You’ve seen Captain Marvel, and you love Carol Danvers. Now you just have one question — a question as old as time, as old as the hills, as old as balls:
Where do I start with Captain Marvel in the comics?
That’s a broad question, and so I, Polygon’s comics editor, have broken it down into some more specific ones, and organized them for your comics-reading needs. If you’re looking for the answer to any of these questions, then this is the comic for you.
Which comics inspired the movie?
Captain Marvel (2012) and Captain Marvel (2014)
By the time a superhero shows up in a movie, they’re rarely the same character who showed up in their first comic, and that holds true for Carol Danvers. In her first appearance in Marvel Super Heroes #13, she wasn’t a superhero. And in her first adventures as a superhero, in 1977’s Ms. Marvel #1, she wasn’t Captain Marvel.
The best place to start with the Carol Danvers that you’ll recognize from Captain Marvel is with 2012’s Captain Marvel ongoing series, in which Kelly Sue DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy gave the character an all-new status quo that rocketed her to a new level of fame and fandom attention. It’s the comic series that most directly influenced the version of Carol we see on the big screen, including her orange cat, Chewie, who turns out to be a tentacle-mouthed space beast.
And when you’re done, you may as well read 2014’s Captain Marvel series, because it was also written by Kelly Sue DeConnick.
What’s Carol up to these days?
The Life of Captain Marvel
Carol’s movie origin story is pretty different from her original comic book one, which is why I’m not recommending those early comics here. But I will tip you toward The Life of Captain Marvel, a 2018 miniseries that takes her from space travel and Avengers work to her most challenging frontier yet: re-evaluating her relationship with her family.
Margaret Stohl, Carlos Pacheco, and Marguerite Sauvage give Carol a new, simpler, and more resonant origin story. Carol’s rocky relationship with her late male chauvinist father is at the core of her motivation, but The Life of Captain Marvel sees her return to her family home, where she reconnects with her mother and confronts uncomfortable questions about her parents’ relationship and her mother’s agency within it.
This is a superhero story, so cosmic adventure eventually does come knocking on her family’s door — and with it a startling revelation.
Doesn’t she have a sidekick, Ms. Marvel?
Ms. Marvel: Last Days
Before she was Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers was Ms. Marvel — and when she got promoted, the Ms. Marvel identity was just sitting around, unused. Enter Kamala Khan, high school student, beloved daughter, fanfiction writer, and Ms. Marvel super-fan. When Kamala was exposed to a Terrigen Mist cloud, it woke her latent Inhuman powers of stretchiness and embiggening, and the new Ms. Marvel was born. From writer G. Willow Wilson and artist Adrian Alphona, Kamala is one of the biggest new stars in the Marvel firmament.
But Kamala isn’t a sidekick the way Robin is to Batman — and for a good long while, she and Carol had never even met. That is, until Ms. Marvel: Last Days, an arc that tied in to Marvel’s Secret Wars event, which began with the Marvel Universe being utterly destroyed (it got better).
Last Days shows Kamala racing around her hometown of Jersey City, desperately trying to help as reality itself crumbles. Amid all that, she meets her hero, the unstoppable Carol Danvers, for the first time. If you like Carol, you’ll like a look at how her legacy affects the young female superheroes of the Marvel Universe, and if you like Kamala, well, there’s an entire new series to pick up right there!
Anything else I should take a look at?
A-Force (2015) and A-Force (2016)
How about a book with Captain Marvel in it that can stand as an introduction to as many of Marvel’s superheroines as humanly possible? Check out Marguerite Bennett, G. Willow Wilson, and Jorge Molina’s A-Force.
Like Ms. Marvel: Last Days, A-Force is a tie-in title to Marvel’s Secret Wars event. Except this one takes place in the cosmically edited remains of the Marvel Universe. The idea behind the land of Arcadia was that it would be a tiny alternate world where the dominant superheroes where the women of the Marvel Universe. Here, Carol is just one of an expansive cast — and if you like the cast, you can swing right into the sequel series, which is set in the main Marvel continuity.
How about something extremely tangential?
Captain Marvel hid a secret superhero among its characters: Monica Rambeau. Although she’s just a kid in the film, in comics, Monica was the first woman to take on the role of Captain Marvel, in 1989. And by all indications, Captain Marvel has set the character up to return as an adult in a modern-day sequel, ripe for developing her own set of superpowers as the hero Photon.
If you’d like to get a sense of Monica’s comics personality and her power set, I’m going to recommend an extremely weird, not-strictly-canonical book: Warren Ellis and Stuart Immonen’s Nextwave. Loosely, it’s about a band of misfit superheroes — including one named “Captain ☠️☠️☠️☠️” — working for a parody of SHIELD called HATE that turns out to be a front for a corporation. That corporation turns out to be a front for the terrorist organization SILENT. SILENT turns out to be run by the immortal, sentient, red tyrannosaur Devil Dinosaur.
Nextwave won’t teach you anything about current Marvel continuity, but it will give you a perfect portrait of Monica Rambeau, the most responsible and competent member of the group, and therefore the oft-frustrated leader grumbling about how it was never like this when she lead the Avengers. Also, it’s just a very fun book.