Captain Marvel (8th series) #8

Issue Date: 
October 2016
Story Title: 
Lonely at the Top, part three

Ruth Fletcher Gage & Christos Gage (writers), Kris Anka (penciler), Ktis Inka & Andy Owens (inkers), Matt Wilson (colorist), Virtual Calligraphy's Joe Caramagna (letterer), Kris Anka (cover artist), Anthony Gambino (title page design), Charles Beacham (assistant editor), Sana Amanat (editor), Axel Alonso (editor-in-chief), Joe Quesada (chief creative officer), Dan Buckley (publisher), Alan Fine (executive producer)

Brief Description: 

Captain Marvel works with her new unit on assignments to carry out missions relating to the visions that Ulysses Cain is having. Carol meets with the Alpha Flight Board of Governors, who are pleased with the work Carol and the unit is doing. The Black Panther raises the issue about the legal issues involving other countries who are not all too happy with the assignments carried out in their territories. Carol and the Board discuss Ulysses and how most of his visions relate to the United States, and the precog's training. Carol takes the Black Panther on a tour of the facility where the unit is working out of, manned by SHIELD staff and and AFSS crew members, as well as an entire division of lawyers, diplomats and other staff. The Black Panther raises some concerns that he is having – about the profiling of individuals who may commit offences as seen in Ulysses' visions – such as Bruce Banner. Carol meets with Hawkeye, and they have a lengthy discussion about Hawkeye's actions killing the Hulk, and about Ulysses, his visions and the responses to them. Carol reveals to Hawkeye that she worries about how other people, particularly those who idolize her, may start to become nervous because of Carols' actions. Hawkeye tells her that all that matters is whether she can live with herself, which is what he has to do after killing the Hulk. Carol is called to a briefing after Ulysses has another vision. This time, the vision is of Stewart Cadwall, who became Thundersword after being powered by the Beyonder long ago. Carol, the Black Panther and Ms Marvel rush to Cadwall's home, where they and a swat team break in during the evening. Cadwall and his family are watching television. When a dog lunges for one of the swat team, it is shot, angering Carol, while the family cowers in fear. The Black Panther finds an energy source – an award that Cadwall received, which is what the  Beyonder used to give him his Thundersword power. Cadwall is then arrested, leaving his family distraught. Later, Gyrich is pleased with the mission, but Carol is having doubts – Cadwall is beinh held on a seven figure bail he can't afford, and his family cannot support themselves. The Blackk Panther gives Carol some words of comfort, and Carol informs him that when she absorbed the energy from Cadwall's award, she felt a trace of external energy, as if someone else had activated it. The Black Panther assures Carol that the Ultimates will look into it, and reminds her that there will likely be worse outcomes than this one to come. Carol looks at Cadwall's award and looks concerned.

Full Summary: 

Hong Kong, Saturday:
Ultimates members Captain Marvel, Spectrum, the Blue Marvel and Ms America Chavez are fighting a gigantic creature who has emerged in the bay. Captain Marvel reports that Alpha Flight identifies this as the Titan, a prehistoric Atlantean creature, whose usual habitat is the Mariana Basin. The creature roars as Captain Marvel and Spectrum blast it with energies. Blue Marvel and America Chavez hover nearby, as Blue Marvel informs the others that there have been naval maneuvers around there, so it was probably disoriented by sonar. Spectrum points out that the creature is turning, and suggests to her teammates that they should herd it home without anyone getting hurt. 'Poor thing's probably an endangered species' she adds.

Symkaria, Tuesday:
Captain Marvel, Steve Rogers, the Vision and the Black Panther burst into a facility where men wearing white Nazi costumes are holed up with a bomb. 'I'll disable the madbomb!' Captain Marvel calls out, while Steve Rogers declares 'The National Force is mine!'

Manhattan, Friday:
Two heroes called Spider-Man swing between buildings as they, Captain Marvel and the young Ms Marvel battle Hand ninjas. 'Did that guy just dissolve?' Miles Morales asks as Captain Marvel blasts one of the assassins with her energies. 'Yeah, some Hand ninjas do that. If it helps, they tend to raise each other from the dead' Peter Parker explains, while Captain Marvel states that the United Nations delegates they came to assassinate don't have the same luxury. 'Neither do we. So don't let your guard down' she tells the other heroes.

