Every Wednesday we take turns to delve into our trusty longboxes, pluck out a dusty back issue at random, and give you our thoughts. We’ll also try and place it in the context of the time it was originally published.
The Genis-vell incarnation of Captain Marvel had been hanging on the edge of cancellation for so long that when it finally came, it’s easy to see how prepared writer Peter “PAD” David was for it. The series was the perfect replacement for PAD’s run on Hulk, with its action-comedy tone and a partially transplanted supporting cast, and PAD’s run, which started with Volume 3, finally encompassed 60 complete issues and an Issue #0 short. With Issue 25 of Volume 4, it all came to an end.
And just while I’m talking about numbering, I feel obliged to point out – when Captain Marvel was released, Marvel were dual-numbering their books. Quesada, when he became EiC, felt that all the relaunch stunts over the last few years had interrupted the titles’ runs, so he put them back on track with dual-numbering on the covers. Thus, even a relatively recent relaunch like Captain Marvel had two issue numbers – #25, and #60. Some series, like Amazing Spider-Man and Fantastic Four, did switch back. Other series, like Captain America and Iron Man, have been relaunched from new #1 issues AGAIN – but these days there’s only one number to keep track of in all cases.
Anyway, back to the issue. Pencils come from Keith Giffen, and I have to say, they look pretty rushed. Giffen’s art is fairly polymorphic at the best of times but this is some pretty ugly stuff. It could be the inks, admittedly, but either way, someone wasn’t taking much care in the art department. Luckily the book’s plot makes up for it all.
This is one hell of a final issue – not so much turning out the light as he leaves, as torching the building. When a book is cancelled, the writer must finish their plots and put the characters back in a neutral condition. PAD takes a hilariously metafictional slant on this by having a couple of cosmic characters turn up named Eulogy and Expediency (two of the “Seven Friendless”) to rapidly advance events to their conclusion and then literally dismantle the story, retrieving the “sets” and “costumes” and congratulating Genis on a longer run than expected. It’s all done with a healthy dose of PAD’s trademark humour – Rick Jones, having appeared in many series before, is the only one who realises what’s going on because of his “Comics Awareness.”
PAD’s frustration seems to drip off the page – frustration with the audience, with the industry, with Quesada, and with himself. Captain Marvel #25 might well be utterly incomprehensible to anyone unaware of the behind-the-scenes drama that was going on, with PAD and Quesada publicly arguing over the title’s status and future, but to those that stuck with the title through it all, it’s a fitting, it quirky ending. And it’s not all doom and gloom, because much of what PAD did on the title was remembered – Phyla-vell, Genis’ sister created in these pages, appears in the recent Annihilation events as the new Quasar, with Moondragon as her girlfriend (a plot development that occurs in this very issue). Genis himself was later killed off in New Thunderbolts after being unsuccessfully added to the cast, but there’s always a chance he’ll return. Just not a massive one.