UNEARTHED: The Death of Captain Marvel, Part Four

Here it is at last: the conclusion to the saga. Will there be a last-minute reprieve? Let’s find out together!

The heroes have gathered to be with Mar-vell in his final moments. Though I didn’t feel it the first time I read this, it is faintly absurd that all these guys have their costumes on. Punctures the sadness juuuuuuuust a bit.

Oho! The echoes of ‘so unfair’ lead me to think that we’re going to get a dream sequence of some kind! Thanks, decades of tv and movies!

This is a really creepy morph sequence of Mar-vell into Thanos.

Okay, this demands some context: at the time of this story, the last we saw Thanos he’d been turned to stone by Adam Warlock in the Avengers King-Size Annual #7. Starlin wrote and drew this issue too, and it’s notable for many things, among them being the first time we see the vaunted Infinity Stones in comics!

Essentially, Thanos has the upper hand, is about to destroy all life, yadda yadda, and Warlock shows up:

And it doesn’t go well for Thanos.

And to this point he’s been stone the whole time. Before we move on, I’d like to point out that it’s always interesting to see how different inkers can affect an artist’s pencils. You can see Starlin in these panels by his unique musculature, but the inking changes the rendering just a bit. Anyway, we might get to this issue someday, but that’s enough context for what happens next.

Thanos shows up at Mar-vell’s deathbed, no one else around. Why’s he here? Well…


By Hala! What’s going on, True Believers?

So, now’s a good time to mention something about Jim Starlin’s writing style. Pretty much everything he’s ever written has a huge philosophical component. Sometimes to the detriment of what would otherwise just be simple superhero stories. His Infinity Gem series (which I think he’s STILL doing) is completely full of cosmic musings. If you like that kind of thing, you’d be happy with it, but even I find them to be someone impenetrable at times.

And here we go!

The action we’ve been craving throughout this thing has come at last! And I’ll say here that the leap in that third panel isn’t unique to this comic, as extreme as it is. I saw it once before in The Legion of Superheroes’ ‘The Darkness Saga’, where Orion leapt at Darkseid. It’s a weird one, and you don’t forget a pose like this.

Is it reeeaaaaallll? Is it a metaphooooorrrrrrr?

I have no idea who these dudes are, except for ol’ Yon-rogg there in the bottom right. He was played by Jude Law in the MCU.

I love the gentle mockery exhibited by Thanos and the disembodied head here.

Something to note about Thanos: his entire goal (in the comics, at least) was to court Death Herself. That’s right, in the Marvel Universe, Death is female. Thanos wants to make her his, and he frequently tried to woo her by killing a bunch of people. At the time of this writing, I don’t know what the state of this mission is, but he’s probably still at it. No means no, Thanos!

You can’t blame Mar-vell here. He’s only really known combat his entire life, so it’s natural that this is his reaction. And this is what I’ve always loved about superhero comics: even as blows are being traded, heroes and villains just constantly jaw at each other about morals and philosophies and right and wrong. It’s fun. I’m not ashamed to say that much of my own moral code is informed by these old comics.

Mar-vell finally comes to realize the unreality of what’s happening to him.

There she is, Death incarnate! And finally Mar-vell has achieved acceptance.

This speaks for itself.

Not to spoil anything, but I’d appreciate this ending much more if both Thanos and Captain Marvel never appeared again. But of course, superhero comics being what they are, they do. But at the time of publication, this was pretty huge.

You just didn’t get this kind of thing from Marvel.

Not sure where this is, but surely they could’ve found a nicer place to put his monument?

And there you have it, “The Death of Captain Marvel”. Truly groundbreaking for Marvel Comics back in the day, and nice to revisit now. As stated, we’ll be going through all the Marvel Graphic Novels one by one, and I’m really excited to show you the next one, because it’s probably my favorite: “Elric: The Dreaming City” by Roy Thomas and P. Craig Russell, adapted from the classic Michael Moorcock novel! Oh man, it’s gonna be great! See you soon!