Segal’s Captain Marvel: Shadow Code arrived in bookstores today, October 17. Featuring cover art by Valerio Schiti and Rachelle Rosenberg, the 272-page novel finds Carol Danvers on a “dangerous mission against a technological threat. And it all starts with a young grad student named Mara Melamed.”
The novel’s official synopsis reads as follows: “Tony Stark wants Carol to keep an eye on brilliant grad student Mara Melamed, who is struggling to find her feet at Empire State University. Although reluctant at first, Carol meets Mara and is soon impressed by the young woman … But trouble quickly finds Captain Marvel in the form of a controversial operating system from DigiTech — whose mysterious CEO only appears as a hologram. To make matters worse, one of Carol’s closest friends has been framed for murder. And Mara Melamed is at the tangled center of it all … Carol is driven to her darkest edge as she questions her identity and sense of belonging in the world. With her allies at her side, Carol must face her self-doubt and protect the world from impending doom.”
WHEN SHE was training to become a pilot, Carol Danvers would have said nothing compared to the feel of commanding a fighter jet as it hurtled across a cobalt sky. Back then, she had no idea of all the ways her life would change. She never imagined she’d know the exhilaration of rocketing through an endless darkness punctuated by the glimmer of stars that were now within reach. Carol was no poet, but the possibilities of an infinite universe at her fingertips made her wax lyrical. With the push of a button, she could send this spacecraft to chase the farthest pinpricks of light. In fact, she had reached many of those distant planets, had landed there and explored. That pleased the deepest part of her soul that was never satisfied being anchored by gravity.
The alien part of her soul?
Carol wondered if all Kree wanted to fly farther than the instruments could measure. Maybe she inherited the need to take flight from her mother, along with her blond hair and the angle of her jaw.
The bedrock upon which Carol had built her life shifted when she learned her true heritage not long ago. She was half-alien, born to a Kree mother and a human father. The Psyche-Magnitron had not bestowed her powers, as she always thought; it had awakened them. Not only did she have an alien mother who’d been a powerful and important member of Kree society, she had a fully alien half-sister. The revelations made her see her family, her experiences as Captain Marvel, even herself, differently, like she was at the eye doctor, being asked which lens made things clearer and which made them more blurry. Metaphorically, of course. Carol’s more than 20/20 vision was definitely inherited from her mom, Mari-Ell, Captain First of the Supreme Protectorate, Champion of the Kree Empire, Daughter of Hala by Bloodright and Starlight.
What a mouthful.
Most days, Carol could tell you what she knew to be true about herself. But she couldn’t say how she felt about any of it. Growing up, telling Carol no had had the effect of activating hyper-mode. She’d work harder than anyone else, longer than anyone else, work herself into the ground, even when the world told her she’d never be able to do it. Especially then. She’d attained every goal she set for herself, realized every dream. Everything she’d fought to accomplish—pilot, astronaut, super hero, Avenger, Alpha Flight leader—she’d attributed those achievements to her grit, her determination. And maybe her stubbornness.
Now she had to reckon with the fact that there had been other factors at play. She’d tried to dissect which of her traits came from being human and which were Kree. It made her head spin. No matter how long she pondered, she could never answer the question that plagued her. Did being an alien make those accomplishments more worthy—or less?
She’d spent so long coming to grips with having alien powers that working through what it meant to actually be an alien felt like diving into a vortex.
Been there, she thought. Hard pass on doing it again.
The crackle of the ship’s comms drew Carol out of her thoughts. Fortunately, flight demanded her full attention. She’d have to navel gaze some other time—like never—or else risk piloting her borrowed spacecraft into a star. The Peregrine was a first-of-its-kind decasonic microcraft, designed to fly small crews to remote planets at outrageous speeds. In theory, anyway. The designers were still figuring out how far it could reliably go without losing thrust and overheating. Hence, working with Carol for flight tests, since no other qualified pilot could bail out in deep space and find her own way home. She’d only been at the command of the Peregrine a few times, but it was fun. The cabin was sleek and streamlined, a tad claustrophobic, if she was honest, but the ship’s movement was not unlike how it felt propelling her body through space—lithe, maneuverable, and fast. She wasn’t about to let a bunch of feelings prevent her from enjoying this ride.
“Earth to Danvers,” a familiar voice called through the comms. “Literally and figuratively. Danvers, do you read?”
Tony Stark would find a way to pester her, even here. She considered ignoring the call, but since that tactic never made him go away, she flicked the lever. “I read you, Tony. What do you want?”
“Is that any way to greet your long lost best friend?”
“I saw you last week.” Carol already regretted opening the comms channel. “And don’t let Jess hear you call yourself that.”
“You think I can’t take Spider-Woman in a fight?” Tony’s mock-wounded tone sounded almost convincing.