Inside the Alpha Flight Board meeting room, Monday:
Captain Marvel and the Black Panther sit at the meeting room table, while other members of the Board, including Henry Peter Gyrich and Philippe Beaulieu appear via transmission. Captain Marvel reports that all three incidents Ulysses predicted were successful averted, preventing multiple fatalities. 'Outstanding. Just what we hoped for from the Ulysses Initiative' Beaulieu replies, before the Black Panther remarks that there have been questions asked by the Symkarians and Chinese regarding their operations in their countries. 'Don't tell me they have a problem with us saving their skins' Gyrich mutters. 'Of course not' the Black Panther tells him, explaining that they would prefer to be more involved with situations inside their own borders. 'We notified their governments we were inbound, according to protocol. Do they understand we had to act immediately?' Carol replies.

'Yes' the Black Panther responds, adding that no one is complaining about them fighting giant monsters or neo-Nazis, but they have raised concerns about their methods – how Ulysses' powers work, how they know the visions are always correct, and whether they punish people for things they might do. The Black Panther points out that these are the same questions being asked by Iron Man and his allies. The Black Panther then raises the issue of many nations wondering why the majority of Ulysses' visions focus on North America. 'So we're being condemned for acting too soon... and not fast enough?' Carol remarks, asking T'Challa if he is really worried about this. She reminds him that the Ultimates were founded to do exactly what the Ulysses Initiative does. The Black Panther tells Captain Marvel that the Ultimates address cosmic threats – forces beyonf the scope of conventional law enforcement. 'We are now speaking of ground-level situations. In sovereign nations with their own authorities -' he is interrupted, by Captain Marvel who asks 'Don't you think I'd prefer they handle their problems?'

Philippe Beaulieu suggests that the issue could be mitigated if Ulysses' visions were less imminent. He then asks how Ulysses' training is progressing. 'Well' Carol replies, pointing out that his visions don't come with GPS coordinates and time stamps, so it is crucial they are accurate about what they do and when they do it. 'Of course, I'm just saying the faster he works, the more options we have' Beaulieu clarifies. 'Including involving local law enforcement, whose jurisdictions we must respect -' Beaulieu starts to say, but Gyrich interrupts him: 'Whatever. Some nut gets an idea to bomb Time Square, I want his door smashed in before he starts mixing chemicals. Doesn't matter if it's us, the NYPD, or the feds...what counts is that the perpetrator goes down'. Gyrich then ends his transmission. Beaulieu and the others follow, leaving Carol and the Black Panther at the table. 'So. We need to talk?' Carol asks.

Shortly, inside the Aerolith Space Elevator, Carol and T'Challa are transported from the Alpha Flight Space Station to a SHIELD facility. 'I thought we were on the same side' Carol tells T'Challa, who reminds her that he has been responsible for an entire country most of his life. 'This is the only “side” I have ever known'.

Walking past SHIELD officers, the Black Panther reminds Carol that he also watched a friend kill another friend, in a confrontation that stemmed from following Ulysses' visions. 'That was the opposite of what I'm trying to do!' Carol declares, looking at an image of Hawkeye on a monitor. 'Hawkeye went rogue. Do you seriously think I'd ever condone -' Carol starts to say, but the Black Panther interrupts her: 'Of course not. I'm merely observing that while it's our duty to prevent crises... we must also take care that, in the process, we aren't causing them'.

