Captain Marvel - Liberation Run by Tess Sharpe

I would like to thank Titan for an advance copy of this novel in exchange for a fair and honest review

Publisher – Titan

Published – Out Now

Price - £16.99

When a mysterious spacecraft comes hurtling toward Earth Carol Danvers – the hero known as Captain Marvel – narrowly prevents it from crashing.

The craft’s pilot is a young Inhuman woman, part of a group who rejected that society’s caste system and left for the stars in search of a new life. What they found, however, was a planet where Inhumans are treated like currency, and possession of an Inhuman girl brings great power and influence. To refuse means death, and Rhi has risked everything to seek help.

Horrified by the picture the young woman paints, Carol pledges to accompany her back to the planet and pulls together a team of heroes to help. Joined by Ant-Man, Mantis, and Amadeus Cho, Carol and Rhi set out to free her family, her people, and an entire world.

One cinematic event I’m definitely looking forward to very soon is the cinematic debut of Captain Marvel. I’m very much looking forward to seeing the take on her we will get from Brie Larson and what this means for the the MCU, but Carol Danvers is a character I’ve already enjoyed in trades for a few years as I find her a very intriguing lead character in her own various series. The chance to then read an original novel from Tess Sharpe giving us an original adventure from Earth’s Mightiest Hero couldn’t be missed and it is an a suitably blazing success giving us not just a reminder why the Captain is brilliant but also giving us a story that delivers superhero action with a stark message about the need to fight prejudice.

We meet the Captain when she is taking a break from her main duties and was just going for a drink with friends when she initially has to rescue a woman from a dangerous predator at a bar and then stop a spaceship crashing into a city (all in a day’s work). It soon is revealed that the pilot is a young alien woman called Rhi who has escaped Damaria a planet paranoid about anyone finding their location who captured Rhi’s family among a group of other Inhumans who landed there in an emergency. The Damarians are unfortunately themselves a super-powered people who have ensured only males can have power and influence. Rhi’s parents are murdered by one of the cruellest politicians and over the next ten years she and her people are turned effectively into slaves where their Inhuman abilities are placed into the hands of Keepers who monitor their every move.  Carol Danvers however is never one to ignore someone in trouble be it a woman in distress at a bar or a planet of several hundred enslaved refugees.  Pulling in a few favours she and her team including Ant-Man, Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy and Amadeus Cho (who turns into the Hulk known as Brawn) agree to return to Damaria with Rhi and rescue her people.

I was intrigued how a comic book character would migrate to a novel and I’m pleased to say I found this an immensely satisfying reading experience. While you don’t get the beauty of a splash page of action and vibrancy what Sharpe delivers instead is a beautifully layered tale with a bigger focus on character and their internal emptions and motivations but still delivering lots of action and spectacle. To warn you this isn’t the MCU from the films so you may find the takes on Mantis and Ant-Man a little unexpected but instead this feels to be more based around the current Marvel universe found in the comics so you may want to think of this more a future Marvel world where all these characters are settled and know of each other (there are no spoilers for either the Captain Marvel or Avengers films!!). Happily, we are given simple introductions to each character and an explanation of how they relate to one another which should help get you used to who they are.

What made this a standout read though were two elements. A major factor was Carol herself and she is definitely the compelling lead in the story I wanted to see.  Very much she is THE leader – she has the trust and respect of the various heroes we meet throughout the story and helps Rhi sees her former captors as beatable.  She makes people want to do better. She also comes across as very human and pleasingly she isn’t brooding instead irreverent especially to those in power and the story makes it clear she cannot resist fighting for the underdog whether in trouble at a bar or freeing a planet’s population. She can plan her team’s roles and while clearly angry and disgusted at the oppression she witnesses.  She is always in control of her emotions (something so many film characters like to imagine women are not!). She’s a very refreshing lead and deservedly takes the stage every scene she is in.

This leads then lead to the other key element which was the plot of the captive Inhumans and the Damarian Keepers.  Sharpe delivers a very cruel and evil tale of oppression focused very much on the treatment of women. As well as talking about the methodology of oppressors using culture and politics to control the population there are some insights into how people are controlled (not all Damarians have powers which aids the elite’s control) but we also see that people are often willing accomplices in the torture and murder of those they don’t see as human. There are clear influences to assault (and possibly sexual assault too) it’s a sobering moment and the psychological impact on Rhi and others is made clear but importantly the story also makes it clear the prisoners often rise above their captors aims to destroy them and their bravery often equals that of the earth’s heroes.

Overall, I found this a compelling read giving me a different type of Marvel experience.  I loved how they showed Danvers as the competent leader and the wider plot is engaging and really invested me emotionally in the rescue attempt for Rhi and her family and friends.  I really think if you’re intrigued as to why lots of us are ready to see Captain Marvel next week this is a great place to start!