This weekend is the opening of Captain Marvel, the latest box office blockbuster to come out of Marvel Studios. I’ve been reading Marvel comics since I was six years old (in 1989) so my hype level is at 110% right now. Captain Marvel, or Ms. Marvel, or Warbird, or Binary as she’s been known at various stages of her career as a super hero is one of Marvel’s most dynamic and diverse characters and finally seeing her get to shine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is going to be amazing.

To celebrate, I’ve been spending some time the past few weeks re-reading some of my favorite Carol Danvers stories from the past 50 years. That number isn’t a mistake, and many fans may not know this, but Carol made her first appearance as the head of Air Force security back in 1968 in the pages of Captain Marvel, a title originally taken by the Kree warrior Mar-Vell who became a defender of the Earth and a close friend of Carol’s.

So today I’m sharing this guide with you, dear reader, as a Greatest Hits list of comics to read to catch up on learning just who is Carol Danvers in the Marvel Universe. You don’t have to read this before you see the movie, but I suspect once you see the movie you’re going to want to learn a lot more about the character and this is the best way I can help you. If you don’t have time for a bunch of Bronze Age and 1980’s/90’s shenanigans (and who does?) then I strongly recommend kicking off your journey with 2004’s New Avengers #15 and 2006’s Ms. Marvel #1. Both will give you some great background on who Carol Danvers has become in the modern Marvel universe and introduce you to a lot of her supporting cast members.

Without further delay, true believer, here is my guide to Captain Marvel’s Greatest Hits!

Introducing Ms. Marvel (1968 – 1979)

This era introduces Carol Danvers and also introduces a lot of the cosmic framework that will lay the foundation for events like the Kree/Skrull war and the Infinity War in the future.

  • Marvel Super-Heroes (1967) #13 — First appearance of Carol Danvers
  • Captain Marvel (1968) #16-18 — Carol is caught in the explosion of a Kree artifact that unknowingly gives her powers
  • Ms. Marvel (1977) #1 — First appearance of Ms. Marvel
  • Ms. Marvel (1977) #9-10 — First fight with Deathbird
  • Ms. Marvel (1977) #19-20 — Carol learns the origin of her powers, changes to the lightning bolt costume
  • Avengers Annual (1967) #10 — Rogue steals Carol’s powers

Binary (1980 – 1998)

After losing her powers, Carol moves into the X-Mansion so Charles Xavier can help with her recovery. While off-world with the X-Men fighting the Brood, Carol manifests new powers and becomes Binary, and leaves the X-Men behind for some good old space adventuring!

  • Uncanny X-Men (1963) #161-167 — Carol joins the X-Men for an off-world adventure and becomes Binary!
  • Uncanny X-Men (1963) #174 — Carol joins the Starjammers
  • New Mutants (1983) #50-51 — The New Mutants team up with the Starjammers
  • Avengers (1963) #350-351 — Carol leaves the Starjammers

Warbird (1998 – 2006)

After the events of the Onslaught Saga and whatever the following two years were, the Marvel universe relaunched their flagship team title, Carol returns to the Avengers calling herself Warbird. She’s basically still Binary but with her Ms. Marvel costume. Her powers are fading and she decides to compensate by becoming an alcoholic! I’ve highlighted one of the stories below because I think it’s one of the great examples of how Carol Danvers is constantly being used as a way to tell diverse stories in the Marvel universe.

  • Live Kree or Die — This is a Crossover Series that results in Carol leaving the Avengers
    • Iron Man (1998) #7
    • Captain America (1998) #8
    • Quicksilver (1997) #10
    • Avengers (1998) #7
  • Iron Man (1998) #23-25 — Tony Stark convinces Carol to join Alcoholics Anonymous
  • Avengers (1998) #65-70 — This story arc, known as The Red Zone, pits the Avengers against the Red Skull and Carol leaves the team at the end

The Return of Ms. Marvel (2006 – 2012)

This era kicks off one of the greatest stretches of Marvel storytelling with House of M going into Decimation, Civil War, Planet Hulk, and Annihilation. Carol returns to help the Avengers as a favor to longtime friend Jessica Drew (Spider-Woman) and eventually gets her own title again. Its at this time that Ms. Marvel becomes a real mainstay of the Marvel Universe, appearing in almost every major event even as a minor cameo sometimes. If you go back and read any major story from this time period, even the iffy ones like Siege and Fear Itself, you’ll find Ms. Marvel front-and-center playing a main role as an Avenger.

