I think of Kelly Sue DeConnick as the Buffy the Vampire Slayer of the comic book world. Every fan of the series has their own interpretation of what Buffy means to them, but to me, Buffy's defining quality was her ever-present desire to make everyone else as strong as she was (and her frustration when she couldn't).
It made sense, then, that in the last episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, "Chosen," Buffy would somewhat achieve her goal. With a spell from Willow, she changes the rules — each generation only has one slayer — that "a bunch of men who died thousands of years ago" created.
"Are you ready to be strong?" she asks her fellow Slayers, before launching into the final battle.
Since taking over Captain Marvel in 2012, DeConnick has been asking herself and her readers — the most fervent of which are known as the Carol Corps. — the same question. Captain Marvel, a.k.a. Carol Danvers, was an oft-overlooked powerhouse before DeConnick and artist Dexter Soy breathed new life into the character, making her more of a Rocketeer-ish space commander than a Space Vixen. DeConnick refocused her story on Danvers's Air Force background and made her one of the Avengers' most tactical minds.
"Higher, further, faster, more," became the motto of DeConnick, Danvers, and the Carol Corps.
Last week, three years after she began renewing Danvers's legacy, DeConnick said goodbye to the character. We knew this was coming. Back in June, she announced she was leaving the book to focus on her other comics, like Bitch Planet and Pretty Deadly, as well as on Milkfed Criminal Masterminds, the television production company she runs with her husband. But knowing the end was coming didn't make Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps. No. 4 hurt any less.
DeConnick, sharing co-writing duties with Kelly Thompson, takes readers into a final battle similar to Buffy's. Danvers and her Banshees, a team of female fighter pilots, have to take on a police force of Thors, each wielding his own mythical hammer. (The Thors are part of Marvel's epic Secret Wars crossover.) They're outgunned and outmatched. Their backs are pinned against the wall. The Thors know if they kill Carol, they kill the Banshees.
The art, by Laura Braga and Paolo Pantalena, is shattering. The stakes are dramatic, and each page is filled with crackling action. Punches are thrown, hammers are wielded, shots are fired — the two have a way of translating all that motion onto the page without it feeling claustrophobic or cluttered. And all of the kinetic energy makes the book's slower-paced, suspenseful pivotal moments even more powerful.
But it really comes back to DeConnick and Thompson's Buffy moment. Danvers and her Banshees come face to face with the unknown. They're going higher, further, faster, and more than ever before. Carol and the Banshees hurtling toward the stars, and whatever awaits them (death is a significant possibility), calls back to the first arc of Captain Marvel and the idea that this search for greatness is a way of living your life in the face of fear.
It's impossible not to see the ending of Captain Marvel and the Carol Corps. as a parallel to DeConnick's departure from Marvel. There's a realized sense of fear at the end of the comic book, something shared by DeConnick as she enters a new phase of her career, and Danvers as she takes her team into the unknown.
Even if failure awaits both DeConnick and Danvers, they tried. They both made a choice to be strong, and shared that strength with others. That's how you end a run.