Death of Captain Marvel (Marvel Graphic Novel #1)
Issue(s): Death of Captain Marvel (Marvel Graphic Novel #1)
This one took place within Marvel continuity and featured a major event: the death of a major character. Or semi-major, anyway. Mar-vell's own series was canceled a few years prior to the publication of this novel, and since then he had been in and out of Marvel Spotlight with presumably little success. Aside from when Starlin wrote and drew his series, he wasn't a popular character and his series generally wasn't very good. So killing him off and getting a big event out of it probably made a decent amount of sense.
But these aren't nice things to say at his funeral. This is a very moving story by Starlin dealing with Captain Marvel dying not (directly) at the hands of some super-villain, but of cancer.
Part of the book is a retrospective, but it also deals with desperate super-scientists like Reed Richards and T'Challa trying to find a cure for cancer (and wondering why they haven't tried to do so earlier).
It deals with Rick Jones initially not accepting his friend's death, but later showing up to say goodbye...
...or his friend's willingness to accept death. It's got a very touching scene with Spider-Man breaking up while the Thing is trying to be jolly with Mar-vell.
Basically despite the existence of super-heroes - and just about every one of Marvel's super-heroes...
...as well as the Skrull General Zedrao...
...show up to pay their respects on Titan - this is a universal story. It's very good.
Unfortunately many of Marvel's subsequent Graphic Novels would not be on quite the same level.
The Silver Surfer is one of the heroes who arrives to pay respects to Captain Marvel, but of course the Surfer is bound to Earth by the barrier left by Galactus, so it will later be revealed that this is actually a Skrull. Which seems like the worst possible fix; why not say that Reed Richards rigged up some sort of hologram device or that Galactus was petitioned to temporarily let him a little further out into the solar system rather than work against Starlin's intention of having the Surfer be one of the people who wanted to pay respects to Mar-vell? Oh well, that's small potatoes.
Medusa's appearance here creates a problem similar to the Silver Surfer's. She was captured by the Enclave in Fantastic Four #207, and she won't appear again until she is rescued off-panel in Fantastic Four #240. We'll have to assume that she was actually kidnapped by the Enclave twice, and she appears here after having been rescued or having escaped from the Enclave the first time.
Quality Rating: A+
Chronological Placement Considerations: The MCP places this about a year prior to publication date, in between Avengers #211-212, most likely due to the inclusion of Henry Pym as a member of the Avengers. I have it slightly later, between Avengers #212-213, which is still while Pym is on the team and before he's court-martialed. See also the notes above about Silver Surfer and Medusa.
Continuity Insert? N
My Reprint: N/A
Inbound References (11): show
Yet another "disposable character" disposed of, although it was handled appropriately and you can't really blame Marvel/Shooter for wanting him gone.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 11, 2011 6:59 PM
Bought this story in the early '90s after one of the matriarchs of my church died of brain cancer. Powerful, honest work by Starlin in this memorable issue. Cathartic. It's important to know that "comic books" can have that effect on readers.
Posted by: haydn | December 11, 2011 12:21 AM
Jim Shooter recently said that Starlin's father was dying of cancer while he was creating this book.
Posted by: fnord12 | December 11, 2011 2:11 PM
I recently discovered Jim Shooter's website and recall reading that. I guess the degree of honesty in this story reflects Starlin's personal experience. Perhaps some of the conversations were near-transcriptions of things that he and his dad discussed.
Posted by: haydn | December 19, 2011 12:26 AM
Who's the guy in the green Iron Man armor with a cape in the upper right of that last picture?
Posted by: S | August 7, 2012 8:45 PM
That's the Super-Adaptoid, sort of the Avengers' equivalent of the Super-Skrull. He fought Captain Marvel in CM #50, currently in my back-issue pile.
Posted by: fnord12 | August 7, 2012 9:40 PM
This story was first announced by Marvel in late Summer 1980 as a candidate for the then-titled "album" format. Other stories mentioned for albums were Elric by Thomas & Russell(which actually went to Pacific Comics), a sequel to Starlin's Metamorphosis Odyssey in "Epic"(which went to Eclipse), The Prisoner(never published), the Daredevil Angel Dust story, and the X-Men(Claremont's name wasn't mentioned at the time, so I don't know if it referred to the eventual X-Men Graphic Novel or the scuttled Neal Adams project).
Posted by: Mark Drummond | September 2, 2012 6:57 PM
Critics at the time did have some harsh words about Starlin's art, claiming it had deteriorated noticeably. There are definitely some out of proportion heads, arms, & legs in a number of panels above.
Posted by: Mark Drummond | April 8, 2013 3:12 PM
It doesn't get better than this in the realm of comics. A+, indeed.
Posted by: Instantiation | July 11, 2014 8:59 PM
The panel where all the heroes arrive on Titan . . . there's definitely a little mini-drama in that. The Hulk is checking out Tigra (meow!), and Hercules seem ready to brawl over it. Iron Man and the Sub-Mariner (of all folks!) seem to be trying to keep the peace, while a lot of other characters seem aware of the situation. Interesting how that's dropped in there, with no further development, a neat Starlin touch. And there are so many great touches in this classic . . .
