Monica Rambeau has had a fascinating and frustrating history since her first appearance in 1982. Monica (AKA Photon, AKA Pulsar AKA Spectrum, if you nasty) has the unique ability to transform herself into any form of energy within the electromagnetic spectrum with power levels that have spiked and waned throughout her career. Monica was the first female Captain Marvel and also the first African American female Avenger, a team that she eventually led. Her history is often seen as a hot button issue among readers due to the character’s long stretches of inactivity and underutilization. Monica made her live action appearance in tiny human form in Captain Marvel and appears in Disney+’s WandaVision.
Monica blasts onto the scene and quickly grabs the attention of the Avengers. This was a time of fast and loose trademarks in universe, as Monica is dubbed Captain Marvel with no relation to the original Captain Marvel.
Collects: Amazing Spider-man Annual #16; Avengers (1963) #227, #279; Marvel Team-up (1972) #142-143; Captain Marvel (1989) #1; Captain Marvel (1994) #1; Avengers Unplugged #5; Material From Solo Avengers #2; Marvel Fanfare (1982) #42, 57.
This book covers a lot of ground for the early years of Monica Rambeau and is best read in small segments. Starting off, read Amazing Spider-man Annual #16 & Avengers (1963) #227 which cover Monica’s 1st appearance and her introduction to the Avengers.
Collects: Avengers (1963) #212-230
Avengers #228-230 cover Captain Marvel’s early days as an Avenger in Training.
Collects: Avengers (1963) #231-241, Avengers Annual #11-12, Amazing Spider-Man Annual #16, Fantastic Four (1961) #256, and Doctor Strange (1974) #60
The Vision wakes up from stasis with new powers as the Avengers unknowingly head towards the Secret Wars.
Collects: Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars #1-12
Monica Rambeau may not be the most well known Captain Marvel but she certainly is the one that an omnipotent Beyonder whipped away to Battleworld to scrap with some of the era’s top villains.
Collects: Avengers (1963) #242-254, Avengers Annual #13
Monica and the other Battleworld Avengers return from the events of the Secret Wars.
Collects: Avengers (1963) #255-261, Avengers Annual #14, and Fantastic Four Annual #19
Captain Marvel takes a nice leisurely trip to investigate Thanos’s abandoned ship, Sanctuary II, and ends up getting thrust into a potential galactic conflict with everyone’s favorite shape-shifters, the Skrulls.
Collects: Secret Wars II #1-9
In an absolute shocker, when the Beyonder returns to Earth after the events of the first Secret War, the heroes and villains of Earth including Captain Marvel did not greet him warmly.
Collects: Avengers (1963) #262-269, Avengers Annual (1967) #15, Avengers West Coast Annual (1986) #1.
Captain Marvel and the Avengers find themselves knee deep in the time war between Kang the Conqueror and Immortus.
Collects: Avengers (1963) #264-277, Alpha Flight (1983) #39, Avengers Annual #15, And West Coast Avengers Annual #1
Baron Zemo and the Master’s of Evil lead a full-frontal assault on Avenger’s Mansion
Collects: Avengers (1963) #278-285 And Annual #16, Marvel Graphic Novel #27: Emperor Doom, X-Men Vs. Avengers #1-4, And West Coast Avengers Annual #2.
Roger Stern’s lengthy run as Avengers writer comes to end (A troublesome sign for the Monica Rambeau character that had just taken over as team leader in Avengers #279). The Avengers deal with the fallout of Under Siege and an assault on Olympus.
Collects: Avengers (1963) 286-303, Avengers Annual (1967) 17.
Tragedy strikes the Avengers and Captain Marvel as a battle with Marrina leaves Monica near-death and powerless.
Head Back Up to Captain Marvel: Monica Rambeau and read Captain Marvel (1989) #1. It covers how Monica is repowered and is her first major appearance after leaving the Avengers.
After a prominent role in the Marvel Universe throughout the 1980s, Monica would spend the next 15 years without solid footing. After her own potential series was put on ice, Monica would suffer through numerous name changes and would generally be limited to pinch-hitting roles in Marvel series.
Collects: Captain America #398-399, Avengers West Coast #80-81, Quasar #32-33, Wonder Man #7-8, Avengers #345-346, Iron Man #278 and Thor #445. Book 1 of 2.
Collects: Iron Man #279, Thor #446, Captain America #400-401, Avengers West Coast #82, Quasar #34-35, Wonder Man #9, Avengers #347, What If? #55-56.
The Avengers try to stop a war between the Kree and Shi’ar. Captain Marvel leads a team to the Shi’ar homeworld to negotiate a peaceful settlement. Knowing the Avengers history as peacekeepers, you can guess how that turned out.
Head Back Up to Captain Marvel: Monica Rambeau and read Avengers Unplugged #5. I’ll wait…
Genis-Vell, son of the original Captain Marvel, takes over the Captain Marvel name as Monica Rambeau adopts the name Photon.
Collects: Avengers (1998) #1-11
After spending some quality time in Franklin Richards’s pocket dimension, the Avengers (re) assemble. Monica does not rejoin but provides support as they face off with Morgana Le Fey
Collects: Avengers #12-23, Avengers Annual ’99, & Avengers #0
Avengers #16-18 show one of the unexpected downsides of Monica’s constantly changing identity. A powered-up Wrecking Crew is tasked with taking out Ms. Marvel but mistakenly go after our former Captain Marvel now known as Photon. In fairness, it’s a pretty common mistake.
Collects: Avengers Infinity #1-4
Monica, who has been struggling with leaving behind her Captain Marvel & Avenger days, joins a ragtag team of Avengers (“Avengers Infinity Team”) to answer a call for help from across the Galaxy.
