Carol Danvers, also known as Captain Marvel, formerly known as Ms. Marvel, first debuted in 1968 as a supporting cast member for Marvel Comics’ original Captain Marvel, alias Mar-vell. But Carol has been a Marvel super hero in her own right since 1977!
However, her ongoing titles have been a little inconsistent, and there’s been a handful of reboots in the last 10 years — Knowing where to start can be tricky if you’re just jumping in now! So here’s a guide (with Amazon links).
Any of the following “chapters” of Carol’s career are a decent place to get started with the character:
Chapter 1: Ms. Marvel 1977
There’s four ways to collect these stories. The first one is to buy the issues individually — That includes Ms. Marvel (1977) #1-23, Marvel Super Heroes (1990) #10-11, and Avengers (1963) Annual #10, plus a handful of various other appearances.
Carol’s original ongoing series was cancelled after issue 23 in 1979, but the issues that would have been 24 and 25 were already drawn! Marvel finally printed them in their anthology title, Marvel Super Heroes, in issues 10-11 from 1992, thirteen years after-the-fact! Also included is Avengers Annual #10, which is the debut of the X-Men’s Rogue. Additionally, Deathbird and Mystique also make their first appearances in the Ms. Marvel run, so collecting the single issues here can get expensive.
Essential Ms. Marvel vol 1. includes ALL of those issues in black-and-white, but it’s been out of print for over a decade and is becoming increasingly harder to find. Plus, you may or may not like reading black-and-white comics on newsprint paper. As of the time of this writing, it’s the cheapest option, but not for everybody.
The easiest option is to get the Ms. Marvel Epic Collections. Volume one, Marvel Epic Collection: This Woman, This Warrior, collects issues #1-14, plus Carol’s appearances in Marvel Team-Up #61-62, and The Defenders #57. Meanwhile, volume 2, Marvel Epic Collection: The Woman Who Fell To Earth, collects issues #15-23, plus the stories that would have been issues #24 and #25 from Marvel Super Heroes #10-11, her appearance in Marvel Two-In-One #57, the unfortunate Avengers #200 as well as lead-in moments to that story from Avengers #197-199, Avengers Annual #10, AND relevant pages from Marvel Fanfare #24.
But for people who like hardcovers, there’s the Marvel Mastersworks versions as well — Marvel Masterworks: This Woman, This Warrior and Marvel Masterworks: The Woman Who Fell To Earth contain all the same material as their Epic Collection counterparts, but in a hardcover format.
Additionally, all of the aforementioned issues are collected in the $100 Captain Marvel: Ms. Marvel: A Hero is Born Omnibus, if you want all 720 pages in one gigantic hardcover.
Chapter 2: Ms. Marvel 2006
Carol joined both the Avengers and the X-Men at various times throughout the 1980s, 1990s, and early 2000s, before writer Brian Reed took over and wrote more issues of a Carol Danvers solo title than any writer to date.
These 50 issues, plus one annual and three one-shot specials, that spun out of the events of the House of M crossover event, were originaly collected in nine graphic novels (with all but volume 2 also available in hardcover): Best of the Best (issues #1-5), Civil War (#6-10), Operation: Lightning Storm (#11-17), Monster Smash (#18-24), Secret Invasion (#25-30), Ascension (#31-34, Annual #1, Storyteller Special), Dark Reign (#35-41), War of the Marvels (#42-46), and Best You Can Be (#47-50).
More recently, just before making her big-screen debut in 2019, Marvel re-collected these as Captain Marvel: Carol Danvers: The Ms. Marvel Years. Why these weren’t marketed as Epic Collections is beyond me, but if you just want three larger books instead of nine smaller ones, you could buy Volume 1 (includes Giant-Size Ms. Marvel, issues #1-17, Special #1), Volume 2 (issues 18-34, Annual #1), and Volume 3 (#35-50, Ms. Marvel Special: Storyteller, and Siege: Spider-Man). This is the most complete way to experience this run without tracking down all the single issues.
