filler. There’s only so many times we need to hear Rhi praise how amazing she thinks Carol is. Adding the troubles of women on Earth is a nice way to connect to readers but, after a while, it turns into rambling and just feels like she lost sight of the point she was going for.
There’s nothing wrong with feminist writing and concepts inserted into popular media when it’s done right. However, there is a fine line from delivering a clear and concise message and outright preaching on a soapbox. It’s an issue that seems to trail Captain Marvel specifically for some reason. I look at her DC counterpart, Wonder Woman, and I don’t see the same issues implemented in her characterization. She knows she’s strong, she has confidence in her skills, but she has the heart of a warrior. She is able to keep this aura of humbleness about her that adds to her charm. I feel like Captain Marvel does the opposite. It’s not enough that she knows she’s powerful, you’d better acknowledge it as well.
Overall, Captain Marvel: Liberation Run isn’t a bad book. It has its faults for sure, but I can see what the writer was trying to accomplish. I just feel that she kind of veered off into a tangent for half of the book. For the casual Marvel reader looking to continue the adventures of Carol it might be a good fit for you. However, if you are heavily into the female plight and feminist works with a superhero backdrop then I think you’ll enjoy this book. You can purchase Captain Marvel: Liberation Run on Titan Books official site.