Cover Image: Captain Marvel: Shadow Code

Captain Marvel: Shadow Code

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Carol Danvers is out of her depth, she should never have said to Tony Stark that she would help him. Thrust into a mission that needs a different approach than her standard strategies, this mission needs more than she can give,

A novel featuring one of my favourite Marvel characters was always going to catch my attention. This is a fun story, taking the characters and the readers on a different but captivating ride. Not only does it have exciting chase sequences, but dramatic introspective turns for a character trying to find out who she really is.

For Marvel fans, pick this book up, and it will entertain your wee geeky soul.

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Captain Marvel is a character that’s had a lot of cosmic adventures of the years, no matter which character is wearing the title. Most recently Carol Danvers has appeared in a major movie that saw her fighting aliens in space, but Captain Marvel: Shadow Code subverts things quite delightfully, by bringing Carol to Earth for a more grounded adventure. The book even begins with her heading off into space before being called back to the planet by Iron-Man to help a young grad student who believes her family have been caught up in a conspiracy by a tech giant.

One of the best things about the book is that Carol isn’t alone, and Segal brings a host of other familiar faces along to help out along the way. Early on in the book we spend time seeing Carol’s relationship with fellow Avenger Jessica Drew, Spider-Woman, and it’s rather delightful. The book slows down to show a more familial situation, complete with Jessica’s kid, and it’s something comics don’t often have time to do. And this is one of the best things about this book being brand new, and not based off an existing story, it’s able to take its time.

There are a lot of conventions and expectations when it comes to comic writing. For example, it’s expected that you need to have some kind of action each issue. But as this story is created for the prose form that’s not a consideration, and as such we’re able to take a slower start to things, we’re able to lay the groundwork for the mission, and can have a chapter where Carol is just investigating with her friend and her kid, eating pastries and chilling on the sofa. It’s a nice change of pace to how you expect these stories to play out.

Segal does include plenty of action for those who like it though, and there are some very cool moments across the course of the book that you can’t help but think ‘I’d love to see that drawn on a comic page’. It makes the most of this medium, whilst still appealing to fans of the other. But most of all, Segal captures Carol’s character well, and for a story where you’re almost constantly with the hero that’s perhaps the most important thing. If you’ve just watched The Marvels and are looking for more from Carol Danvers this is a book you’re going to want to pick up.

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I had a lot of fun with this. There were some characters that don't get a lot of page time or screen time, and that was cool to see, and I thought Segal had a good grasp on Carol's character: someone who is used to sort of going out on her own protecting others, for better or worse. I do think the plot is a little clunky and the dialog repetitious, but this was fun and easy to read so I'm not mad at it.

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Providing heroes with a challenge is often a case of making their opponent bigger and nastier. Inevitable fight then leads to inevitably the hero wins. Another more interesting idea though is take your main character and throw them into the deep end; a situation that doesn’t fit their strengths. In Gilly Segal’s Captain Marvel – Source Code Carol Danvers gets a mission that isn’t her usual battlefield and places her and her friends in great danger – and may end the world too.

Just when Captain Marvel thinks she has time to cross the galaxy for an important personal trip she is recalled back to Earth by none other than Tony Stark. He asks Carol to help investigate an unusual newly world breaking Tech firm that is now used by all major companies and governments and yet seems to have had some suspicious impacts on its previous managers who either died or vanished. A young woman also thinks it has kidnapped her mother. Carol agrees but is soon up against a clever opponent who is very resourceful and will bend the truth to suit their purposes.

This is an unusual book where the idea of putting Carol out of her comfort zone is fascinating and yet I don’t really understand this story’s approach. Captain Marvek is not who I would think of being great at espionage or investigation. Indeed, she finds her herself offloading that aspect to her friend Jess aka Spider Woman. The plot runs fairly mechanically with a neat piece of plotting beneath it all but overall, it just followed the path you would expect; and it didn’t sadly make a great deal of a character I tend to enjoy reading about. It is ok but not one I feel destined to be a classic Captain Marvel tale.

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I will take ANY excuse to read about Carol Danvers, and with the new Marvels movie coming out soon, I was so excited to get this ARC! The prose is wonderful and it really feels like Carol’s voice. I loved it immensely, and I’m definitely going to add a physical copy to my personal library.

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Captain Marvel: Shadow Code by Gilly Segal will be published October 17, 2023. Titan Books provided an early galley for review.

I go a long way back with Carol Danvers (almost to her debut in the 70's). When I think of her, I think of big cosmic adventures. Segal, however, chooses to go a bit of a different route and puts the heroine into a world of corporate espionage (one which might be better suited for a character like Black Widow instead). Adding the personal connection for Carol only further ups the ante.

The author brings in a lot of Marvel characters to support Carol as well as challenge her. It shows how connected the Marvel universe can be. The key with that aspect, though, is to make sure the usage is meanful and not just a way to cover areas where the lead character is less skilled.

This appears to be the author's first solo outing (her first two young adult novels were with a co-author) and dip into the science fiction/super-hero realm. For that, I think she did pretty well. Clearly she did her homework when it came to Marvel details, and the story overall had a logical flow. For me, there were a few spots where the structure was clunky (too much narration breaking up dialogue exchanges, for example), but these are things she'll get better at over time as she gets more writing under her belt.

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