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Marvel Graphic Novel #1: Review

Jul 1982
Jim Starlin, Jim Starlin

Story Name:

The Death of Captain Marvel

Review & Comments

4.5 stars

Marvel Graphic Novel #1 Review by (October 10, 2012)
Review: History-making epic from a simpler, more sincere time was a shocking development. Its impact is hard to imagine now that heroes’ deaths are an annual gimmick to sell comic books (along with the inevitable “resurrection” the following year) but yes, this had never happened before. A fairly popular hero died. For real. For good. And it was not a heroic death in combat with his archenemy, saving the universe in the process but a sad death from cancer, which kills thousands of “ordinary” people each year. The tragedy is all the more moving for that. Jim Starlin, master of the interstellar epic, shows himself adept at human drama too, as he outlines the stages of grief Mar-Vell and his friends go through to accept the inevitable. The art is moving and effective, see especially the wordless page with CM breaking the news to Elysius and that heart-breaking (no pun intended) final page. The only debit is that absurdly optimistic portrayal of death as the beginning of a new journey with no basis for the assertion. Would that Starlin either went full Christian or totally atheist, either confronting the hero with God or having him wink out of existence; this New Age-y compromise just demonstrates the inadequacy of a comic book to address serious philosophical issues.

Guests: Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Spider-Man, Thing, Beast, Yellowjacket, Wonder Man, Black Panther, Vision, Mr. Fantastic, Hulk, Dr. Strange, Clea, Sub-Mariner, the Inhumans, Black Widow, Hellcat, Wasp, Gargoyle, Scarlet Witch, Quicksilver, Hercules, Tigra, Demon Slayer, Silver Surfer, Ghost Rider, Daredevil, Invisible Woman, Human Torch, Franklin Richards, Nightcrawler, Colossus, Wolverine, Professor X, Cyclops, Jean Gray, Storm, Angel, Valkyrie, Power Man, Iron Fist, Moondragon.

Comments: Originally published as MARVEL GRAPHIC NOVEL #1; the cover is influenced by Michelangelo’s Pieta. Mar-Vell was introduced in MARVEL SUPER-HEROES #12; merged with Rick Jones in CAPTAIN MARVEL #17; was exposed to the nerve gas in issue #34; and met Elysius in #59-60. Thanos’ death was in MARVEL TWO-IN-ONE ANNUAL #2.

Marvel Graphic Novel #1 Review by (October 14, 2012)
This is rightly billed as one of the few real (lasting) deaths in Marvel comics. But of course Marvel couldn't leave it at that. Several people have reused the name:- Monica Rambeau, CM's children Genis-Vell and Phylla-Vell, Noh-Varr (Marvel Boy/Protector), and now Carol Danvers (Ms Marvel). He was impersonated by a Skrull (wasn't everybody?). He's been encountered in the realm of the dead, and temporarily called forth from there a few times, the last being during the recent Chaos War. And his resurrection by the Phoenix Force in Secret Avengers during Avengers vs X-Men actually counts, in my mind, as bringing him back. Even though he pretty soon sacrificed himself.


Synopsis / Summary / Plot

Marvel Graphic Novel #1 Synopsis by Peter Silvestro

Mar-Vell of the Kree, known on Earth as Captain Marvel, dictates a journal of his life into a recorder: originally dispatched to Earth to spy it out for possible conquest, he instead rebelled against his people and became our world’s protector. Now, with Mentor, ruler of Titan, and his son Eros (Starfox), Mar-Vell is heading for the ark of Thanos. They seek the body of Mentor’s other son, so that the would-be galactic conqueror can be entombed on his homeworld. They arrive and as they stand before the petrified Thanos, they are attacked by an army of diverse aliens who worship Thanos as a god and await his resurrection. Mar-Vell and the group win the fray with a minimum of violence and Mentor orders them to forget his evil son. As the Titan party departs with Thanos’ body, Mar-Vell falls ill; a medical scan back on the ship reveals the grim news: Mar-Vell is dying of cancer. It was caused by exposure to a powerful nerve gas years earlier; he is resigned to his fate and informs his beloved Elysius.

Mar-Vell resumes his journal, relating his exile to the Negative Zone, his merging with Rick Jones, his adventures with the Avengers, and their final battle with Thanos. He returns to New York to locate Rick and inform his old friend about his condition, and warn him about the possibility that his health may be endangered too. When Rick learns that Mar-Vell is resigned to his fate, he reacts with anger, determined to help his former partner. Rick approaches the Avengers and appeals to them to devote themselves to finding a cure for cancer. When the heroes give a guarded response, Rick angrily storms out.

The news that Captain Marvel is dying spreads throughout Earth and the universe, exciting joy among his enemies but shock and sorrow among his legion of friends. Mar-Vell is concerned about Elysius, a former enemy turned lover, and reacts with anger over his impending demise. The Avengers discover that Mar-Vell’s Nega-Bands, which have kept him alive thus far, are also preventing a cure. Then the former Kree warrior collapses and is confined to his bed. From all over the galaxy, friends and enemies come to pay their respects to the fallen hero. Some try to comfort him, others honor him, Spider-Man walks out, unable to deal with his emotions. Soon, Rick Jones appears, to apologize to his old friend and spend some time with him. Later, Drax and Moondragon bring an unexpected visitor: General Zedrao of the Skrull Empire. He has come to present the medal of valor to his people’s greatest enemy as a tribute to his courage. Mar-Vell is not unaware of the irony that his own people have not so honored him.

That night, word comes that Mar-Vell has fallen into a coma. The visitors gather around his bedside with Mentor pronouncing his death unfair. As the word "unfair" echoes through the room…Mar-Vell is awakened from his solitary bed by a revived Thanos, who restores him to health with a gesture, even clothing him in his familiar uniform. Thanos announces he has returned for one last magnificent battle with his old foe. On a pathway beneath the enormous heart of his universe, the Titan villain acts to destroy the heart and the Kree hero seeks to stop him. Mar-Vell finds himself fighting the ghost of his dead enemies, joined by Thanos, to force him to accept their reality: the inevitability of death. When Mar-Vell finally accepts his imminent passing, Lady Death approaches, takes both Mar-Vell and Thanos by the hands, and as the giant heart ceases to beat, leads them off on their next journey….

Back in the room, the EKG goes flat and Mentor pronounces, "He’s gone."

Jim Starlin
Jim Starlin
Steve Oliff
Jim Starlin (Cover Penciler)
Jim Starlin (Cover Inker)
Jim Starlin (Cover Colorist)


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