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The Life and Death of Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics) Paperback – June 1, 2002
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The second part of this story is seen in Starlin's next work, Adam Warlock (hopefully that gets a decent treatment, too, someday). The stories in Captain Marvel and Warlock are still the best representations of Thanos by far and, unless one reads them, one really can't understand what he's really all about and how he has evolved - he seems to be used far more liberally these days. Those who don't get how great these two stories are don't really get comics either, and are probably better off sticking to the mainstream comics. These are comics done by adults, for adults, and not for everyone, certainly not for people who don't appreciate epic storylines. Personally, I get tired of reading reviews of comics by people who have no sense of the history of the genre, only picking up what happens to be the fad for the day, then try to comment on what has gone before. Starlin both writes and draws each of these books, by the way, and, while most comic artists are influenced by other comic artists, the main influence in Starlin's work is an artist by the name of Michelangelo (the cover to this book, by the way, is even Michelangelos' Pieta, in case it looks familiar).
The last part of this story is Captain Marvell's death, drawn years after the other one. It is true that it is poignant, but it's also depressing, too. Starlin's interest in death in the early days was actually pretty morbid, and Mar-vell is one of the few Marvel characters to actually stay dead (one of the others being Gwen Stacy). The current Captain Marvell, is an updated, hot-headed, mod version meant to appeal to a younger generation. The one here is noble, courageous and will risk all in order to triumph over evil - qualities that seem all too lacking everywhere these days. On the other hand, the death does bring about some closure in the book.
One last note - the original books have gone up quite a lot in price and are considered collector's items, it's lucky to have them all together here. Created three years before Star Wars, they more than match that trilogy in both sweep and sense of the epic. Just to look at the storytelling here, one can almost see the first Thanos epic made into a great movie, especially how special effects have evolved these days.
In this story our hero Captain Marvel has fought bravely to defend Earth and our solar system more times than can be counted. Mar-Vell (his real name) has found that most of his enemies are now dead, or have joined the side of the good. Mar-Vell now finds himself able to enjoy a status of semi-retirement and move to the planet Titan to be with the love of his life, Elysius.
One of Captain Marvel's primary villains is Thanos who is now apparently dead, entombed in stone. One of Marvel's final tasks is to travel to Thanos's starship and reclaim his body for proper burial. The Captain is accompanied by Thanos's brother Starfox and his father Mentor. The trio quickly find themselves under attack from a mad cult bent of the worship of their dead leader, and after the skirmish it becomes apparent that Mar-Vell is seriously ill.
What really sets this one apart is that there is no built up villain, no new rogue with incomprehensible powers. Captain Marvel has cancer. With all of his vaunted powers and those of his friends they are powerless to fight THIS type of enemy. The cancer was caused by Marvel's exposure to a carcinogen while defending the Earth in the past. Although his powerful nega bands kept the cancer at bay, it also caused the cancer to mutate into something untreatable.
Mentor assembles the universes greatest minds. People like Dr. Strange, Mr. Fantastic, Iron Man, the Beast and more work tirelessly day and night in the labs on Titan to try and develop a cure. More and more of Mar-Vell's friends and even enemy's begin to venture to Titan to visit the ailing warrior, whom many consider to be a hero even to heroes.
Hopefully I won't offend anyone when I say that this is the best work Jim Starlin has ever done. I know that may not wash with some sci-fi and comic fans, but all I can say is read the book. This is by far the most heart wrenching and emotional story I've ever read in MAINSTEAM comics.
The art itself is wonderful. This puppy was made back when each page was actually colored by hand! And there was no need for perfect continuous tone. Each page itself is like a work of art, but without needing the hyper-realism of Alex Ross. The trained eye can recognize each spot where Starlin used marker, gouache, pen and ink, and the book looks better for it.
As for what happens, and whether the title prophesizes things to come all I can say is that you'll have to read it to fully appreciate it. Oh, and don't expect that old Thanos himself won't factor into the conclusion.
The Life and Death of Captain Marvel (Marvel Comics)
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