Chapter 3: Captain Marvel 2012
In July 2012, a little over a year after Brian Reed’s run ended, Carol was “promoted” from Ms. Marvel to Captain Marvel. Writer Kelly Sue DeConnick took over writing duties, and put Carol on a new path. Thew new costume and idenitity debuted in Avenging Spider-Man #9-10, with #9 released just a week before Captain Marvel (2012) #1. This series ran for 17 issues, although issues #15 and #16 were part of the 2013 Infinity summer event, and don’t really make sense outside the context of THAT story. Issue 14 is confirmed as the first on-panel cameo of the second Ms. Marvel, Kamala Khan. And the last page of issue #17 is a teaser for the start of Kamala’s Ms. Marvel series, so both of those issues have gone up in value a LOT as time has gone on. Additionally, Kelly Sue DeConnick was also writing the Avengers Assemble title at the time and crossed over both series with a story called The Enemy Within, adding a one-shot that kicked off the crossover, titled Avengers: The Enemy Within #1, for a total of 24 issues in this era.
These were mostly collected in the trade paperbacks In Pursuit of Flight (#1-6), Down (#7-12), and Avengers: The Enemy Within (Avengers: Enemy Within #1, Avengers Assemble #16-19, Captain Marvel #13-14 and #17 — skipping the Infinity tie-in issues). Notably, the Avenging Spider-Man issues that debut Carol’s new name and look were collected as part of THAT series’ graphic novels.
These issues have been more recently (and more completely) collected in Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero volume 1 (#1-12) and volume 2 (#13-17, Avengers: Enemy Within #1, Avengers Assemble #16-19, Avenging Spider-Man #9-10).
Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero is probably the easiest way to get all these stories, even if the Infinity tie-in issues are a little confusing outside of their proper context.
Chapter 4: Captain Marvel 2014 & Secret Wars
And here’s where the confusion starts to set in. Less than two years after the rebrand, Marvel Comics decided to renumber Captain Marvel at #1 again, even though it was by the same writer. I have no idea why.
Captain Marvel (2014) runs for 15 issues that sees Carol join up with the Guardians of the Galaxy for a while. Issue #14 is a tie-in with the X-Men/Guardians of the Galaxy crossover, the Black Vortex, and as a result had a lot of people who don’t normally buy the comic pick up just that one issue, making it tricky to find in back issue bins. Additionally, issue #7 is where we find out that Carol’s pet cat, Chewie (Goose in the movie) is actually not an Earth cat, but an alien known as a Flerken. As a result, that issue is sometimes expensive, and sometimes people don’t care.
The graphic novel collections begin are Higher, Further, Faster, More (#1-6), Stay Fly (#7-11), and Alis Volat Propriis (#12-15) (“Ālīs volat propriīs” is the state motto of Oregon, where Kelly Sue DeConnick lived at the time of writing this issue — It’s also Latin for “She flies with her own wings,” a title that’s fitting for the character)
In 2015, Marvel Comics cancelled their entire line for the Secret Wars event, and we got Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1-4, co-written by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Kelly Thompson. The graphic novel collection also includes the 2012 series’ issue #17 — The “Carol Corps” is the name given to Carol Danvers’ fans, and that particular issue was a celebration of the fandom. It makes sense enough to include it in a collection with “and the Carol Corps” as part of its title.
Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero volume 3 collects issues #1-11 of the 2014 series, and volume 4 collects issues #12-15, plus Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1-4. For some reason, Earth’s Mightiest Hero volume 4 is incredibly hard to find online for cover price. It might be easier to just buy the Alis Volat Proriis and Carol Corps collections if you don’t live in an area that might still have older collections on their shelves.
Finally, the Captain Marvel by Kelly Sue DeConnick Omnibus hardcover was just announced, scheduled to be released in December of 2022. For $125, it contains Captain Marvel (2012) #1-17, Captain Marvel (2014) #1-15, Avengers: The Enemy Within #1, Avengers Assemble #16-19, Avenging Spider-Man #9-10, and Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps #1-4 — Every issue contained in Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero volumes 1-4. This will definitely be the easiest way to collect all 48 issues that Ms. DeConnick wrote in one go, though, again, it’s over 100 dollars for 976 pages. That may be out of some peoples’ price range for a single purchase.
