Finally the Essentials collections are getting around to doing what we always hoped that they would do: the second tier books, the ones more easily lost to time, or the ones that were neglected until a substantial revamp forces the collector/reader to have to trudge back and reassess those early issues.
Baby, the Essential Captain Marvel is on Earth in the swinging '60's and ready to party.
Lets get to the chase right here: this is not stellar stuff. It is interesting, however, to read the early issues and see Gene Colan quickly moving through stuff that is not entirely up his alley. Case in point: the early set up scenes with Mar-Vell at the missle base, disguising himself as a human have a quiet grounding in realism that makes them tick, but the majority of the first issue is given over to a fight between a Kree Sentry (the one from FF#72 I believe) and Mar-Vell that Kirby would have made crackle with power, but Gene muddies up with some sketchy figure work and less-than stellar cropping. Doesn't matter really, because your attention will be given over to Roy Thomas' over the top hyperbolic apeing of Stan the Man's dialog style.
I'm actually very happy with the classic Gil Kane illustration that they chose for the cover, even if its not very appropriate for the volume. And can we nit-pick on the logo? Correct logo, but bizarre size. They actually decide to redo the cover on the pre index page, use the same illustration with a different crop and larger logo, as if they knew that they messed up on the cover and couldn't go back to those photoshop files. Bizarre. And not entirely appropriate for a collection given over to Mar-Vell in his classic green and white Kree uniform.
The premise is interesting, the Kree Captain sent to Earth to get it ready for attack, but it is clear by the 10th issue or so that the book is not working, (there really are only so many ways that one could twist this and keep the initial premise going and they actually use very few of them before giving up) and thus begins one of the more interesting experiments in Marvel history: the complete reinventions, of a book while its still being foisted on the unsuspecting fans. The middle period for this book, would be an odd mish-mosh of storylines and contradicting characters.
It only took 10 issues before they decide to jettison the original story line, even killing Una, his one true Kree love, in an almost off-handed way in a tiny panel of issue #11. So much for being the hugely important part of Mar-Vell's life. #11 was entitled "Rebirth", and gave Mar-Vell terrific new powers by way of an outspace acid trip from the creature Zo.
We then return to Earth to pick up the old storyline with Danvers and the military base, but there is little or no grounding in reality here, just an annoying android called the Man-Killer. Yon-Rogg is still around, but marginally so. At the end of #14 we're drawn back into space with Zo, and throw Mar-Vell back to Hala for a whole new storyline. By #16 we finish up on Hala and find out that Zo wasn't real, and that the last couple issues were a complete illusion. Perhaps you could get your 15 cents back from the drug store. Mar-Vell is given his new costume with three pages to go of issue #16 and promises a whole new space adventure, when, in a complete rewrite, he gets thrown in to the negative zone for no reason what-so-ever.
And the series almost ended right there. Not very promising is it?
But then, they bring in Rick Jones and about three different fill-in issues trying to find a direction. Some rather kinetic Gil Kane artwork as well. But none of it has even a hint of direction.
And then, in a final twist of fate, came Jim Starlin, and following him over from Iron Man, came Thanos of Titan and Drax the Destroyer.
And the final reinvention of Captain Marvel was about to begin. Ha! Top that Omega the Unknown!