Carol smiles and tells the Black Panther that she agrees. 'Which is why... this exists. The Rapid Response Room' Carol remarks, as SHIELD agents monitor various screens. Carol turns to Miles Morales and the young Ms Marvel and tells them to be at ease. 'This is just a tour' she adds. 'I love it when she uses army talk' Miles remarks. 'Air force! Do you even Carol Corps, dude?' Ms Marvel asks. 'It's operational? That was fast' the Black Panther tells Carol. 'Thanks in no small part to technology Wakanda supplied' Carol replies, before offering to walk the Black Panther through. She approaches the Alpha Flight Space Station crew member, Ensign Jane Garcia, and asks her if they have got aything. 'Yes, Ma'am' Garcia replies, revealing that it doesn't happen until tomorrow, so she has been talking to the proper authorities. She offers to play the recording back, and an image of Ulysses appears on the monitor. He is in a trance-like state, where he announces 'Apartment building explosion...Camden, New Jersey... 3:12 PM... 1421 Washington Street... looks like it originates in the basement'.

'Is he... always like this now?' the Black Panther asks. Carol explains that it is a partial trance state, and explains that he has learned to “pause” his visions, to try and get as much data as he can. She adds that she knows it is unnerving at first, but that it has helped his accuracy, and the visions seem less traumatic for him this way. Carol turns back to Garcia and announces that they just got a  pep talk about jurisdiction, asking the ensign who has it here. Garcia reports that the locals say gas usage in the building has spiked, so she called Camden's code enforcement, and they have a team en route. Carol turns to Miles and Ms Marvel and asks them if they wanna back up the locals. 'Yes, Captain, my Captain!' Ms Marvel grins 'Take a break from trig homework? Twist my arm!' Miles exclaims. Carol turns to the Black Panther: 'See? Well-oiled machine' she tells him. 'Impressive. But it can't be this straight-forward' T'Challa replies. 'It isn't. Let me show you the rest' Carol announces.

Forty minutes later, Carol and the Black Panther walk past busy desks where many people are on computers or taking phone calls. Carol informs the Black Panther that this is just the tip of the iceberg, they have got lawyers, diplomats, physicists, ethicists, a whole staff to make sure that what they do gets done right. 'I see that, and I applaud it' the Black Panther responds, before pointing out that Ulysses' visions do seem to focus largely on America, which makes sense, if you subscribe to the theory that he takes in ambient information to predict outcomes. T'Challa suggests that they should move Ulysses around the world, expose him to new locales and see if that broadens his scope. Carol assures the Black Panther that she isn't opposed, but that that is a conversation to have with the Inhumans. She adds that they are already giving him access to international news broadcasts and some nations are considering providing intelligence reports.

The Black Panther asks Carol if she realize what that means – 'If Ulysses' visions are shaped by the information he takes in, that includes any errors and biases'. Carol motions to the busy people around her, and tells the Black Panther that is why this unit is here, so they can vet what Ulysses tells them with objective facts, satellites, energy scanners and AI-driven database searches. 'If there's time' the Black Panther points out. They continue walking through the busy team, and Carol states that they are working on ways to ensure there is time – giving Ulysses data they have on known terror groups and dangerous criminals. 'By whose designation? One country's dissident can be another's freedom fighter' T'Challa reminds Carol.

Captain Marvel and the Black Panther walk onto a helipad, and Carol admits that “profiling” is a loaded word, but that they are not talking about judging people on race, religion, ethnicity or politics – just what they do. 'You stream a few Hydra recruiting videos? Maybe you've just earned your way onto a watch list'.

As a jet approaches the helipad, the Black Panther asks Carol if Bruce Banner earned his way onto such lists. 'And everything I'm doing here it to make sure what happened with Bruce never happens again'.

The jet descends and Ms Marvel and Miles Morales emerge from it. 'Wow, what a mess. The super was running a homemade gas line to an illegally sub-divided apartment. Code violations everywhere in that place!' Miles announces, while Ms Marvel adds that the inspector said it was a disaster waiting to happen, and there were little kids living there. She high-fives Captain Marvel, who declares that now the kids get the chance to grow up. 'Great job, guys, this is why we do what we do. Wouldn't you agree, T'Challa?' Carol asks, but the Black Panther starts to walk away. 'I would. May all our missions go as well' he calls back, while Carol looks concerned.