Chapter 5: Alpha Flight & Civil War II 2016
The end of the Secret Wars event saw a minor reboot to the Marvel Universe, and now Carol was going to join Canadian super-team Alpha Flight, as they become a Earth’s first line of defense against alien invaders. Oh, and then Civil War II happened and everybody hated it. This series, written by Tara Butters, ran for 10 issues, collected in two colletions: Rise of Alpha Flight (issues #1-5) and Captain Marvel: Civil War II (#6-10).
All 10 issues were also collected as Captain Marvel: Earth’s Mightiest Hero volume 5, the final Earth’s Mightiest Hero volume released.
Chapter 6: The Mighty Captain Marvel and her Life 2016-2018
Margaret Stohl takes over writing duties, and picks back up with Carol as commander of Alpha Flight. Marvel’s Legacy renumbering happened partway through this series, confusingly changing the numbering of the series partway through — What would have been issue #10 of this series was also issue #125 of Carol’s total solo series run (even though the first two series were called Ms. Marvel, and the following 3 were Captain Marvel, and THIS one is called The Mighty Captain Marvel). It’s confusing and unnecessary, especially when you consider it leaves out the Marvel Super Heroes #10-11 issues that should’ve been Ms. Marvel (1977) #24-25, as well as the annual, Giant Size, and Special issues from the 2006 run, AND the Carol Corps story from Secret Wars 2015, but whatever.
So this series consists of The Mighty Captain Marvel #0-9 (there’s an issue 0 — Maybe to get to that round #125 later?), and Captain Marvel #125-130. “The Mighty” got dropped from the renumbering. But wait! It gets worse!
The collections of these issues are Alien Nation (issues #0-4), Band of Sisters (#5-9), and Dark Origin (#125-130) — But the Dark Origin collection re-added “The Mighty” to the title! Sheesh!
And THEN, the series was cancelled and renumbered AGAIN, with The Life of Captain Marvel — a 5-issue miniseries, also written by Margeret Stohl, that went deeper into Carol Danvers’ origins.
That’s SIX Captain Marvel #1s between 2012 and 2018… And we’re note QUITE done yet.
Chapter 7: Captain Marvel 2019
Kelly Thompson, co-writer of Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps from 2015, takes over as the writer of the series. As of the time I’m writing this, she’s now completed 38 issues of the series. Fortunately, with a stable writer for more than 3 years, collecting Carol’s adventures has gotten pretty straightforward.
Collections for this series include: Re-Entry (issues #1-5), Falling Star (#6-11; Amazon link has the wrong title), The Last Avenger (#12-16), Accused (#17-21), The New World (#22-26) Strange Magic (#27-30), and The Last of the Marvels (#31-35).
This series is still ongoing, so there may be more collections out by the time you read this! Issues #36-38 plus a new annual are out as of the time of this writing!
Chapter 8: Marvel Action: Captain Marvel
Two series of IDW’s all-ages Marvel Comics adventures line, Marvel Action, starring Carol Danvers, collected in three volumes. These stories are extremely fun, with bright, colorful, cartoony art. They’re intended for younger audiences, but they’re pretty great for readers of any age.
The first series of Marvel Action: Captain Marvel ran for six issues, collected in CAT-tastrophe (#1-3) and A.I.M. Small (#4-6), with all of the second series collected in Ghost in the Machine (series 2, #1-5).
Incidentally, while these are under the Marvel Action banner, including these issues actually means there were actually nine Captain Marvel #1 issues released in seven years.
Chapter 9: Specials and One-Shots
A handful of one-shots starring Carol Danvers have not yet been collected in any Captain Marvel collections. These maybe aren’t the best place to START, but I felt like I would be remiss if I didn’t list them.
