20 best superhero comics to read after Infinity War

19 of 21

3. The Death of Captain Marvel

Okay, hopefully, Infinity War isn’t quite as sad as the issue where Kree superhero Captain Marvel dies of cancer. But this is a genuinely interesting comic, not to mention one that, in many ways, brought superhero comics into further maturity.

There have been multiple Captain Marvels over the years. There is much to say about them, especially about the current Captain Marvel, Carol Danvers. However, now is not the time for a dissection of the Captain Marvel hero persona. This time around we are focusing on the Kree hero, Mar-Vell.

Mar-Vell was first created by Stan Lee and Gene Colan in Marvel Super-Heroes #12, published in December 1967. He was an alien soldier ordered to watch over Earth as the humans developed a more advanced technology. Mar-Vell starts to think that his commanding officers might not have the best intentions. He breaks with his training, joins the humans, is deemed a traitor to the Kree, and becomes a superhero.

Bringing Captain Marvel back

Pretty dramatic backstory, but it’s one that actually fizzled for quite some time. He was revamped by Roy Thomas and Gil Kane, but for all their work, sales of the Captain Marvel title were still mediocre at best. That’s where Marvel let Jim Starlin loose. He did quite a bit of work of his own, but really cinched everything when he killed off Captain Marvel.

It’s true that a superhero’s death is often little more than a publicity stunt, like DC’s 1992 Death of Superman. However, Starlin created an emotional story in Marvel’s The Death of Captain Marvel, and moreover one that earned its acclaim.

In this standalone graphic novel (one of Marvel’s first), Mar-Vell learns that he has cancer. All of those years fighting cosmic villains and being exposed to toxic chemicals has finally taken its toll. He faces a long, painful decline, one that is the polar opposite of a grand superhero death. Other superheroes, who are frightfully well-equipped with deaths like being flung into a sun, don’t know what to do with something like cancer.

In the end, Mar-Vell, close to death, goes to an astral plane. There, he meets the then-dead Thanos, who introduces Mar-Vell to none other than Mistress Death.