Carl sets off on an out of this world adventure with Carol Danvers in Tess Sharpe’s Captain Marvel novelisation…
Many books have been written for the Marvel Universe. Each one containing at least one main character and several other Marvel characters in supporting roles. Venom: Lethal Protector had the advantage of bringing Spider-Man into the story. Spider-Man: Forever Young had Silvermane and The Kingpin to bring that story to life. Captain Marvel: Liberation Run has the advantage of having four Marvel characters as a supporting part of the story. It brings them together on a mission that suits the main character down to the ground. However, for the most part, their ‘gifts’ are not utilised during the events of the novel. There is a reason for this, storywise but somehow, it detracts from the enjoyment the reader will have with the book. Not that the book isn’t good because it is. The story ties in well with the Marvel world and it’s great to see many characters come to the fore for once and not be just referenced or used in a token manner. It’s just that we’ve come to see (or read) the characters ripping through an adventure, utilising their traits and doing what they do best. For the most part, that doesn’t happen here.
Captain Marvel: Liberation Run | by Tess Sharpe
Liberation Run is an original novel written by Tess Sharpe. Her known works include the thriller Barbed Wire Heart, the Young Adult novel Far From You, The Jurassic World prequel The Evolution Of Claire and is the co-editor of a feminist anthology about witches entitled Toil & Trouble. Her writing is worthy of a Marvel novel, bringing her talents to the party and producing a novel of quality. It fits in well with the other books released containing other characters from the drawn page of a comic book. I’ll say this proudly, it’s entirely proper and correct to have a female writer creating this novel for Captain Marvel. This is how it should be. A man could have written it but he wouldn’t have had the same insight or underlying knowledge to bring our female characters into such a worthy and interesting story. This is a novel written about a strong female contingent by a strong female writer. And for the better part of the book, pulls it off with grace and style.
Our story begins on the distant planet of Dameria. Our first encounter with one of the best-supporting characters written for this universe happens here. The character of Rhi is one that should be included in the Marvel Universe in comic book form or incorporated into the next phase of movies. She is a strong but vulnerable young female Inhuman. She and her fellow Inhumans have landed on this planet a few years before the story opens. Each of them has a unique power contained within them. Rhi’s is the ability to open rifts in space and time. However, the original inhabitants of this planet have used them for their own advantage. Each of them has been fitted with an implant to keep them under control. Rhi has witnessed the murder of her mother and father by the tyrannical President Lee and his main keeper, Ansel. Females, both born of the planet and ‘guests’ that have arrived from another have to live by a set of three lessons:
Lesson One: Women speak only when spoken to.
Lesson Two: Women do not meet their betters’ eyes.
Lesson Three: You rebel, you die.
Each female is dispatched to a Maiden House to be indoctrinated in the expectations of every woman on the planet. For any defiance or mistake, they are tortured by having an acid like gel poured onto their backs, causing serious pain and scarring. This gel is contained in a bomb like device the Male planets guards carry with them. Rhi has witnessed the murder of two of her friends, twins in fact, by the President by being lowered into a pit full of the gel. Her refusal to join in the celebrations of their demise leads to her punishment of having gel dripped onto her back. This leads to Rhi’s determination to escape the planet and get help in bringing down the hierarchy and freeing her brother, her friends and the women of the planet from their cruel tormentors. A story has been doing the rounds for centuries, drummed into the Inhumans and every Damerian of a woman who has tremendous power and can embrace and use the mystical ‘flame’ to battle the cruel rulers and their lackeys who fell from the stars. Rhi steals a ship and using her talent, escapes from the planet on her quest to get help.
This leads to her almost crashing and dying on Earth. Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers herself, stops this from happening, thereby saving Rhi’s life. Rhi is astonished to see the legend she’s been brought up to fear before her eyes. Falling unconscious, she is brought to the star force medical facility for treatment. Carol delves deeper into the young girl’s story and her escape and is horrified by what she learns. Confronting the Queen of the Inhumans, Medusa, Carol is shocked to find the Queen knows more about the girl’s story and her reason for landing on Dameria. Rhi awakens and fills in Carol and Mantis about her journey, about how she carved her implant from her arm and the persecution she and her fellows face on a daily basis. Carol is angered by this information. She decides she must travel to the planet with Mantis, Ant-Man and Amadeus Cho (Brawn) to free the Inhumans and the females from the planets new ruler, the dreaded former main keeper, Ansel. When they arrive or rather crash onto the surface of the planet, each finds their powers are diminished by a shield preventing the Inhumans from using their traits. After a battle with several guards where Carol discovers she can’t fly, the group is aided by Carol’s friend, Hepzibah, a former member of Carol’s squad and immune to the shields rays. Together, they set out on a mission to free the planet and to crush Ansel once and for all.
The book has the underlying themes common in these kinds of books. We are presented with male domination of the females, forced slavery, torture, tyranny and persecution of the people and in Rhi’s case, her love and relationship with a member of the same sex. These themes are there for all to see and are not shied away from or used as a simple device to further the plot. It was fantastic to read the book and for the characters to not bat an eyelid or question Rhi’s sexuality. It’s presented as nothing out of the ordinary as it should be. It enriches the book and makes it feel like real life in the real world. The tyrannical aspects in the story remind me of Adolf Hitler or General Pinochet or even Robert Mugabe. Each manipulated their power to persecute the people who didn’t fit into their ideals. Each was guilty of genocide on a grand scale. Each used fear to dominate their country. It feels quite topical for this to be an underlying current within the story. And the male domination is a throwback to over a century ago where women were denied the vote, were denied entry into the male world, to be viewed as inferior. Thank god the human race has made progress and almost corrected this injustice.
It would be easy for me to say the book is the feminist version of a comic book story. Sometimes, it does seem to come across that way but even if it is, is that a bad thing? It’s not women are good, men are the evil book. It does bring home several points for the reader to consider. And that is exactly how it should be. Themes like the ones raised in the novel SHOULD be discussed and acted upon. Just because the main character happens to be a woman means nothing. The sexes are supposed to be equal now so it shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that Captain Marvel is a strong female hero. Do I believe the sexes are on an equal footing in this day and age? No, I do not. There’s still a long way to go before the balance is correct. That is my own personal opinion. More can be done to address the balance, to make sure things are equalised. Carol Danvers, as demonstrated in the recently released film, is what the world needs. A strong female superhero we can get behind. In a male-dominated universe, Marvel needs to bring more female characters like her to the forefront. DC have managed to get somewhere with Wonder Woman and Harley Quinn. There’s plenty of female characters that Marvel have in their arsenal, maybe its time for them to be brought into the spotlight and take centre stage instead of the men. This book, though slightly flawed is a good step forward. The story zips along at a good pace, the characterisation is rich and rewarding and the worlds it presents us are relevant in the world today. A worthy addition to a book collection, Captain Marvel: Liberation Run is a fun, timely and thoughtfully presented novel of the Marvel Universe.
Now, bring on a sequel!!
Until next time.
Captain Marvel: Liberation Run by Tess Sharpe is published by Titan Books and is available to buy from all good retailers NOW!
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Carl Roberts is a Senior Entertainment/Books and Literature Correspondent for The Future of the Force. Aside from being our horror genre aficionado, he is also passionate about Star Wars, Marvel, DC, and the Indiana Jones movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force frequently!