Higher. Further. Faster. More. Over the years, Carol Danvers has done it all. The best Captain Marvel stories, from her origins to the upcoming summer crossover event, Empyre, have all helped the hero soar to greater heights in both the world of comics and in the mainstream.
Later this year, she'll take on the identity of an Accuser in the combined Kree/Skrull Empire following her recent fight with the Avengers, and don a version of her movie Kree uniform. So, with the new role on the horizon, there has never been a better time to take a look back at the best Captain Marvel stories, especially given how her Kree history informs what's still to come.
So, get ready: here are ten best Captain Marvel stories you'll want to go back to again and again.
10. The Life of Captain Marvel (2018)
Carol Danvers’ somewhat complicated origin was recently retold with modern sensibilities in The Life of Captain Marvel. It’s mostly being just plain old told, as the early life of Carol Danvers not having been set much to page before now.
How does a girl grow up to be an Air Force pilot and an officer, a security chief and a superhero? How does a life that’s had at least two amnesiac periods and nothing so fine to remember behind it manage to fit back together? Margaret Stohl takes us back to a less-than-idyllic childhood to start Captain Marvel all over again, complete with Marguerite Sauvage-drawn flashback sequences.
9. Marvel Super-Heroes #13 & Captain Marvel #1 (1967)
In the Marvel Universe, there’s actually a great deal of cosmic fare. Alien races, space-bound empires, wars across the stars that started long ago in a galaxy far, far away. One such species involved in one such war is the Kree, and with the Kree came Mar-Vell.
Mar-Vell (Captain Mar-Vell) comes to Earth as a spy for his colonial people but walks among the human race and comes to want to protect it.
Part of why is Carol Danvers, an Air Force officer and security chief. Carol’s curiosity about Mar-Vell’s alien form gets her into trouble and, despite that, she acts to protect him. It’s not her finest hour - the 1968 script sees Carol called “whimpering female,” for example - but it’s her first one, and it exhibits her instinct and tenacity.
Sometimes it’s good to see how far we’ve come.
8. Captain Marvel: In Pursuit of Flight (Vol. 1, 2012)
It’s actually Captain America who tells Carol she should take the name ‘Captain Marvel’ after being Ms. Marvel for so many years. Within the world of Marvel Comics continuity, she got her new blue suit first - nobody recognized her, and they asked who she was. Steve Rogers presented that to Carol, his friend and peer, as an opportunity.
Why would Carol rather not take Mar-Vell’s mantle? Why does she, in the end? This is the story-arc where you find out. It’s also a story in which Carol is afforded respect and friendship by men and holds women (normal, non-super women) in her personal gallery of heroes, which, especially considering her debut, are both necessary to establish.
7. Avengers Annual #10
One of the most overlooked parts of Carol Danvers’ history is her time with the X-Men.
In 1981’s Avengers Annual #10, Carol is attacked by teenaged terrorist Rogue - robbing her of her memories and her powers. Professor X, feeling responsible because Rogue is a mutant, offers to host the amnesiac superhero with the X-Men to help her recover. Carol leaves the Avengers to go with the X-Men (not as a member, but as an associate) - and finds a new family (for a time, that is).
6. Uncanny X-Men #163 - #171
A depowered and absent-minded Carol tags along with the X-Men, and is captured with them by the Shi'ar - leading to a new round of alien expermination (remember, her origins have her powers activated by Kree experimentation).
This new experimentation unlocks Carol’s powers - and increases them, leading to her ‘Binary’ form - as in a binary star.
Later when a seemingly reformed Rogue finds shelter among the X-Men, Carol gives an ultimatum for them to choose between her and her attacker. Xavier ends up choosing a fellow mutant over Carol, leaving the then-Ms. Marvel out in the cold.
5. Death of Captain Marvel
When the original Captain Marvel died in 1982, Carol wasn’t there, but it is still one of her biggest moments.
In Captain Marvel #34, Carol sees Mar-Vell for the first time since she was ‘killed’ by Yon-Rogg - and it ends up being the last time before he dies.
Captain Marvel, a superhero, died of cancer— a rare fate, and a sad one mourned by all of his peers. You could say it changed the tenor of superheroism in the Marvel universe. Death had happened among them before, but not such an 'ordinary' death, to such an unusual person. If you’ve seen Carol Danvers reluctant to take this man’s title, seeing the end of his life will explain anything about that you may have found perplexing.
4. House of M (2005)
Years before she was the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s most powerful hero, she was once Marvel’s most popular - in an alternate universe.
During the alt-universe House of M back in 2005, Carol took up the Captain Marvel mantle and was adored by the public. This is years before she’d come to the mainstream Marvel U, but this glimmer portends her big future - and her overcoming her feelings of not being “good enough” for the mantle.
If you want to know what success and public respect mean to Carol Danvers, this mini makes its case.
3. Ms. Marvel: Last Days (Vol. 4, 2014)
Having left the name Ms Marvel behind, Carol finds it’s been picked up by a teenaged superhero who loves her. Kamala Khan, who continues to make waves as a) a Muslim superheroine and b) an actual sales hit, receives both help and affirmation from Carol as the latter helps the former deal with what looks like the apocalypse.
For her part, Carol receives hope and a little tenderness. Ms Marvel has become a legacy title: Carol’s mantle has been passed on, just as she’s taken up the mantle of Mar-Vell.
2. Ms. Marvel #1-7 (1977)
Captain Marvel #18 is a diminished issue for Carol in terms of an active role, but a notable one for what was retconned onto it afterwards. In this issue, Carol appears to die, shot accidentally by Mar-Vell’s enemy Yon-Rogg, which leads eventually to 1977’s Ms. Marvel #1, whose cover proclaims “At last! A bold new super-heroine in the senses-stunning tradition of Spider-Man!” Amen, indeed.
Carol returns as a heroine and a features writer-turned-magazine editor, maligned by both the general public who believe her to be a publicity stunt and her editor, J Jonah Jameson, who happily badmouths “women’s lib.” Standing firm on her salary demands, making friends with Mary Jane Watson, confessing to amnesia during a brawl with the Scorpion, Carol is immediately more than she ever was.
1. Captain Marvel: Higher, Further, Faster, More (2014)
Carol’s 2014 volume began with Carol back in space, Carol leading, Carol in her element. The debut arc’s title, “Higher, Further, Faster, More” was even used as a tagline for the 2019 MCU movie - and the story itself shows us both the adventure and the period of decision-making that led up to the new chapter in her life.
Carol on Earth has a support network: a boyfriend, a partner, friends she lets stay in her house, friends she doesn’t, little girls who look up to her. A cat. But she forsakes it all to return to space and what she sees as her purpose and destiny.