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The Death of Captain Marvel

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Captain Marvel wielded his cosmic powers in defense of the galaxy, but exposure to a carcinogenic nerve gas causes him to succumb to an incurable cancer.


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Captain Marvel wielded his cosmic powers in defense of the galaxy, but exposure to a carcinogenic nerve gas causes him to succumb to an incurable cancer.

30 review for The Death of Captain Marvel

  1. 4 out of 5

    Sean Gibson

    As far as I’m concerned, Jim Starlin never has to pay for a drink again for architecting what was, for my money, the first really great (and still one of the all-time best) crossover event comics in Infinity Gauntlet, a story from which the moderately fiscally successful Avengers cinematic franchise has mined more than a few plot nuggets. I’ve been on something of a Starlin kick lately, consuming a bunch of his mid-80s Batman work, and it occurred to me that though I’ve been meaning to read it f As far as I’m concerned, Jim Starlin never has to pay for a drink again for architecting what was, for my money, the first really great (and still one of the all-time best) crossover event comics in Infinity Gauntlet, a story from which the moderately fiscally successful Avengers cinematic franchise has mined more than a few plot nuggets. I’ve been on something of a Starlin kick lately, consuming a bunch of his mid-80s Batman work, and it occurred to me that though I’ve been meaning to read it for literally decades, I’ve never gotten around to The Death of Captain Marvel. So, I finally read it. To quote the inimitable Cheech Marin in Ghostbusters 2 when he witnessed the ghost of the Titanic (and its dead passengers) arrive in New York, “Well…better late than never.” This is intended to be a powerful, emotional story, one that pays homage to a falling (and ultimately fallen) hero, one felled not by villainous laser blasts or mighty fist blows, but, rather, and unusually for comics, the ravages of cancer. And I’m sure it would have been a powerful, emotional story…if I had ever really read Captain Marvel comics. (One note: this is NOT the Carol Danvers Captain Marvel of more recent fame; this is the original Captain Marvel, a Kree defector who chose to save Earth rather than helping his people destroy it.) All comics require a willing suspension of disbelief, but never more so than when they address real-world issues. To Starlin’s credit, rather than sidestepping or glossing over it, he drives straight at the obvious question of why the greatest minds on the planet—whose genius seems to surpass even that of our own Einsteins and Hawkings—aided by futuristic alien technology, no less, can’t figure out a way to cure Marvel or, at the very least buy him more time. (I recall a similarly uncomfortable question arising when Marvel, with its heart squarely in the right place, tried to wrestle with 9/11, because superheroes stopping bad things from happening in New York is a daily occurrence in the Marvel U, so it seemed strange that they couldn’t stop a couple of non-superpowered fanatics from crashing planes into buildings, or at least have contained the damage. Then again despite heroes’ best efforts, it seems like there’s a 9/11-level event happening in New York every month in Marvel U, somewhat blunting the emotional impact of each event. So, when they attempted to show the raw emotion the heroes felt that day, a day that they failed and could do nothing but mourn alongside the rest of the country, it felt odd, though J. Michael Straczynski handled the story beautifully.) Starlin’s rationale is that the nega bands that give Marvel his miraculous powers and have for so long kept the cancer at bay, combined with his Kree physiology, thwart all scientific and magical attempts to cure the disease. Why not remove the nega bands, then? Well, dummy, because those are the only thing keeping him alive, and the moment they come off, he’s deader than Rebecca Black’s pop idol aspirations. In addition to Starlin’s titular (heh heh…I said “titular”) tale, this collection contains Captain Marvel’s first appearance (a typical Stan Lee joint, though heavier on the repetitive exposition and ham-handed character development than Stan’s much more stellar work on Spidey, Doc Strange, X-Men, etc.) and a couple of other stories, including the one that exposed Marvel to the radiation that ultimately caused his cancer. It’s…weird. Even with those for context, I felt about as emotional as I might watching the sad sack patient of the week on Grey’s Anatomy flatline while an earnest ballad by The Fray crescendos in the background for the 714th time in its one billion-episode run. I wanted to feel the pain of Rick Jones and an all-star cast of Marvel heroes, but having never really seen ol’ Marv in action, I struggled to feel the loss with them. It was like walking in on someone else’s grandma’s funeral. Starlin is almost always worth a read, and that’s the case here—those who were longtime Captain Marvel fans will undoubtedly be deeply affected, and others will appreciate this somber approach to a different kind of story.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Dan Schwent

