When this issue starts, Captain Marvel is expounding on how great the air smells, feels and tastes in the dead of winter and how refreshing and revitalizing it is. It’s a great metaphor for this issue, in point of fact, and it works on a few different levels, but having Captain Marvel back on Earth (I’m hoping for a decent chunk of time) is just the shot in the arm this book needed. The last few issues, while fun, have had a sense of aimlessness and stargazing (pun intended) and while they’ve been fun, they were also beginning to wear a bit thin. By getting Carol back to Earth, we get the rest of her great supporting cast, we get immediate stakes for her as now the people in danger are ones she knows and loves and, most especially, we get Kelly Sue Deconnick writing all of that. This issue tells a really great, fairly self-contained story and does it in a remarkably short amount of time. Danvers wastes no time in catching up with the person most important to her, but of course her festivities are interupted by the rude, deranged Grace Valentine. The story unfolds predictably, but there IS a truly fantastic twist in it that’s made all the funnier by how little of a reaction the characters have to it. That's right, SANTA IS REAL! Because, in the Marvel Universe, it’s not THAT weird. That’s vague, but it’s easy to spot as it’s happening and, again, it’s a great touch.
David Lopez is on linework and brings his cartoonish-yet-down-to-Earth style to every page and every panel of this book, and it looks absolutely fantastic. The visuals, especially in the surprisingly physical fight scene, are impactful and kinetic, reminding that reader that, even unpowered, Captain Danvers packs plenty of wallop. The scenes of her joyously flying through the air are beautiful in a whole DIFFERENT way, conveying both the speed and joy of the act. Lee Loughridge’s colors are very interesting here because the book actually has a very dark look, but it never comes off as dreary or grim, and that’s a hard line to walk. Loughridge is, clearly, more than up to the task, however, as the visuals look amazing and convey the sense of whimsy and wonder that permeates the whole issue.
There’s a specific moment in this book that made me scratch my head and that’s how Grace Valentine managed to escape custody from last issue into this one and the book never really answers that. It’s just sort of shrugged off as “eh, that’s what villains do.
The fact is: that IS what villains do, so it’s not all that unusual that very little is explained, and it’s not really the point of the book. This is a book that has a great sense of spirit without descending into preachiness or soapboxing, and it reinvigorates what was a title in danger of beginning to sag. There’s clearly plenty of verve left, though, and between Deconnick and Lopez, the book’s never looked or felt better.