“I think we’re not going to invoke trouble with hypotheticals.”
“Did you know that at some fan cons, they have ‘versus’ sessions where they debate the merits of super hero skills to decide who’d win a one-on-one? I have it on good authority that Iron Man is always a moneyline bet.”
Carol rolled her eyes. No doubt “good authority” really meant firsthand knowledge. “Tony, do we have to have the talk about cos-playing as yourself again?”
“There’s no evidence of that that anyone can find,” he said. “Anyway, Danvers, I need a favor. Where are you?”
“Off planet.” Carol checked her gauges. She was just a couple of hours from being on-planet again—on Throneworld II.
“I know that. Couldn’t geolocate you through your phone. That only happens when you’re in outer space.”
“What did we say about tracking our friends’ devices without permission?”
“Only do it for ethical reasons, like determining whether you need to rescind the APB you put out on a missing friend?”
“Tony, no. You didn’t.” The resulting silence stretched uncomfortably through the time and space between Carol’s speeding craft and Tony back on Earth. She groaned. “Who’d you call?”
“Jess. And maybe Monica.”
Monica Rambeau, A.K.A. Spectrum, wouldn’t get as high-stress as Jess, but she’d check in at least twice.
“Also, possibly Jenn.”
Aw man. Jennifer Takeda, A.K.A. Hazmat, would definitely fret. Carol’s notifications were going to be a mess when she got back to Earth.
“I’m not AWOL. I’m going to visit Lauri-Ell.”
Months had passed since Carol last saw her half-sister, Kree Accuser Lauri-Ell, who was currently on Throneworld II. The pieces of Carol’s shattered past were inescapable, it seemed. The Peregrine test flight had offered her a chance to kill two Chitauri with one punch. Figure out if the ship could reliably reach as far as they hoped, plus stop by to see Lauri with a built-in exit strategy. She’d have to get the craft back to Earth promptly—no time to linger and talk about dysfunctional family matters.
“Ah,” he said, pausing respectfully for a beat. He might not know everything going on in Carol’s mixed up mind, but he knew enough. “Perhaps it’s not the best timing, but I do need a favor. And it’s a little bit time sensitive.”
She sighed. Tony had the tact of a wrecking ball, but when he called, something was usually up. “What’s going on?”
“Bad reception…” Tony breathed heavily into his mic, faking a crackling sound. “You must… space tunnel.”
“Tony, you designed this comms system. Are you telling me a Stark invention can’t handle a little interstellar space debris?”
“Stark technology is completely trustworthy.” His voice leveled, all faux-brokenness vanishing. “The same can’t be said for everything else. I need you, Carol. Right away.”
The comms line went dead, leaving her no chance to ask for further details.
She was overdue for this visit to Throneworld II. Jess had been telling her for months that she needed to go see Lauri-Ell, spend time among the Kree. Figure out the parts of herself that were currently more mysterious than the black hole she’d done some fancy flying to avoid about an hour ago. Jess would be a pain about it until Carol finally listened. She really shouldn’t turn back.
But Tony’s words and tone reverberated in her mind. Okay, so he had a bad habit of needing her right when she finally took a few days for herself. He also had an annoying tendency to be strategically ambiguous when sharing intel. Still, she trusted him. And he never missed an opportunity to engage in a battle of wits with her. Today, he’d not only passed up sniping back when she teased him about Stark tech, but he’d gotten defensive. That was peculiar. Concerning, even.
Maybe she’d head back, see what more Tony had to say. This was an early stage test flight. Nothing urgent. Plenty of time to assess the Peregrine’s long distance flight capabilities. The engineers could tweak its comms systems in the meanwhile. She definitely had feedback on how easy it was to hail this craft. It needed a feature that let the pilot set their call status to “away” or “unavailable” or “leave me alone, Tony Stark” or something else universally relevant like that.
Carol splayed her fingers over the instrument panel, adjusting her altitude and easing back on the yoke to chart a course for Earth. Throneworld II wasn’t going anywhere, nor were all her questions about herself.
“Carol Danvers’ fight to do good and be true to herself, despite obstacles and self-doubt, makes her both inspiring and relatable,” Segal said of her inspiration to write Shadow Code. “Getting to add to the story of her adventures is a dream come true. One surprise in working on this book was the villain. Captain Marvel is so strong at this point in her evolution that it was a fun challenge to think about who could pose a serious threat to her. I felt she really needed a Moriarty-like mental nemesis to test not just her strength but her will.”
Segal added, “Captain Marvel mantle has been worn by different people over the years, but Carol Danvers’ incarnation of the super hero has become incredibly powerful. I think she’s unique because those that came before her are part of who she is — and yet she’s her own. That’s a theme I explore in the book — how are we both inspired by our family legacy and tradition while trying to grow beyond and do better than the prior generation.”
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