    After collapsing after a routine fight, Captain Marvel reveals he has terminal cancer and perhaps three months to live. In his last days, he records his memoirs and gets his affairs in order. Captain Marvel, the Protector of the Universe, is stricken with cancer and none of the super heroes and scientists in the Marvel Universe can save him. This is his swan song. For a book written in the early 1980's, this holds up very well. Captain Marvel is on his way out and his friends come to say goodbye. After collapsing after a routine fight, Captain Marvel reveals he has terminal cancer and perhaps three months to live. In his last days, he records his memoirs and gets his affairs in order. Captain Marvel, the Protector of the Universe, is stricken with cancer and none of the super heroes and scientists in the Marvel Universe can save him. This is his swan song. For a book written in the early 1980's, this holds up very well. Captain Marvel is on his way out and his friends come to say goodbye. This was a touching read. Spider-Man and Rick Jones had some emotional moments and a single man-tear welled up when a Skrull gave Captain Marvel a Skrull medal of valor out of respect. As Captain Marvel fights the disease, he recounts his memoirs, giving a condensed account of his super hero career and battles with the Kree, Skrulls, Thanos, and others. Man-tears were a near thing at the end of this one. Super-heroes die all the time. Mar-Vell is one of the few that has actually more or less stayed dead. After reading this, I'm glad they didn't cheapen the story by bringing him back. Four out of five stars.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Sud666

    Nowadays main characters dying or having multiple famous characters in the same issue are de rigueur. When this book was written it was not so. I did factor that in when reading it. Captain Marvel has cancer. That's the long and short of it. This issue acts as a summation of his history and origins, followed by his interesting self-reflections and his farewells and a final "fight" against Thanos which has much symbolic value. Starlin's story is one that is strangely emotional and a classy "farewe Nowadays main characters dying or having multiple famous characters in the same issue are de rigueur. When this book was written it was not so. I did factor that in when reading it. Captain Marvel has cancer. That's the long and short of it. This issue acts as a summation of his history and origins, followed by his interesting self-reflections and his farewells and a final "fight" against Thanos which has much symbolic value. Starlin's story is one that is strangely emotional and a classy "farewell" for an obviously beloved character. It has aged well. The art also is quite good. Ahead of its time in many ways and I rather enjoyed it. From the big-picture ideas about life and death to a great rehash of Captain Marvel's illustrious career, this is a graphic novel that has a little of everything. I enjoyed it quite a bit and it was a nice change from the current modern comics.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Jon Nakapalau

    To understand the concept of "Death" in the Marvel Universe and the connection Thanos has with the entity that manifests the metaphysical concept of 'death' you should read this excellent GN. To understand the concept of "Death" in the Marvel Universe and the connection Thanos has with the entity that manifests the metaphysical concept of 'death' you should read this excellent GN.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Himanshu Karmacharya