Posted by: Instantiation | August 10, 2014 8:13 PM
It's been a while since I've read the whole thing, but does Medusa have any speaking lines? If not then (and fnord I'm sorry if that drive you crazy lol) but perhaps her appearance here could be written off as an art error and she is still indeed with the Enclave?
Posted by: Jeff | June 3, 2015 1:22 PM
Medusa does not speak and is barely visible, so if you just wanted to put your thumb over her and pretend she wasn't there, i wouldn't stop you. Although that would mean that Medusa was a prisoner of the Enclave for a long time.
Posted by: fnord12 | June 3, 2015 5:29 PM
Poor Medusa. (Well... I always did like Karnak better ;-) )
Posted by: Jeff | June 3, 2015 5:41 PM
It's nice to see Starlin homage the work of all the other writers who handled Mar-Vell's series; that's not the sort of thing I could see him doing these days with, say Thanos or Adam Warlock.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | October 2, 2015 10:44 AM
I think I have identified most of those characters (and their first appearances as Mar-Vell foes), but for the blue creature next to his chin and the yellow giant with a weird mouth behind his hair. Any hints on who those might be?
Posted by: Luis Dantas | June 22, 2016 5:01 PM
The yellow robot right of Mar-Vell's head is the Mandroid from CAPTAIN MARVEL #18 (see fnord's review; it looks different on the cover).
The Rip Jagger's Dojo blog (post for Jan. 3 2011) interprets the blue guy as the Metazoid from CAPTAIN MARVEL #5. That could be his face and I don't have a better suggestion.
Posted by: Luke Blanchard | June 22, 2016 7:04 PM
I think the blue one is Metazoid (Captain Marvel #5).
Posted by: AF | June 22, 2016 7:10 PM
Okay, I think I have it as figures as I am likely to. In reading order:
Annihilus (Avengers #96-97 and Captain Marvel #35)
Surprisingly, Yon-Rogg is nowhere to be seen.
Posted by: Luis Dantas | June 22, 2016 9:48 PM
Anyone else of note missing?
I'd say Basilisk and Korvac. Maybe Skragg (the other Skrull working for Thanos) and Terrex (from Daredevil #107). ISAAC seems an oversight too but perhaps that was to avoid complicating things with him also being in the main story. Blood Brothers maybe, but I think they wound up avoiding him and fighting Iron Man and Thing most the time instead. And Yon-Rogg as said.
Posted by: AF | June 23, 2016 4:26 AM
Any criticism of Starlin's art should be superceded by the overall quality of the story. Remains as potent today as when in came out in the "80's. Even though the overall tone was somber, I did enjoy the group panels and picking out the "who's who" of those who came to say goodbye. Although Jim Starlin was best known for his "cosmic" storylines, he didn't let the bigness overwhelm the tales and a personal touch on this and his Warlock stories and others.
Posted by: Brian Coffey | May 26, 2017 4:31 PM
You're missing a tag for Lou-Ann Savannah. In the bit where it shows everyone reacting to the news that Captain Marvel is ill, she's the woman stood by a window who is described as "old friends" (or something to that effect). It's pretty easy to miss that it's her but this is also her last appearance.
Posted by: AF | February 8, 2018 5:25 AM
Added her. Thanks AF.
Posted by: fnord12 | February 8, 2018 12:43 PM
As much as I appreciate the maturity and depth of this story, especially for arriving in 1980, I just can’t get past the poor art by Starlin in this one. As someone mentioned above, lots of disproportionate limbs, odd character sizing, facial expressions that are just... er.. wrong.
Perhaps if Jim Starlin was dealing with cancer in the family around the same time then that explains some of the sloppiness with what must have been a heavy mind, but I’d have to say A for story and C for art, thus a B overall at best.
Posted by: Paul Peterson | March 29, 2018 11:07 PM
I don't see Reed Richards in either of the big crowd scenes; perhaps he's holding the camera. Or maybe Jim Starlin just didn't like drawing that particular character. There's only one panel shown where I did spot Reed, and it's maybe the worst drawn figure in all the scans shown here.
Posted by: Holt | May 9, 2018 8:10 PM
Is that Superman in the graveside scene?
Posted by: John Mariner | July 15, 2018 12:58 AM
It looks like Superman, with the distinctive s-curl haircut, but given the whole kerfuffle with the Silver Surfer, it's probably another Skrull. Maybe it's Ethan Edwards.
Posted by: Andrew | July 15, 2018 8:06 AM
For that matter, in the bedside scene, Starling gives the Vision the cross-chest straps of the Martian Manhunter, another DC/Justice League character.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 15, 2018 8:18 AM
That isn't Vision, that's Devil-Slayer.
Posted by: AF | July 15, 2018 8:49 AM
D'oh! For some reaons, I always misremember Devil-Slayer as having facial hair because of those J.M> DeMatteis stories where Captain America's friend Dave Cox is brainwashed into using the costume to try to kill Cap. I guess I'm lucky I don;'t think Devil-Slayer has only one arm.
At least I have the comfort I'm not alone in failing to realize that Devil-Slayer, of all characters, would show up for this story.
Posted by: Omar Karindu | July 15, 2018 12:50 PM
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