Collects: Maximum Security: Dangerous Planet, #1-3, Captain America (1998) #36, Thor (1998) #30, Uncanny X-Men #387, Bishop: the Last X-Man #15, Iron Man (1998) #35, Avengers (1998) #35, Gambit (1999) #23, X-Men (1991) #107, X-Men Unlimited (1993) #29
After the events of Avengers Infinity, Monica stays on as active duty Avenger through the Maximum Security event.
Collects: Avengers (1998) #41-55 and Annual 2001.
The Avengers are no match for a well prepared Kang and are left scrambling after Kang takes over the earth.
The Avengers dissemble. To add insult to injury, Genis-Vell starts going by Photon. Let us all take a moment and recognize that this is a kind of a jerk move by Genis-Vell. Monica Rambeau half-heartedly changes her name to “Pulsar” but after 15 years of inconsistency, things are starting to look up.
Collects: Nextwave: Agents Of H.A.T.E. #1-12.
Nextwave! This fever dream of a book sees Monica leading a “land of misfit toys” team against the Beyond Corporation. Hey, did you know that Monica used to lead the Avengers?
Collects: Civil War (2006) #1-7.
Monica is part of Cap’s anti-registration secret avengers. For the entire event, please see: Civil War Reading Order.
Collects: Black Panther #19-25.
Monica joins Black Panther in his anti-registration efforts and to help further master her powers. This event takes part in concert with the rest of the Civil War event – for the best reading experience, please see: Civil War Reading Order.
Collects: Black Panther #35-38 and Annual #1.
Monica is captured by Erik Killmonger and uh…a super-smart monkey wearing an eye-patch.
Collects: Marvel Divas #1-4.
A controversial series, pitched as “Sex and the City for comics”, sees Monica join Patti Walker, Black Cat and Firestar in a limited series.
Collects: Heralds #1-5
Monica joins a group of fellow superheroines as they face off against a former herald of Galactus.
Collects: Captain Marvel #7-12.
Carol Danvers recently took over the Captain Marvel mantle and heads down to New Orleans to visit the former Captain Marvel.
Monica sports a new look to go along with a new name as her resurgence continues.
Collects: Mighty Avengers #1-3, 4.INH-5.INH
With the Avengers off-world, Monica joins an impromptu Avengers team to fight off members of Thanos’s Black Order.
Collects: Mighty Avengers #6-10.
Monica accompanies Blue Marvel as he faces a heart-breaking threat from his past.
Collects: Mighty Avengers #11-14
The Mighty Avengers face off the Deathwalkers.
Collects: Captain America & The Mighty Avengers #1-7
After the events of AXIS, an inverted Captain America and Luke Cage cause havoc for the Mighty Avengers. Monica discovers the Beyond Corporation continues to plague her life and lets just say, she isn’t thrilled.
Collects: Captain America & The Mighty Avengers #8-9, Captain Britain & The Mighty Defenders #1-2, Avengers Assemble #15au
As time runs out on the marvel universe, Monica and team have to deal with the Maker.
Monica finds a new home with the Ultimates and experiences a massive power increase.
Collects: Ultimates #1-5, Avengers #0
In the aftermath of Secret Wars, Monica joins Captain Marvel, Black Panther, Blue Marvel and America Chavez in forming the Ultimates. Their initial mission is quite the doozy as they tackle the problem of how to solve Galactus.
Collects: Civil War II #0-7, Free Comic Book Day 2016 Mighty Avengers #11-14
**Monica and the Ultimates hit Civil War II from a lot of different angles – please see Civil War II Reading Order that covers the entire event.**
Collects: Ultimates #7-12
The Ultimates deal with the ongoing fallout from Civil War II while a plotting Thanos waits to strike. Monica and Blue Marvel continue to grow closer.
Collects: Uncanny Inhumans #11-20, ANNUAL #1
An angry Medusa lashes out at Iron Man and Captain Marvel (as well as the Ultimates) due to the events of Civil War II.
Collects: Power Man and Iron Fist #6-9, Sweet Christmas Annual #1
A vision of the future leads the Ultimates into a confrontation with Luke Cage and Iron Fist.
Collects: Ultimates 2 (2016) #1-6
The Government disbanded the Ultimates after the events of Civil War II. The work still needs to get done, so the team reforms and faces off against the Troubleshooters, an off the books Government squad charged with ensuring the Ultimates do not rise again.
Collects: Civil War II #0-7, Free Comic Book Day 2016 Mighty Avengers #11-14
It’s Kang so expect some weird time stuff including a version of Captain Marvel from the past.
Collects: Ultimates 2 (2016) #7-12
The Ultimates, now reinstated and operating under the Alpha Flight umbrella, (Who doesn’t love corporate reorganizations?) face off with Maker again. The Maker has a little side project where he is trying to collapse all universes into one, and revives the Ultimates from the Ultimate Universe to keep The Ultimates at bay. I am sure there is a way to make that last sentence less confusing.
The Ultimates go their separate ways after the events of Eternity War.
Collects: Avengers: No Road Home #1-10
Monica is drawn back into the Avenger life to battle Nyx, the all-powerful goddess of night. The upper limit of Monica’s powers are tested with life-changing consequences.
Collects: Strikeforce (2019) #1-5
Monica along with Blade, Angela, Wiccan, and Jessica Drew attempt to untangle a plot from the shapeshifting Vridai.
Collects: Strikeforce (2019) #6-10
Strikeforce attempts to find the Vridai a new home and temporarily stop at Deadpool’s Monster Island. Deadpool is his usual helpful self.