    Death has been overdone and so poorly written in comic books nowadays, that it has lost all of its impact. All the dead characters are resurrected and are merely killed to boost up sales, rather than to create a beautiful and emotional story. Most deaths do occur because the characters are killed by another supervillain or while protecting the innocents. This is certainly not the case in this graphic novel. Captain Marvel dies of cancer in this one. The significance of him having cancer, is that Death has been overdone and so poorly written in comic books nowadays, that it has lost all of its impact. All the dead characters are resurrected and are merely killed to boost up sales, rather than to create a beautiful and emotional story. Most deaths do occur because the characters are killed by another supervillain or while protecting the innocents. This is certainly not the case in this graphic novel. Captain Marvel dies of cancer in this one. The significance of him having cancer, is that it signifies that beneath all the masks and costumes, lie mortal men and women, who are no more vulnerable to diseases than we are. It makes the heroes relatable to some extent. Jim Starlin has written a heartwarming story and done his best to pay respect to the character and his legacy, before biding him farewell. The symbolism used with Thanos, before Mar-Vell sees the light beyond the tunnel, was exceptionally clever and beautiful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Sophia

    I’m a sucker for sentimentality and boy, did this story have that in spades. I felt that death and loss was dealt with respectfully. Plus, seeing the varied ways people handled Mar-Vell’s news was good to see. I got teary eyed more times than I thought I would and to me, that’s a sign of a good story done well.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    I'd heard this was a really powerful story, but I knew next to nothing about Captain Marvel and didn't have much interest in the character. However, I spotted this at a comic shop sale and decided to give it a shot, and I'm glad I did. I really thing the 80s-era Marvel graphic novels have produced some of the greatest writing about these characters. The length is just right for telling a complete, self-contained story in the pre-decompression style of the time, and the bigger pages and advanced I'd heard this was a really powerful story, but I knew next to nothing about Captain Marvel and didn't have much interest in the character. However, I spotted this at a comic shop sale and decided to give it a shot, and I'm glad I did. I really thing the 80s-era Marvel graphic novels have produced some of the greatest writing about these characters. The length is just right for telling a complete, self-contained story in the pre-decompression style of the time, and the bigger pages and advanced coloring techniques really do wonders for the art. God Loves, Man Kills remains my favorite of these graphic novels that I've read, but the original New Mutants comes close. And then there's this, The Death of Captain Marvel. In what could easily have become a cheesily melodramatic scenario -- a hero is dying! -- Starlin manages to craft a surprisingly subtle (for comics) tale of death and grief and acceptance. The various reactions to the Mar-Vell's death from different characters all feel very real, as does the hero's own struggle to accept his fate. Plus, I can see how it was very subversive, at the time, to show a hero dying, not in battle or in noble sacrifice, but of a normal, common disease like cancer. The questions raised, and partially answered, here -- why DON'T the huge science brains in comics spend time curing diseases? -- are fascinating, and deserve further exploration in less-focused texts. But for what it is, The Death of Captain Marvel is an excellent story.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jdetrick

    As a person recently in remission from cancer after initially receiving a terminal diagnosis, I won't pretend that I have any objective ness when it comes to reviewing works in which cancer is a central theme. That being said, I've always liked this graphic novel. Besides it's historical importance for Marvel, not only as the company's first graphic novel but as an example of one oft he few times they've killed a character and left them dead, it's simply a good story. Starlin's art is very nice, As a person recently in remission from cancer after initially receiving a terminal diagnosis, I won't pretend that I have any objective ness when it comes to reviewing works in which cancer is a central theme. That being said, I've always liked this graphic novel. Besides it's historical importance for Marvel, not only as the company's first graphic novel but as an example of one oft he few times they've killed a character and left them dead, it's simply a good story. Starlin's art is very nice, and this isn't nearly as overwritten as so much of his 70's work with Mar- Vell. It's explores death pretty well and it's a moving story. It still stands up pretty well.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Sesana