- Generations: Captain Marvel and Generations: Ms. Marvel are both part of the Marvel: Generations event (collected in Generations)
- Captain Marvel: Infinity Countdown (2018) ties in with the Infinity Countdown event (collected in Infinity Countdown Companion)
- Absolute Carnage: Captain Marvel (2019) is a tie-in to the Absolute Carnage event (collected in Absolute Carnage vs. Deadpool and Absolute Carnage Omnibus)
- Captain Marvel: Braver & Mightier (2019) is a fun one-shot by Jody Houser & Simone Buonfantino (uncollected as of this writing)
- Captain Marvel: The End (2020) acts as a sequel to 2019’s Re-Entry — This was written by Kelly Thompson, and while it isn’t ESSENTIAL to collect as part of the 2019 run, it’s a nice bonus story. (uncollected as of this writing)
- Marvel’s Snapshots: Captain Marvel (2021) is part of the Marvel’s Snapshots series, and shows what an inspiration a superhero can be to a normal person (collected in Marvel’s Snapshots — Hardcover available now, Paperback coming in 2023)
Finally, for the completists, there are the True Believers reprints of several key issues. These all have a cover price of one dollar, and are a great way to sample stories inexpensively before investing in any particular character or story arc. The ones starring Carol Danvers include:
- True Believers Carol Danvers – reprints Carol’s first appearance in Marvel Super Heroes (1967) #13
- True Believers Captain Marvel: Ms. Marvel – reprints Ms. Marvel (1977) #1
- True Believers Captain Marvel: New Ms. Marvel – Reprints Ms. Marvel #20, the debut of the lightning bolt outfit.
- True Believers Captain Marvel: Avenger – Reprints Avengers (1963) #183, when Carol first joins the team
- True Believers Captain Marvel: Spider-Man & Ms. Marvel – Reprints Marvel Team-Up #62
- True Believers Captain Marvel: BETRAYED – Reprints Avengers Annual #10
- True Believers Captain Marvel: Binary – Reprints Uncanny X-Men (1963) #164, when Carol transforms into Binary (not available on Amazon, apparently?)
Amusingly, everything in this “chapter” is numbered #1…meaning we’ve technically gotten over 20 Captain Marvel #1 issues in the last decade. And THAT is why reading guides like this are necessary.
Chapter 10: Other Collections
And finally, here’s some other collected editions featuring Captain Marvel, to give readers a taste of various points of her career:
Captain Marvel: The Many Lives of Carol Danvers – Collects stories that show all of Carol Danvers’ various forms over the years, including her first appearance, first time as a superhero, when she joins the Avengers and the X-Men, her time in the US Air Force, and when she takes on the name Captain Marvel. Collects Marvel Super Heroes (1968) #13, Ms. Marvel (1977) #1, Avengers (1963) #183-184, Uncanny X-Men (1963) #164, Avengers (1998) #4, Iron Man (1998) #4, Ms. Marvel (2006) 32-33, and Captain Marvel (2012) #1
Captain Marvel vs. Rogue – Collects all the times Carol and the X-Men’s Rogue have confronted each other. Avengers Annual #10, Uncanny X-Men #158, 171, and 269; Ms. Marvel (2006) #9-10, X-Men Legacy #269-270, Captain Marvel (2019) #4-5, and relevant pages from Marvel Super Heroes #11
Captain Marvel: Starforce – Not really a proper Carol Danvers collection, per se, but it involves the Kree Star Force featured in the movie. Collects Fantastic Four (1961) #65, Marvel Super Heroes (1967) #12, Ms. Marvel (1977) #1, Captain Marvel (1968; Starring Mar-Vell) #52, Quasar #9, Captain America (1998) #8, and relevant pages from Captain America (1968) #399.
And there you go. Of course, as a major player in the Marvel Universe, Carol Danvers (in all of her identities) has appeared in numerous other titles, notably several issues each of various Avengers and X-Men series, and dozens of crossover stories (House of M, Civil War, Civil War II, etc., etc.) But if you just want to follow Carol Danvers’ solo adventures, the above lists should help you out!
And if you want more in-depth info, head over to the always-under-construction Carol Corps wiki! I’ve contributed a lot of information to that site, as well.