15 Captain Marvel comics you need to read before seeing the movie

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Cover of Captain Marvel #18 (Cover image via Marvel)

15. Captain Marvel #18

We might as well start at the beginning. For superheroes, after all, the origin story is key. Without it, readers can find it difficult to become interested in a character’s path. Captain Marvel has a doozy of a path, too.

It’s difficult, if not practically impossible, to talk about Carol Danvers as Captain Marvel without referencing the previous people who held that title. Perhaps most significant is Captain Mar-Vell, who manages to overcome his punny name by being a cool and generally well-liked superhero. Mar-Vell is one of the Kree people, who, at least in the film world, seem to alternate between looking like boring old humans and bright blue super people. In the comics, Mar-Vell looks more like a human, but with plenty of galactic powers.

Unfortunately, he’s now best known to comics readers for 1982’s The Death of Captain Marvel. That’s the ground- and heartbreaking issue where he dies of cancer. That’s well worth a read for the excellent story writing and examination of grief. Mar-Vell has since remained dead, which is a notable, if morbid, achievement for any superhero.

In Captain Marvel #18, published in 1969, Mar-Vell and Danvers finally cross paths. It’s not especially flattering for Carol, who’s basically a damsel in distress at the mercy of a villain named Yon-Rogg and a robotic named Mandroid.

During a climactic battle, Carol is exposed to the rays of a weapon known as the Psyche-Magnitron. At the time, it seems like little more than the side effect of being around superheroes. Eventually, however, it becomes clear that the Psyche-Magnitron granted Carol the powers that would eventually lead to her stint as Ms. Marvel.

This story is significant enough on its own, but could have added meaning for the film. Jude Law is playing a currently unnamed commander of the Starforce team that Danvers joins. But, if you take a few minutes to look a little more closely, it becomes pretty obvious that Law is going to be playing Mar-Vell himself. Of course, I could always be wrong, along with a significant chunk of the Captain Marvel fanbase. Still, it would have a certain cinematic quality, especially if there’s a “tragic death of the mentor” note ripped straight from the hero’s journey.