    The new-ish hardcover release of The Death of Captain Marvel packages Captain Marvel #34 and Marvel Spotlight #1-2 with the original graphic novel. I've read a handful of these 80s Marvel graphic novels. They're all short, though significantly longer than a regular issue, with extra attention paid to the art. X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills is another in the line. As expected, the title graphic novel has the death of a Marvel superhero, Captain Marvel, not from violence but from cancer. I was pretty The new-ish hardcover release of The Death of Captain Marvel packages Captain Marvel #34 and Marvel Spotlight #1-2 with the original graphic novel. I've read a handful of these 80s Marvel graphic novels. They're all short, though significantly longer than a regular issue, with extra attention paid to the art. X-Men: God Loves, Man Kills is another in the line. As expected, the title graphic novel has the death of a Marvel superhero, Captain Marvel, not from violence but from cancer. I was pretty impressed with the way the story was told. It had rather more subtlety than I was expecting, and some very moving and effective moments. I'm thinking of Rick Jones's angry rant at the brilliant and helpless scientists of the Marvel universe, or Spider-Man getting overwhelmed at Mar-Vell's bedside and having to leave the room. It's a little hampered by the length (I think a longer book might have done a better job of delving into some of the deeper issues) and the conventions of 80s superhero comics. Captain Marvel #34 did end up being important, since it details how Captain Marvel got cancer. Marvel Spotlight #1-2 seemed kind of useless, though. It does show Marvel on Titan, and it does briefly show many of the Titan characters who show up in the graphic novel, but other than that, they didn't add much.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Dimitris Papastergiou

    One of my all time favourites! Loved this as a kid. Loved it with every single one of my re-reads through the years. You like cosmic stuff? It's a MUST! You like Captain Marvel? It's a MUST! You like Starlin? DUH! It's about the life and times of Mar-Vell. And of course the death of Captain Marvel as well. Really miss Mar-Vell... wish they'd bring him back, yeah Carol is great and all, but I miss him and always wanted him to be back. I loved every single issue of his when I was a kid and re-reading no One of my all time favourites! Loved this as a kid. Loved it with every single one of my re-reads through the years. You like cosmic stuff? It's a MUST! You like Captain Marvel? It's a MUST! You like Starlin? DUH! It's about the life and times of Mar-Vell. And of course the death of Captain Marvel as well. Really miss Mar-Vell... wish they'd bring him back, yeah Carol is great and all, but I miss him and always wanted him to be back. I loved every single issue of his when I was a kid and re-reading now all the Thanos stuff made me reminiscing his series and the times I'd read back in the days. Oh well.. WE NEED THE ORIGINAL CAPTAIN MARVEL BACK MARVEL!!!!! BRING HIM THE FUCK BACK! ALSO since we're on the subject, WE NEED THE ORIGINAL NOVA BACK TOO. What the fuck is that with a fucking kid for Nova.. fuck that shit and bring back the original one with which we grew up with DAMMIT. Rant over. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Skott

    Mar-vell dies The title says it all, but it is how he lives and dies that makes the story. Starlin's work is amazing. Mar-vell dies The title says it all, but it is how he lives and dies that makes the story. Starlin's work is amazing.

  12. 4 out of 5

    guanaeps

    Amazing work by Jim Starlin, writing a poignant and satisfying ending to a character whose legacy he helped create, all whilst pouring himself into every panel. A true work of art.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Derek Neveu

    A very touching and human story that unfortunately too many people have to face in their own lives. Although dead is never really dead in comics, this story helps show that one can either acquiesce or rage against the end. The way Mar-Vel chose to confront his end further demonstrated why he was one of the finest heroes in the early Marvel Universe.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    When I first read this in 1982, I had no idea that they were reprints, so they were new to me. Some of Marr-vell's friends and a couple of his enemies show up to pay their respects to a dying Super-Hero struck with cancer. Now, this was back in the day where when an hero (or more likely one of his supporting cast) died, they stayed that way... well for a least a while, unlike in these days, when they die and are back in action a couple of months later in a big "Ressurection" story. So yeah, I had When I first read this in 1982, I had no idea that they were reprints, so they were new to me. Some of Marr-vell's friends and a couple of his enemies show up to pay their respects to a dying Super-Hero struck with cancer. Now, this was back in the day where when an hero (or more likely one of his supporting cast) died, they stayed that way... well for a least a while, unlike in these days, when they die and are back in action a couple of months later in a big "Ressurection" story. So yeah, I had taken this story seriously. Although aimed at a more "mature" audience with its glossy paper, magazine-sized format and its exhorbitant price, the story was still pretty much the usual comic-book fare. After all, that's what the writers were used to writing and I suppose they had trouble making the jump to an older audience. The story hardly stands the test of time, but for the time at which it had been written, it was pretty much some of the best American stuff out there.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Juan

