This week I’m back with a new guide for all Patrons of CK to spotlight a character who used to be just a footnote in another guide! She has been known by many names at Marvel, but ever since she was created by Roger Stern 41 years ago she has never quite disappeared from sight. Now, in 2023, she’s poised to have her biggest year ever thanks to this Novembers The Marvels. That’s right, it’s her time to shine: Guide to Monica Rambeau – Photon, Spectrum, & Captain Marvel.
I adore Monica Rambeau and get excited every time she shows up on the page. Yet, I really hadn’t read her at all before I encountered her in a guest appearance in Captain Marvel (2012) #7-8 to argue with Carol over who should use the Captain Marvel name!
That’s because all of Monica’s past appearances – as Captain Marvel, Photon, and Spectrum – fell curiously between my prime reading years. I always knew that Monica Rambeau was a creation of Roger Stern’s for his run in Avengers, but those weren’t the back-issues I was tracking down in my X-crazed 90s collecting years, and she was mostly absent from comics the entire time I was collecting save a handful of solo stories. Then, I totally missed out on her 2006-2010 resurgence when I came back to reading in 2010!
I thought I’ve picked up a lot from context over the past 13 years of reading, but now that I’ve been through every single Monica Rambeau appearance I realize just how much I was missing – which makes me even happier to have created this guide.
The first fact that escaped my notice was that Monica Rambeau was custom-made by Roger Stern for his Avengers run via him writing her debut Amazing Spider-Man (1963) Annual 16. I always assumed it would be a random team-up issue, but it’s actually a detailed spotlight on Monica’s life and the origin of her powers.
Also, she wasn’t a kick-ass military vet or astronaut to start, but a decidedly grounded lieutenant in the New Orleans harbor patrol who had been repeatedly passed over for a promotion. Her humble beginnings and her connection to New Orleans are both recurring elements of her character.
It makes sense, then, that Roger Stern used Monica heavily throughout his run on Avengers. In fact, while I haven’t counted exactly, I think she might turn up in more issues than any other hero in the run, because she never leaves the roster!
I knew that Monica was briefly the leader of The Avengers during the back third of Stern’s run, but I also never knew the context behind that: that she had gradually befriended and opened up to Captain America, who deflected his own nomination and nominated her instead. I also had no idea that she had an ongoing buddy routine with Starfox and a prickly relationship with Doctor Druid. I also never realized how separate she was from the heroic life to start, secreting thrilling at her chance to meet recognizable heroes like Doctor Strange and Namor.
I also didn’t full appreciate where Monica mostly disappeared to from 1989 to 2005. The thing is, she never really disappeared. From 1989-1995 she was consistently called up as an Avengers reservist, especially for universe-spanning threats like Galactic Storm. At one point she was even the leader of the so-called “Substitute Avengers.” She resumed her reservist role in Avengers (1998), but anchored Stern’s Avengers: Infinity (2000) and joined them for nearly a year of comics during their epic struggle against Kang in the midst of the run.
Plus, even as she joined Ellis & Immonen’s absurd Nextwave, Monica also made a string of appearances in Black Panther (2005), where T’Challa inspires her to push her powers to new limits.
I came away from my comprehensive review of all of Monica Rambeau’s appearances with a whole new appreciation for a character I thought I already loved! Monica’s no-nonsense demeanor and self-confidence are so much more meaningful to me now, as is the trust placed in her by heroes like Captain America and Black Panther. She has played in the biggest of big leagues and rarely fallen short, and in the process she has amassed a fascinating 40-year history of comic appearances.
If you don’t have the time for a full review of her every appearance, don’t worry – I boiled her greatest hits down to 80 comics across 40 years, so you can read only her most interesting and significant stories. But, don’t take my word for it – the guide details every appearance, including brief descriptions of her actions in each issue.
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