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Marvel expects me to believe Kamala Khan’s gonna die for real next week?

‘The Death of Ms. Marvel’ sounds like a bit of a stretch

Peter Parker/Spider-Man cradles the body of Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel in Amazing Spider-Man #26 (2023). Image: Zeb Wells, John Romita Jr./Marvel Comics
Susana Polo is an entertainment editor at Polygon, specializing in pop culture and genre fare, with a primary expertise in comic books. Previously, she founded The Mary Sue.

In the next issue of Amazing Spider-Man, Kamala Khan, aka Ms. Marvel, will die. Entertainment Weekly revealed the milestone moment yesterday evening after pages from the issue leaked online.

Kamala, who doesn’t have her own ongoing book at the moment, has been guest starring in Amazing Spider-Man here and there, mostly as an intern at Oscorp, but occasionally suiting up to rescue a lab tech. Honestly, it seemed like writer Zeb Wells (Hellions) and illustrator John Romita Jr. (Kick-Ass) have been keeping her around in anticipation of a plot line where she could have more of a co-starring role. And this is it, in a manner of speaking.

According to the a Marvel Comics news release, “Ms. Marvel makes a heroic sacrifice in the ultimate Marvel Comics manner” in Amazing Spider-Man #26. In July, the company will publish Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel, an anthology one-shot featuring stories written by Ms. Marvel co-creator G. Willow Wilson; writer of her last ongoing series, Saladin Ahmed; and Mark Waid, who wrote Kamala when she was on the Avengers and in her time as one of the feature characters of Marvel’s teen team, the Champions. The issue will be drawn by Humberto Ramos, Takeshi Miyazawa, and Andrea Di Vito.

“The heart of the Marvel Universe has stopped beating,” reads Marvel’s news release, “Now join the other heroes of the Marvel Universe, the creators of Ms. Marvel, and comic fans everywhere in honoring and remembering one of Marvel’s brightest stars!”

The cover of Fallen Friend the company released, however, looks like it’s more about Spider-Man’s guilt. And the interior image from Amazing Spider-Man #26 show Kamala surrounded largely by Spider-Man’s friends — Mary Jane, the Fantastic Four, a reformed Norman Osborn — and none of her own beloved supporting cast (not even her best superhero friend, and Peter’s sidekick-at-large, Miles Morales).

Spider-Man kneels in the foreground, face cradled in his hands, as rain falls. The Thing, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Iron Man, and Wolverine stand solemnly and wet in the background, while an image of Kamala Khan looms behind them on the cover of Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel (2023). Image: Kaare Andrews/Marvel Comics
Spider-Man cradles Ms. Marvel’s body in an alleyway as (LtR) Norman Osborn, Mary Jane, and the Fantastic Four look on sadly in Amazing Spider-Man #26 (2023). Image: Zeb Wells, John Romita Jr./Marvel Comics

For a superhero whose solo stories were so centrally about her connection to her family, neighborhood, and friends, these images simply don’t feel like they’re about Kamala, an unfortunate thing to say for an issue in which she dies. That sentiment has borne out in reactions on social media, where “Amazing Spider-Man” and “Ms. Marvel” trended on Twitter following the leak and announcement.

But it may not just be the optics of the reveal at play here, when the idea of Marvel Comics permanently killing Kamala Khan is so absurd on the face of it. Now, resurrection is a given for pretty much every superhero death, and you can still tell great stories despite the traditional impermanence of the genre. But when it’s the death of a rather popular character who has her first blockbuster film coming out this fall — it breaks the kayfabe, so to speak.

It’s unthinkable that Kamala won’t be back in the costume by the time The Marvels hits theaters in November. Consider that Marvel debuted a Monica Rambeau miniseries in anticipation of The Marvels, launched a new Guardians of the Galaxy series for Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3, and has a renumbered Captain Marvel series waiting in the wings for later this year.

It’s naked comic book shenanigans, and it’s cruel to play shenanigans with an audience that has very few Muslim superheroes, much less Muslim superheroes known outside of comics, to go around (or teen girl superheroes, for that matter). It’s telling that the character’s death is already inspiring celebratory racist reactions on social media.

This does not seem like a plot hook for Kamala Khan fans, which makes Marvel’s copy — about the glory of Kamala’s apparent upcoming heroic sacrifice — ring particularly hollow.

Amazing Spider-Man #26 will hit shelves on May 31. Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel will hit shelves on July #12.

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