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I read this in 1982, when I was on vacation in New York, from Hong Kong. I remember buying it at a B. Dalton Booksellers on Fifth Avenue and reading it on the plane from NY to London. It was such a major event, as a thirteen year old, to be reading about the death of a superhero. I mean, they were superheroes and they didn't die. More than that, though, was how clever the story is. Captain Marvel doesn't die in the heroic throes of combat saving the world. He dies, equally heroically, but withou I read this in 1982, when I was on vacation in New York, from Hong Kong. I remember buying it at a B. Dalton Booksellers on Fifth Avenue and reading it on the plane from NY to London. It was such a major event, as a thirteen year old, to be reading about the death of a superhero. I mean, they were superheroes and they didn't die. More than that, though, was how clever the story is. Captain Marvel doesn't die in the heroic throes of combat saving the world. He dies, equally heroically, but without glamour because of cancer. It's very real and the reactions of the other superheroes are equally as honest.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Timothy Boyd

    Probably the first big name super hero to die. Great story and art. Very recommended

  17. 4 out of 5

    Subu

    A superhero succumbs to cancer...friends and foes gather in his last moments to pay homage...unlike any other superhero comic I have read...

  18. 5 out of 5

    Keith

    That was surprisingly touching. A quite mature (if pedantic) meditation on accepting mortality.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Bruno Carriço

    Still holds has a great read!

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tony Calder

    This is the first in the range of graphic novels that Marvel released in the 80s. Captain Marvel had never had his own title, rather he usually guest starred in the Avengers or the Fantastic Four and occasionally other titles. The death of a superhero? Why should that rate a graphic novel? Superbeings in the Marvel Universe die fairly regularly, and they rarely stay dead. However, this graphic novel is different - released well over 30 years ago and the character is still dead, and Mar-Vell didn' This is the first in the range of graphic novels that Marvel released in the 80s. Captain Marvel had never had his own title, rather he usually guest starred in the Avengers or the Fantastic Four and occasionally other titles. The death of a superhero? Why should that rate a graphic novel? Superbeings in the Marvel Universe die fairly regularly, and they rarely stay dead. However, this graphic novel is different - released well over 30 years ago and the character is still dead, and Mar-Vell didn't die in combat or a villain's death trap, rather from a disease - cancer. Jim Starlin is both the author and artist of this powerful tale, and there are some emotional scenes in this story. Both Marvel and DC choose to keep their comics universes reasonably close to real Earth levels of technology, so even the combined intelligence of Reed Richards, Hank McCoy, Tony Stark, Henry Pym and others is unable to come up with a cure.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Travis

    One of the very first 'Big Event comics,' as well as being one of the best death of a character stories. Captain Marvel returns to Titan to die, not having to face any great menace or final quest, but rather because he's been diagnosed with cancer. The whole story is very introspective, almost Shakesperion, but still has that big, cosmic vibe that Jim Starlin is known for. One of those death of a character stories that hits all the right emotional notes and never feels like a stunt or done as a plo One of the very first 'Big Event comics,' as well as being one of the best death of a character stories. Captain Marvel returns to Titan to die, not having to face any great menace or final quest, but rather because he's been diagnosed with cancer. The whole story is very introspective, almost Shakesperion, but still has that big, cosmic vibe that Jim Starlin is known for. One of those death of a character stories that hits all the right emotional notes and never feels like a stunt or done as a plot device.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Tommy

