Retro Review: Captain Marvel #17
By Kevin McVicker
Original Release Date: May, 2001
Story by Peter David & Jim Starlin
This issue doesn’t stand out as a vital point in Marvel Comics continuity, but it is an interesting installment in the cosmic story of the Marvel Universe as Genis-Vell joins forces with Thor and Thanos to take down a Death God simply known as Walker who looks in many ways to be a direct representation of Jim Butcher’s Harry Dresden. Is it a nod to that book series (of which the first installment had been published a year prior to this issue)? I don’t know. If you ever talk to Starlin or David, please ask for me.
We begin in the far past during the age of Vikings. Thor is celebrating victory with Erik Olafson after what appears to be an epic battle. Thor is drinking mead and has a scantily clad female on his lap, and declares that the battle of this day will grant those who fought immortality, as their names will never be forgotten.
The story then heads to present day. Thor walks through a snowy forest believing it was the spot of the previous revelry years before. He dwells on the long dead Vikings attempting to correctly remember their name. He begins to ponder if the curse of actual immortality is the eventual lost memories of mortals.
Thanos pops up out of nowhere and begins to question Thor’s sanity since he’s talking to himself. Thor hurls Mjolnir at Thanos, who stops it dead in its tracks. Thanos and Thor have a brief and contentious conversation. Thanos slightly mocks Thor as the conversation drifts to another part of the world.
Marlo and Rick Jones are in a clothing store. Marlo is distraught over being told she was too old for a role in a movie, and Rick, although distracted by other thoughts, is trying to comfort her. Genis-Vell through Rick Jones also tries to comfort Marlo by commenting on how attractive she is. Marlo at the same time was being haunted by a ghost named Lorraine (just go with it, I don’t even remember how that happened). They run into a tall pale man and Rick asks him to complement Marlo. (As a side note, this happened to me once in at a clothing store where a man stopped me and asked me to complement his wife who wasn’t that attractive and was dressed fairly hideously. As anxious and uncomfortable as that made me feel, I completely understand the battle that is about to occur, and as most all things in the Marvel Universe, Rick Jones is completely to blame.)
Lorraine starts to freak out and Genis-Vell senses something wrong (only Marlo could see and hear Lorraine and only Rick Jones could see and hear Genis-Vell). Rick tries to distract the tall man as Marlo runs towards the parking lot. Rick and Genis-Vell are unable to switch places because he is passing by a sun, but Genis-Vell starts to look for a suitable that won’t cause the death of Rick when they switch places.
Rick and Marlo reach the parking lot and out of nowhere, again, Thanos shows up.
Rick and Marlo are now stuck between Thanos and Walker (we now know his name because Thanos says it). Thanos tells Rick and Marlo to duck and fires a blast of energy at Walker. It turns out Walker is out to kill Death, who is of course, Thanos’ love.
Genis-Vell reaches a safe planet, and Rick clangs together the cosmic bands on his wrists thereby transferring places with him. As Captain Marvel, Genis-Vell attacks both parties but neither are phased. Quickly Captain Marvel figures out that he and Thanos must work together to defeat Walker, who is a god of death.
They are unable to make much of a dent, until Thor shows up also and helps them beat down Walker. The three together appear to defeat Walker as he has disappeared, at least for now. It turns out that Walker and Death had a love affair. Thanos claims that Thor, Captain Marvel, and Marlo must go to his space craft to finish this once and for all.
Walker was a god of death in a far off galaxy the way Hela is death in the Asgardian pantheon. When he became powerful enough he visited Death and gave her the life of every being in the galaxy he lorded over. She turned her back on him, much the same way she did to Thanos when he killed half of the universe. Walker was angered and vowed to destroy Death.
Death hid herself in the Universe until Thanos could find and take care of Walker. It turns out Death hid herself in Marlo.
To Be Continued…
This issue may not be the best issue for new readers to jump on and read. It carries over a lot of continuity, and while it is fairly clear enough so that even new readers get the gist, there is still a lot missing if you haven’t read the whole story to date.
That said, part of the story also stretches back into Peter David’s run on the Hulk and also into Avengers Forever, not just this one series. So, if the old-school Kree warrior version of Captain Marvel interests you, then you’ll love this series and even this issue, but don’t start here.
With all of those warnings, it really is a great issue. It isn’t Starlin’s best work, but his lines are clean and crisp. There isn’t anything that happens in this story which is difficult to understand from a visual perspective, which says a lot given how complicated the drama and superheroics of this series were. If you’re hoping for classic Starlin, I think there are better places to find it, but you shouldn’t be too disappointed by this issue.
Peter David is, as always, a magnificent writer. He very simply, with the opening sequence, offers a great juxtaposition between Thanos and Thor which is brilliant and unique. While his plot seems a bit twisted and difficult to follow at points, David’s true gift is his characterizations. He does great at placing his characters is ridiculous situations, and from that point digging deep and discovering interesting facets of their personalities. He really does an amazing job with each character he plays with in this issue of not rewriting their book and characterization, but adding caveats that build and broaden the characters.
It’s hard to rate this one too high because it isn’t very welcoming to new readers. With that said, I think the series as a whole is highly underrated and worth a read, and overall is written in such a way as to inform the reader on the missed continuity pieces. If you’re a member of the Carol Corp, then stay away because you’re only going to be made angry (your Captain Marvel was Ms. Marvel or Warbird at this time, sorry). If you’re an old school cosmic fan, then you probably already read this series, but if not, it is definitely worth checking out. If you have read the series prior though, I think this issue and the next are great standalone issues especially for fans of classic Thanos.
4 out of 5 M’s