Some Marvel Characters Are Better Dead

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Marvel has a habit of killing off characters and bringing them back later. But some of them should stay dead.

Resurrection is a common trope in superhero comics. Very few major Marvel characters have gone without feeling the touch of death at least once. Should some characters be beyond resurrection though? Aren’t the stakes of a story lowered when most deaths aren’t permanent at all? Granted, Marvel has used death and resurrection to stunning effect, but it’s also detracted from some of its biggest stories by re-enacting hard-hitting deaths.

Many classic Marvel stories feature the death of a major character. Weird X-MenThe “Dark Phoenix” story arc ends with Jean Gray committing suicide. Spider-Man’s “The Last Hunt for Kraven” also ends with a less tragic, but powerfully poetic villain suicide. Civil war (Mark Millar & Steve McNiven) encompasses several deaths to serve as a reflection of real warfare and the consequences of reckless fighting. So what happens to these stories when the results of the character’s actions are later undone?


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Kraven-Spider-Man-Suit-Feature

“Kraven’s Last Hunt” was meant to be a swan song for the character. In the story, he ultimately defeats Spider-Man by proving himself to be the superior rival. Kraven could have killed Spider-Man. Instead, he took on the identity of the Wall Crawler and took down one of his most dangerous foes. Kraven’s suicide humanized the beast of a man like no other story ever has. But the impact of history is undoubtedly mitigated by his resurrection in 2010. He died a fulfilled man, what remains for him to accomplish? The Kraven from the “Last Hunt” story never wanted to be brought back.


Jean Gray may be the most resurrected Marvel character of all time. At this point, it’s almost a tradition to kill Jean once or twice every new decade. The former Marvel editor insisted that Jean die at the end of ‘Dark Phoenix’, understanding that she could never properly join the team after committing genocide. This bitterly poignant death resonated with readers and became a trope Chris Claremont was known for during his long Weird X-Men Course. But what does this death mean now, a dozen resurrections later? Why are Jean’s genocidal acts glossed over by a team that is graphically familiar with widespread persecution and hatred? Are Jean’s contributions to the X-Men significant enough to warrant overlooking her actions during the “Dark Phoenix” story?


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Jean Grey/Dark Phoenix, Storm, Colossus

In contrast, Bill Foster (AKA Goliath) was the most significant death in the “Civil War” storyline. Unlike many other examples, Foster remained dead. And yet, 2018 Ant-Man and the Wasp The feature film adaptation brought the character into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. With a third Ant-Man movie Quantumania Just around the corner, it’s likely that Bill Foster will once again become a familiar character for moviegoers. If that happens, it’s likely that Bill Foster will resurrect in Marvel comics to capitalize on their characters’ on-screen visibility. But like Kraven and Jean Grey, it would lessen the impact of Foster’s death. His death is the ultimate consequence of the “civil war”. It’s the one thing that can’t be taken up or resolved through conversation like the other central issues in the story. More importantly, it’s a sobering reminder that superheroes must understand the consequences of their actions before engaging in destructive and deadly battles. If Bill Foster returns, it sends the message that the toll of the war is only temporary, which is a blatant farce.


Not all resurrections are bad. Some resurrection stories are more powerful than the character’s death. Nightcrawler is a powerful example. His death was tragic and obviously mourned by X-Men fans. But Jason Aaron and Ed McGuiness Incredible X-Men The resurrection story is arguably better and emotionally resonant. In particular, the moment he reunites with Wolverine is a surprisingly human moment for both characters.

So resurrection is not something that should be discouraged, just considered carefully. A proper resurrection can see an unsatisfied character come back with new energy. A bad resurrection can ruin great stories and leave a character feeling redundant.


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