    This book is a classic. I enjoyed it but didn't love it. I think I would enjoy it more if I was more familiar with Mar Vell as quite a bit of the series is focused around how much he meant to everyone in the Marvel universe. I did find it very interesting that he was dying of cancer rather than in battle and made for a particularly compelling story. The Thanos twist at the end was good too but then again I feel like Thanos always adds a cool wrinkle to stories. Sad tale and, I believe one of the This book is a classic. I enjoyed it but didn't love it. I think I would enjoy it more if I was more familiar with Mar Vell as quite a bit of the series is focused around how much he meant to everyone in the Marvel universe. I did find it very interesting that he was dying of cancer rather than in battle and made for a particularly compelling story. The Thanos twist at the end was good too but then again I feel like Thanos always adds a cool wrinkle to stories. Sad tale and, I believe one of the iconic ones in Marvel history, but wasn't as meaningful to me as it probably could have been.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Just a Girl Fighting Censorship

    Um….this comic is a bit like a lifetime movie, a sparse plot, plenty of sappy moments, weepy characters, and someone dies….of cancer. Pretty much nothing happens in this story beyond the death of Captain Marvel….which doesn’t come as much of a surprise SINCE IT IS THE TITLE OF THE BOOK! The only real redeeming quality is the all-star appearances and the great art which really go hand in hand. The full page spreads of a multitude of famous faces are beautiful.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Mhorg

    The greatest Mar-Vell story ever Jim Starlin is one of the greatest comic artists ever. He's also a damn good writer. He is not however, an optimistic writer. Many of his stories are grim and dark. But this, this may be the greatest he's ever written. Jim took this character and made him great. This, his death, is equally great. Marvel comics first graphic novel and still the best. Read it. I dare anyone not to weep. The greatest Mar-Vell story ever Jim Starlin is one of the greatest comic artists ever. He's also a damn good writer. He is not however, an optimistic writer. Many of his stories are grim and dark. But this, this may be the greatest he's ever written. Jim took this character and made him great. This, his death, is equally great. Marvel comics first graphic novel and still the best. Read it. I dare anyone not to weep.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Roger Royer

    Published in 1982 this book made the comic book world almost completely turn in to a crying mess as one of the greatest heroes of the Marvel universe died of cancer. I am still in shock to this day that they have not brought him back. I think the book is one of the best out there if you know what you want.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Nick

    A wonderful look at the concept of death and the beauty in its nondiscriminatory nature. A must-have for comic book fans and simply those who want a good story. Begs to be compared to the likes of Watchmen and Sandman.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Stephen Snyder

    This is the first graphic novel that I ever read. In fact, in never heard of the term until I bought this book. It was such an incredible story that I read it several times the year that it came out. I was deeply moved by the story. A "Must-Read" for any true Marvel fan. This is the first graphic novel that I ever read. In fact, in never heard of the term until I bought this book. It was such an incredible story that I read it several times the year that it came out. I was deeply moved by the story. A "Must-Read" for any true Marvel fan.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Wondra Vanian

    So, so ahead of its time. If you've ever lost someone to cancer, this one really hits you in the gut. I can't believe Marvel tackled such a heartbreaking topic so long ago. That being said, the artwork on this one is not my favourite. So, so ahead of its time. If you've ever lost someone to cancer, this one really hits you in the gut. I can't believe Marvel tackled such a heartbreaking topic so long ago. That being said, the artwork on this one is not my favourite.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Still incredible and heart breaking after all these years I read this in my teen years and as always you expect a hero to come back. This one didn't and after all these years Marvel has not brought him back. One of the best comic stories and in the top ten Still incredible and heart breaking after all these years I read this in my teen years and as always you expect a hero to come back. This one didn't and after all these years Marvel has not brought him back. One of the best comic stories and in the top ten

  30. 5 out of 5

    Christopher

    Another library find from my stacks. I am continually amazed and how well done some of these older, major published, comics are. This is no exception.

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