Captain Marvel #39 (1975)

Concluding my trio of posts about Captain Marvel is this completely exuberant issue. By this issue, all the boring plotlines and dull characterization were long gone. Captain Marvel had become "the most cosmic superhero of all", as the cover promised, and for once a Marvel blurb was actually true.
Under, first, Jim Starlin and, by this issue, Steve Englehart and Al Milgrom, Cap had become a hero who wandered space, finding himself in the middle of great cosmic conflicts. In this issue, he’s present at the trial of longtime Marvel cosmic character the Watcher. The Watcher came from a race of beings who believed they should only watch what happened in the cosmos and not act on it. The Watcher, though, acted to save Earth from Galactus, among others, and logically enough, found himself on trial for such involvement.
Englehart’s writing does a nice job of thinkig about the culture of a group who look but never act. They have great powers, so their court is magnificent, but it’s also kind of alien and weird and sometimes hard to understand. Englehart also does a nice job with his characterization of Captain Marvel and Rick Jones, who were basically bound at the wrist with each other, and by this time had developed a nice, smooth relationship.
The art, by Milgrom and Klaus Janson, is really nice. It’s slick and exciting, with just the right amount of detail and sense of cosmic greatness. The courtroom looks magnificent, and Cap really looks like a great action super-hero.
It took a long time – a long, long time, with lots of fits and starts – but by ’75 Cap had finally gotten rolling. I wish I could say he got to be a great character, but actually this was kiind of his peak. The character was killed in the early ’80s, from cancer of all things. In the last few years, CM’s son was revealed in Peter David’s wonderful new CM series, which unfortunately ended in 2003 or ’04.
Cap was always a footnote, really, a character with a few nice moments but overall was a second-rate hero at best. Still, as Alan Moore once said, there are no bad characters, just bad writers.

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