November 14, 2009

Ye Olde School Cafe’: The Death of Captain Marvel

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Written by: Billy
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Come one, come all, to the wonderful world of Ye Olde School Cafe’. This week I want to talk about another one of Marvel’s Graphic Novel’s. I know last week some of you seemed to really enjoy Emperor Doom but this week is my personal favorite, The Death of Captain Marvel. This particular OGN is one of the few comics that I’ll actually admit I get a little emotional over when I read it.


This story was written by Jim Starlin and Edited by Al Migrom; colors by Steve Oliff, lettered by James Novak. It was originally published in1982 and the Editor-in-Chief at that time was Jim Shooter. Now, Shooter and Starlin in my opinion are two of the all-time best writers in the cosmic genre. Most of what you see today as far as outer space adventures are concerned can directly be traced to these two guys (and Jack Kirby). This story was reprinted more times than I can count for one big reason: It’s a great story.

First our tale begins with Mar-Vell aboard a space ship recording an autobiography so that his friends will have something to remember him by after he’s gone. He’s interrupted by Eros or ‘Starfox,’ as he’s also known by. Eros is the son of Mentor, who is the leader of the ancient race of beings called Eternals from the planet of Titan. Mentor is also father to Mar-Vells greatest enemy; Thanos, who is quite possibly the living embodiment of evil. He lives only to serve Lady Death and appease her by killing innocent people. Mar-Vell is seen reliving his days as a youthful Kree warrior, and his first trip to Earth where the woman he loved was killed before his eyes.

Next we see Mar-Vell, Eros and Mentor landing on a planet so they can retrieve the solidified body of their enemy Thanos. They intend to take him back home to Titan for internment. Once they arrive and find the statuesque body of Thanos, they are attacked by his would-be followers, and after they dispose of them, Eros and Mentor see Mar-Vell coughing and having trouble catching his breath. He then tells them that he is feeling ill and they demand that he gets scanned by their computer once they are back on the ship. At this point in our story, Mar-Vell reveals to them that he has cancer and the readings from the computer confirm this prognosis. It also tells him he only has a couple of months to live.

We see Mar-Vell tell Mentor about an adventure he had a few years back when he had to subdue a villain named Nitro. In this fight he had to not only stop Nitro, but also a canister of nerve gas that was leaking and threatening the lives of innocent people. Mar-Vell stopped the villain and the gas but the gas acted like a carcinogen in his body and that’s where the cancer cells began to form. Mentor then asks him if he has told the woman he loves, Elysius, about his condition. After telling her, she weeps as he holds her in his arms for the last time.

DOCM03The next scene shows Mar-Vell making another tape for his friends. He tells them about how he was branded a traitor and banished to the Negative Zone for his crimes by The Supreme Intelligence. Once there he thought that he would float on forever in that wasteland, but as luck would have it, Rick Jones found an ancient pair of Nega-Bands in a remote cave. Mar-Vell found out that the two could communicate when Rick put them on, but when Rick would clash them together, the two would trade places. Mar-Vell recalls days past and his battles side by side with The Avengers, Adam Warlock, The Fantastic Four and just about every other superhero you can think of.

After strolling down memory lane he realizes that the gas could have affected Rick as well, so he sets out to talk to him about it. This conversation doesn’t go very well as you can imagine, especially with Rick’s bad temper. So, Captain Marvel journeys back to Titan and speaks with Elysius about the trip and Rick’s reaction. We then see Rick ask The Avengers for help but they tell him there’s no use, so he tells them off and storms out hoping to find someone to help his friend. As time passes we see the word of Mar-Vell’s sickness spread throughout the Galaxy and the pain that goes along with it.

At this time we start to see Mar-Vell lose his battle slowly but surely. He says, “Overwhelming pain… it burns, it tears, it twists and it bends… it kills. It kills slowly… a little piece at a time… and then it fades. Yes, the pain comes and it goes… but the anger always remains.” We see him having quite a few reflecting moments during this part of the story and it is very moving. Mentor, who has been joined by the likes of Reed Richards, Doctor Strange and Hank McCoy (Beast) in searching for some answers as to how they can save this true warrior and friend.