Later, inside a meeting room in the Cellar Maximum Security Prison, Carol sits at a table across from Clint “Hawkeye” Barton, who is awaiting trial for murder. Clint's hands are bound, and he asks his former teammate in the Avengers why she is here. 'You just gonna give me the stinkeye like the matron at the orphanage, or are you maybe gonna say something?' he enquires. 'You want me to say something? Fine. WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU THINKING?' Carol shouts. 'You really want me to do this again? Okay. He was about to Hulk out. I saw his eye -' Clint begins, but Carol interrupts him: 'Turn green. I know. Something no one else saw, but you, with your keen normal human vision, knew beyond a shadow of a doubt'. Clint frowns at Carol and tells her that she is right – he doesn't have powers, he is just a guy – the guy who stands there taking fire from an alien  battleship, not twitching a muscle, waiting for that one perfect shot. 'You really think I cracked under pressure?' Clint asks.

Images of the Hulk slaughtering everyone flood into Clint's mind as he reminds Carol that she saw Ulysses' vision, experienced it – they all did. 'The Hulk was going to slaughter us'. He declares that this was exactly the kind of situation Bruce had in mind when he gave him that arrowhead and asked him to be ready. 'The vision took place in Manhattan. We were in stop it from happening, not kill our friend! You went against everything we're about!' Carol declares. Clint points out  that the Hulk has survived nukes, he starts to change, not even a Hulk-killer arrow designed by Bruce Banner might be enough to do the job. 'I hesitate, anyone he murders – us, civilians, first responders – is on us. On me. But this isn't really about me, is it?' Clint remarks, asking Carol if she is having doubts.

Carol hangs her head and replies that she can believe in this more than she can say, and states that it is working. 'It's hard to count the number of lives we've saved, thanks to Ulysses. Conservatively, it's in the thousands. This is what Rhodey wanted. What he fought and died for. We're doing it' Carol exclaims, before remarking that every minute of every day, people are on her ass: “Why'd you do this? Why didn't you do that. I don't want you messing with fate, but a bus full of schoolkids going off a bridge isn't a good thing either”. Carol adds that she is breaking her back to do this properly, asking every question she can think of, second-guessing every move, all while an army of armchair quarterbacks says she is doing it too slow, or too fast, or just plain wrong. Hanging her head, Carol claims that she can handle that, as it comes with the job, but what is hardest is that Rhodey is done, and there is no one she can talk to about it. 'Except you, apparently. The guy who undermined everything I'm trying to do. The poster boy for how not to do it'.

Clint tells Carol that he bets there are plenty of folks who would lend an ear. 'Oh, sure, let's talk about what happens then. I talk to anyone on Tony's side, it's an admission I'm wrong. On my side, it's worse' Carol points out, before asking Clint if he knows Ms Marvel, the teenage kid. 'Yeah, spunky, I like her' Clint replies. 'Me too. And she idolizes me. The idea of holding people responsible for things they might've only thought about makes her nervous' Carol reveals. Carol admits that it makes her nervous, too, but is confident they ccan correct for it, handle it right – but it is a bump. Carol knows that if she admits that to the young Ms Marvel, and she loses confidence, starts second-guessing their missions in the field, that is when she might get killed. 'Another death Tony can lay at my feet, next to Rhodey and Bruce. And this time, he'd be right'.

Carol looks up at Clint and states that she really believes this is the best tool they've ever had – the mission they exist for. 'But damn you, make me wonder if it can really work' Carol tells him. Clint suggests to her that she stop. 'You think I did it wrong? Prove it. Go do it right, 'cause, Carol... you're probably the only one who can'. Clint points out that at the end of the day, whether they love her or hate her, all the noise goes away, and all that really matters is if she can live with herself. 'So if you can rationalize it, that makes it okay. Must be a nice way to live. Forget how it affects anyone else...Bruce, his family, us -' Carol begins, but Clint interrupts her, 'Not what I meant. A jury's gonna decide how I answer for Bruce. I'm good with that. And I'm a long way from being “okay” with what I did. But I can live with it. Which is good. Because I have to' he explains. 'So do the rest of us' Carol replies, before an alarm sounds. Clint tells her that it sounds important and suggests she better go. He adds that for what it is worth, he is glad she is out there. Carol gets up and goes to the door. 'You were right. It is just noise' she tells Clint, before taking off across the skies: 'Danvers inbound. Brief me' she calls out over her communicator.

