Carol Danvers. Captain Marvel.
One of Marvel Comics’ most iconic superheroes is set to blaze her way onto the silver screen in March, providing the MCU with its first female-led solo film and hopefully inspiring a brand new generation of children and young adults with its story of a brilliant, bold, joyously badass test-pilot-turned-part-alien-superheroine.
Danvers has been through a lot of incarnations in recent years; and with Tess Sharpe’s new novel, Captain Marvel: Liberation Run, she’s now prepping herself to remind a generation of fans why her iconic golden Hala Star has become such a revered symbol for heroism.
The story sees an established and famous Carol living and working alongside other famous superheroes and is in the middle of taking a well-earned break when a spaceship crashes to Earth, forcing Carol to intervene to prevent loss of life. Inside said spaceship is Rhi, a plucky teenage survivor and Inhuman (induced mutants of vague Kree origin), whose people were enslaved while seeking a new home by the Damarians, a society built on the back of misogyny and cruelty.
Outraged at the turn of events, Carol enlists the help of a team of heroes – namely all-around super genius and new Hulk, Amadeus Cho, highly-attuned empath Mantis, skunk-tailed celestial enforcer Hepzibah, and everyone’s favourite thief-turned-hero Scott Lang (aka Ant Man) – to journey to the planet to free the enslaved Inhumans, defeat the insidious President Ansel, and make the universe a better place. Simple enough, right?
The plot of Liberation Run itself acts as a straightforward parable for modern times, with Carol and company’s mission resembling a coup of a society that treats its women and girls as disposable and unclean, unworthy of any powers they may possess; think ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ with superpowers. This can sometimes come off a little heavy-handed at times – the opening scene sees Carol and her friend Jess rescue a young girl from the looming attentions of a creepy dude – but Sharpe manages to make it as non-preachy as possible, even when making the villains as unapologetically and almost cartoonishly evil. This characterisation is driven home when Carol, undercover as a subservient wife, views the idols of the Damarian culture which show men worshipping the abuse and degradation of women in beats of visceral horror.
Sharpe does a fantastic job in between the book’s enjoyable action beats (including a couple of heists and some big battles), of fleshing out Carol and the other characters, particularly in developing the secondary protagonist of Rhi. Rhi is imbued with a kind heart, a spine of steel, and a mile-long rebellious streak that Carol instinctively recognises in herself. An incredibly moving moment between the two in the novel’s middle about grief and trauma is a standout sequence that really drives home Rhi’s compassion and makes her a young heroine well worth revisiting down the line should Sharpe or another writer have the chance to do so.
Captain Marvel: Liberation Run might be a bit of an education in the world of Carol Danvers and the wider Marvel universe, and to complete newcomers to this universe, it might seem a little daunting. However, it’s ultimately an engaging and inspiring story that puts Danvers on a quest that resonates with our modern times and raises important questions about gender, sexism, inequality, systematic oppression, and grief. If it’s an indicator of things to come, particularly with Danvers’ hugely-anticipated solo movie out in March, then it is clear that not only is Carol the hero we need right now, she’s the one we’ve been waiting for all this time.
Captain Marvel: Liberation Run is out today (26 February) from Titan Books.