Soon after they realize their research is futile, Eros informs them that Mar-Vell collapsed and was taken to his bed. We see the woman he loves and the Earth man Rick Jones sobbing, sitting outside helplessly as their friend deteriorates. The next panel shows a collection of heroes not seen in ages to come and pay respects to the man whom everybody came to know as a friend. We see Ben Grimm and Spider-Man trying to cheer him up, but the level of emotion overwhelms Peter and he has to leave the room. Beast and Peter have a talk about it but are interrupted by none other than Rick Jones, who has come to be by the side of his best friend. Mar-Vell is also visited by his old friends Drax and Moondragon. He hasn’t seen them in quite a while so they talk about old times, but are suddenly startled by someone else at the door. The Skrulls sent an emissary to show respect for their most hated but most admired enemy. The Skrull commander tells Mar-Vell about how the Skrulls thought of him as a great warrior.

MArvelSoon after we see Eros informing everyone that Mar-Vell has slipped into a coma. With all his friends around him, Mar-Vell starts to dream. He dreams that he is fighting his worst enemy, Thanos. The two warriors fight tooth and nail and eventually Mar-Vell’s old enemies that are dead try to subdue him as well, and after defeating all these threats, he realizes they are all illusions. He then speaks with Thanos and he tells Mar-Vell that he can’t fight death and it has come for him. We see Lady Death herself come to him and deliver the cold kiss of death and then Death, Thanos and Captain Marvel walk towards a blinding light and into eternity. The last image we see is Eros and Mentor standing over Mar-Vell’s bed and covering him with a blanket, while all of Marvel’s greatest heroes are left in tears.

As I previously stated, this story is my favorite GN for several reasons. One is the spectacular writing. There are many scenes within this book that only take one or two panels to get a point across and there’s no wondering what to think or feel. It’s all raw emotion and I love it. Mystery and long drawn out stories can be good as well, but this one being right to the point is what helps make it great. Secondly, anytime you have a major player that is going to die you can’t help but get attached and want the guy to beat the odds. There’s nothing like a good underdog story. Let me just say in closing that in the last couple of years this book has had an even bigger impact on my life than I ever thought it would. You see, in the spring of 2008 I found out that I have cancer. There is no way to explain how you feel when you hear the news about something like this. There really are no words. Luckily for me, I had surgery immediately and the doctors were very aggressive with the treatments that followed so things are looking good for me. Well, that’s it for this week. I hope you enjoyed this edition and if you don’t own this book, believe me it is more than worth the going price. See you next time!

Billy Dunleavy



  1. Ya know, I actually have this trade sitting on my shelf but have yet to read it. I think I’ll have to remedy that.

    And I’m sorry to hear you have cancer Billy, I really had no idea and it seems like you’re kicking its ass.

  2. Jim Starlin wrote and drew this graphic novel after his own father passed away from cancer. You can definitely feel all of the raw emotion Starlin put into this. Captain Marvel will always be known as the superhero who died, not from bullets or bombs, or even at the hands of a supervillain…he died from cancer, an all too real disease.

    I highly recommend this as a must read for anyone. It can speak volumes to comic fans and non-fans alike.

    Billy, I hope you continue to do well. Keep up the good fight!

  3. infinite speech

    So true what you said about Shooter man! He was one of THE BEST hands down and this story here is why Marvel Graphic Novels used to be the best read on shelves. I wish they would return to this format at least for a while

  4. billy

    @Andy & Bill- thanks for the kind words and yes, I am doing well. This was as I said in the article a story full of raw emotion which in a lot of comics these days is lacking (well except maybe X-Force).
    @Speech-Shooter is the man for cosmic stuff for sure. I would also recommed “Marvel: The End” from ’03 I think? Thanos was great in that limited series as well.

  5. infinite speech

    any book that ends up connecting with the reader on an emotional level is a rare read indeed.

  6. Marie

    Billy, I love this article. I think it’s my favorite yet. Love the story and the personal touch. Hope to read it soon.

  7. Marie

    And keep up the fight! I know you’ll beat the cancer!

  8. […] getting a chance to benefit the school.The event will feature appearances by writers and artists Jim Starlin, Joe Sinnott, Ron Marz, Matthew Dow Smith, Richard Clark, Jennifer Meyer, and David Rodriguez, who […]

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