Soon, Carol, the Black Panther and Ms Marvel stand before a monitor, whcih depicts a man in golden armor, and a smaller image of him in his regular human form. Carol informs the others that Ulysses saw a huge pulse of energy take out several blocks, and identifying details point to Van Nuys, California, with the name one the mailbox at the epicenter being “Cadwell”. Carol points at the smaller image and tells the others that his name is Stewart Cadwell, a TV writer who got turned into a criminal called Thundersword by a cosmic nutjob called the Beyonder. Footage depicts Thundersword battling Iron Man as Captain Marvel explains that he was immensely powerful, and they got lucky, as the worst he did was tear up some studios who gave him notes he didn't like. She adds that James Rhodes was the acting Iron Man at the tiime, and that he only barely stopped Thundersword by channeling the energy of a nuclear reactor. Carol informs the others that Cadwell is on parole, and they thought he lost his powers long ago – but if they are back, then he is a deadly threat.

Carol reports that their satellites confirm an anomalous energy signature in the Cadwell home, and that Ulysses said the disaster happens early in the morning. Carol points out that they have got time, but not a lot, so they are doing this by the book. The local swat team has been notified, and they are quielty evacuating the neighbors and standing by to back them up. 'So if there aren't any questions...let's go shut this down' Carol exclaims, as she, the Black Panther and Ms Marvel rush into action.

Van Nuys, California. The sky is dark and the street is lit by lamps on the houses. Inside the Cadwell home, Stewart sits on a sofa in the lounge watching television, while his wife is reading a book and their children play on the floor. There is a loud BRAAM as Captain Marvel breaks the door down. 'Everyone on the ground!' she shouts as the family look towards the door. 'Police!' the swat team call out as they move through the house. The parents hold their children as an officer stands over them. 'I'm picking up weird energy from that direction' Carol calls out, pointing down a corridor. 'I have it!' the Black Panther replies as he moves down the corridor. 'Please, what's going on?' Cadwell asks. Suddenly, a dark barks and rushes towards an officer. 'Dog!' the officer calls out, aiming his weapon. 'NO!' Ms Marvel exlaims, extending her arms and increasing her hand size  to protect the dog. Carol speeds over to the officer and bends the gun so the bullet is fired away from the dog. 'What the hell is wrong with you?' Carol asks the officer. 'We're trained to shoot aggressive dogs.  What is wrong with you? That could've ricocheted! What the hell kind of op are you running here?' the officer asks as Carol turns to the family, cowering beside the sofa.

The Black Panther returns, holding a small cube, with a lightning-like symbol attached to it. He reports that he found it in the garage and that unnatural energy is building up within it, but that it hasn't reached dangerous levels. 'That's an award he got. The Beyonder turned it into his's where Thundersword's powers came from' Carol explains. An officer puts handcuffs on Cadwell and pulls him, announcing that he is under arrest for parole violation. Carol reminds Cadwell that he told the police that he lost his sword when fighting Iron Man. 'Why were you hiding this? What were you planning?' she asks him. 'Nothing! I swear, I thought all its power was gone! I – I just – after what I did, my caereer was over. I tend bar now. I only... I wanted to remember people used to think I was good at something...' Cadwell cries, before the police lead him away. 'Where are you taking my husband?' Cadwell's wife asks. Carol instructs her to stay here, and explains that someone will be in touch. The woman replies that this is her house and her kids, and she has to go to work in the mornings. 'He watches them!' she exclaims. 'What are we going to do now?' she asks, tears streaming down her face. Carol looks at her, and is unable to give an answer.

