In my previous post, I wrote about the dehumanization of Carol Danvers in “Avengers” #200, how she was robbed of her autonomy by her rapist and teammates. Here, I’m discussing the follow up story written for the sake of salvaging Carol and addressing 200’s damage. We’re looking at a rape survivor addressing her abuse to those who’ve failed her. For survivors, this story acts as a way of saying “What was done to you was horrible. Nothing can change that, but it doesn’t have to become your entire life. You don’t need to apologize for your anger, nor do you have to apologize to those who’ve hurt you. And no matter what others try to make you feel, your body belongs to you and you alone.”
In the year between “Avengers” 200 and Annual 10, the fandom’s outrage was spectacular. Comic book historian Carol A. Strickland wrote an article on the matter, “The Rape of Ms. Marvel,” and I’d like to say thanks again for your help on this Carol. “Annual” 10 was written by “X-Men” scribe Chris Claremont, who was equally nauseated at Carol’s mistreatment and wanted to express his disgust over the Kang affair.
The annual explains Carol escaped from Marcus’ dimension after he died. Marcus’ new body couldn’t adapt to his old home and he was aged to dust in a few days. Unfortunately, Carol found herself in a battle with the Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and got attacked by the energy siphoning mutant called Rogue. Rogue drains Carol’s powers and memories, leaving her for dead in the San Francisco Bay. Carol’s rescued by Jessica Drew, a.k.a. Spider Woman. Jessica contacts Charles Xavier of the X-Men to restore Carol’s mind. Carol doesn’t get her powers or all her memories back, but remember what the Avengers did to her.
Carol stays with the X-Men at the Xavier Institute after regaining consciousness. When the Avengers arrive at the Institute, Carol greets them by herself. Hawkeye mentions Marcus, and Carol reveals Marcus’ death. The Avengers misinterpret Carol’s grief and when Thor tells her it’s okay to weep for Marcus, Carol EXPLODES. Carol delivers a fully deserved, fully satisfying, and utterly depressing sequence as she explains that she never loved Marcus, and the Avengers were idiots for:
- Ignoring her terror over her unknown pregnancy
- Caring more about her freak baby
- Taking everything Marcus said at face value
- Letting Carol just leave with the bastard
(Carol calls out the Avengers/Art by Michael Golden)
Thinking about my own experiences dealing with those who couldn’t understand my abuse, it makes me smile seeing Carol call out her old friends. Her scorn’s brutal as she makes the Avengers understand her anger. Carol even tells Scarlet Witch she never wanted to see them again because of how much she hated them for letting her go. Keep in mind this is Carol’s reaction after her memories were restored. Imagine how angry Carol would’ve been had Rogue not stolen her memories in the first place?
After suffering such abuse, Carol finds herself with friends like Jessica Drew and the X-Men. They help her regain a sense of self and address her trauma the way it SHOULD have been treated in the first place. They understand what Carol’s been through, and offer to stay with her when she confronts the Avengers.
Carol calling the Avengers out for their disregard is important; she’s making it known to them just how screwed up the situation really was. The blame is cast equally on both Marcus AND the Avengers. This, to me, is extremely important because of a modern comic trend I’ve come to loathe: the retcon. A retcon is a device used to explain away a previously established story. Excuses are retroactively created for a character’s actions and usually someone gets out of any blame for doing something awful. It didn’t happen to the character because, well, just pick a reason. They’ll say someone was controlling the character, it happened in a dream or alternate universe, or it was someone pretending to be the character in question. The Avengers don’t get that. They screwed up, and Carol paid for it. Excuses are not made for Marcus, and no one comes up with a way to shift blame onto Carol. Now she has to live with this pain, and so do the Avengers, but Carol first and foremost because it’s HER body and it’s HER mind that was violated. As Carol says, hopefully, they might be able to learn something from all this even though it won’t excuse it.
Here we have a rape survivor, confronting those who enabled her abuse and making them understand what was done to her body. And rather than stew in her anger or become a violent anti-hero swearing “I’LL NEVER BE A VICTIM AGAIN,” Carol continues to live. She lives with what’s done to her, and it’s terrible, but thanks to those who’ve helped her and being able to confront those who’ve hurt her, she’s able to reclaim her body and not let her trauma become all that she is. Sometime later, Carol would rejoin the Avengers and her friendship with Captain America and the others continued. Although while Carol’s rape isn’t mentioned much in current comics it still remains a deep, ugly mark on her and the Avengers’ histories.
For us sex abuse survivors it may take years to find the people capable of understanding how we were hurt. I know I was. I can’t say how long it can take for us to feel like our bodies belong to us after what we go through, but it can be done. Sometimes those people come to us, but mainly we have to be able to look for those people. We have it in us not to let our abuse overwhelm us. It’s hard, and it can feel scary and hopeless at times, but IT CAN BE DONE. Never forget that.