  • New Avengers (2004) #15 — Carol returns to the Avengers after a long talk with Steve Rogers about the fallout from House of M and her role as a super hero in the world.
  • Ms. Marvel (2006) #1 — A new solo title reintroduces Carol Danvers to the world and recaps a lot of what she’s gone through in the nearly 40 years of comics leading up to this.
  • Ms. Marvel (2006) #6-8 — This is Ms. Marvel’s Civil War crossover and a great one for establishing why she chooses to side with Tony Stark instead of Steve Rogers in the battle between super-heroes.
  • Mighty Avengers (2007) #1 — In the wake of the Civil War every state has its own super team to defend it, but Tony Stark decides that the nation needs the Avengers and asks Carol to lead a new team.
  • Ms. Marvel (2006) #13-14 — Carol’s story from Civil War gets another chapter in this Initiative crossover
  • Ms. Marvel (2006) #42-46 — Carol takes on Moonstone during the Dark Reign event in which Moonstone takes on the Ms. Marvel mantle (and original costume) as part of Norman Osborn’s Dark Avengers

Captain Marvel in Marvel NOW (2012 – 2015)

After the events of Avengers vs. X-Men (which Carol is not a major part of) the Marvel universe is completely shaken up. After a chat with Steve Rogers, Carol decides to give up the title of Ms. Marvel and take on the title of Captain Marvel. She’ll become a major part of Jonathan Hickman’s Avengers story leading up to 2015’s Secret War. Most of all though, she’ll get her own title as Captain Marvel with a female writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. To be honest, you should probably read all 17 issues of the series but I’ll try to get to the highlights.

  • Captain Marvel (2012) #1 — Kelly Sue DeConnick unveils the all-new Captain Marvel
  • Avenging Spider-Man (2012) #9-10 — Captain Marvel teams up with Spider-Man
  • The Enemy Within — This is a major Captain Marvel story-arc featuring the return of Yogg-Ronn and a stunning conclusion
    • Avengers: The Enemy Within (2013) #1
    • Avengers Assemble (2012) #16
    • Captain Marvel (2012) #13
    • Avengers Assemble (2012) #17
    • Captain Marvel (2012) #14
  • Captain Marvel (2012) #15-16 — During the events of Infinity Carol deals with the fallout from Enemy Within
  • Captain Marvel (2014) #1 — Marvel rebooted a lot of series in 2014 including Captain Marvel, and now she’s going to fight more in space, leaving the Avengers behind her.
  • Guardians of the Galaxy (2012) #14-16 — Carol joins the Guardians of the Galaxy!
  • Captain Marvel & the Carol Corps (2015) #1-5 — Technically out of continuity, this story takes place during the Secret War but its still awesome

All-New, All-Different Captain Marvel (2015 – Present)

With the Secret War over, everything is back to normal, mostly. Carol takes over operations of Alpha Flight as the Earth’s first line of defense against cosmic threats. Meanwhile she also forms a somewhat secret super-team called the Ultimates to try to solve cosmic problems before they happen. All of this leads to Carol going head-to-head with Tony Stark in Civil War II.

  • Captain Marvel (2016) #1 — Welcome to Alpha Flight
  • Ultimates (2016) #1-6 — Carol creates a Cosmic super-hero team to defeat Galactus once and for all (no, seriously)
  • A-Force (2016) #1-7 — Possibly the best all-female comic team ever

At this point you can either read Civil War II or you can pass on it. The premise is pretty bold, though not as bold as the original series. Carol discovers that one of the Inhumans can see the future. She decides that the right thing to do is become the future police (think Tom Cruise in Minority Report) by arresting people for crimes they haven’t yet committed so that they never commit them (paradox much?). Tony Stark opposes her based on the idea that Carol can’t be 100% sure the visions would have come true without interference. It’s all very moral grey areas (or is it) and it will change Carol forever.

  • Mighty Captain Marvel (2016) #5-8 — Leading up to Secret Empire, Carol has finally achieved all of the things she set out to do ten years ago in the wake of House of M, and she’s a hero who inspires others. Now though she’ll be stabbed in the back (like everyone) when Captain America reveals he’s secretly been working for Hydra all along. Will Carol be able to continue to defend the Earth?

I won’t go any further than the end of Secret Empire because that’s basically the current ongoing stories including the latest Countdown to Infinity and Infinity events involving everyone’s favorite Titan as well as Captain Marvel’s latest solo series, Life of Captain Marvel. If you’ve enjoyed these make sure you check those out as well, and I hope you enjoy the new Captain Marvel movie in theaters this weekend!

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