The next morning, from an Earth-based office she is occupying, Carol sits behind desk, while Gyrich meets with her via transmission. Carol informs him that she drained all the energy from the award personally, and that it is no longer a threat. 'You can't be sure' Gyrich points out. 'Actually, I can. That's how my powers work' Carol declares, before reporting that she is taking it to Alpha Flight Space Station for storage in a damper field, so it won't activate in the future. She adds that Cadwell made a mistake, but that he didn't have malicious intent, and doesn't belong in prison. 'Not my call' Gyrich replies casually, reminding Carol that it isn't hers, either, but points out that she can take it up with the Parole Board at his hearing. 'I will' Carol replies, pointing out that is weeks away, and explaining that Cadwall has a family and a job, and is being held under a seven figure bail. 'He can't afford -' she begins, but Gyrich interrupts her: 'I'm busy, Danvers. When you think of something that's my problem, call my secretary'. Gyrich then congratulates Carol, informing her that after her last few wins, they have got countries lining up to share their intel. 'Good work. Gyrich out'.

'Damn it!' Carol exclaims, slamming her fist into the desk as Gyrich's transmission ends. 'Bad time?' the Black Panther asks as he appears in the doorway. 'If you came to say you told me so...' Carol replies, holding Cadwell's award. 'No' T'Challa tells her, announcing that he is here to remind her that, had they not interceded, the Cadwell family would hae been killed, along with many others. 'If you had to do it again, knowing only what you knew...' his voice trails off, as Carol assures him that she would do it the same way. Carol points out that something doesn't feel right about all this, and reveals that when she absorbed the award's energy there was a trace of something external – like someone activated it. 'And if it wasn't Cadwall... who jump-starts something that powerful, instead of taking it for themselves? And why?'

The Black Panther offers to ask the other Ultimates to look into the Beyonder's status. He reminds Carol that, unfortunately, the list of cosmic beings whose motives make little sense is not a short one, before telling her that on the positive side, they have a resource they didn't before – Ulysses, and that the system Carol designed is working well. 'Tell that to Mrs Cadwall' Carol replies, before T'Challa announces that he almost forgot what he came to tell Carol about – the Treasury of Wakanda posted Mr Cadwall's bail, and he is now free until the hearing. Carol smiles and thanks T'Challa, who tells her that there is no need, and that he did it for the sake of his own conscience. T'Challa informs Carol that he has raised concerns because they are important, and now Carol has address them, admirably, but there will still be outcomes worse than this. 'I know. But it's my job to make sure there aren't' Carol replies.

The Black Panther walks away, while two people can be seen on a monitor, debating the current regime. A woman points out that the more resources Captain Marvel has, the more the public seems to like what they see of the predictive justice system, while a man adds that people and governments who'd avoided the question before are now openly expressing support. Someone rushes over to Colonel Danvers, announcing that they have got the new polling numbers. 'Not now. I've got to get this to Alpha Flight Station' Carol replies. The man tells Colonel Danvers that they are great, and asks her if she doesn't want to hear. 'No' Carol tells him, looking at the award, she reads the plaque: “To Stewart Cadwall for Outstanding Achievement”, and tells the other man that it doesn't really matter.

Characters Involved: 

Captain Marvel VI

Philippe Beaulieu, Henry Peter Gyrich and others (all Alpha Flight's Board of Governors)
Ensign Jane Garcia

Black Panther, Blue Marvel, Ms America Chavez, Spectrum (all Ultimates)
Captain America, Ms Marvel IV, Spider-Man, Spider Man Miles Morales, Vision

Stewart Cadwell
Mrs. Cadwell and children

The Titan
National Force
Hand assassins
SHIELD officers
Taskforce members

Via recording:

On computer recording:
Stewart Cadwall / Thundersword
Iron Man II

Story Notes: 

This issue ties into the Civil War II event.

Aside from Captain Marvel and Captain America, none of the characters on the cover to this issue appear in the issue itself. The cover to this issue is possibly an homage to the poster for Captain America: Civil War movie of 2016.

Hawkeye killed the Hulk in Civil War II #3.

Thundersword is a character who appeared in a Marvel event many years ago, Secret Wars II. He debuted in Secret Wars II #1, and subsequently appeared in Iron Man (1st series) #197 and Secret Wars II #3.

Ensign Jane Garcia previously appeared in earlier issues of Captain Marvel (8th series), unnamed, and at some point was replaced by an Eridani alien. She was named Garcia in #5 when the alien was exposed, and called Jane in this issue.

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