For months, Marvel Comics has been hyping a major death in Amazing Spider-Man #26 (Legacy #920). Series writer Zeb Wells joked in an April interview that his editor, "told [him] not to do any comic conventions after this issue comes out (laughs). People will be upset." This led to speculation that the company might go as far as to kill off Mary Jane Watson, who recently broke up with Peter Parker (again) and started a family of her own.
Today, the shocking death has been revealed as Kamala Khan, also known as Ms. Marvel. A super-powered Muslim teenager, Ms. Marvel has been a breakout character since she first debuted in 2014; last year, she starred in her own TV miniseries on Disney+, and this fall, she'll co-star in The Marvels, the next installment of the big screen Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Ms. Marvel has starred in over 75 issues of her own comic book, the most recent volume of which came to an end about two years ago. Since then, she's made a number of appearances throughout the Marvel Universe. Most recently, she's been a background supporting character in Amazing Spider-Man. working as an intern in her civilian identity alongside Peter Parker at OsCorp, the corporation owned by Norman Osborn, the former Green Goblin (who is now sort of a good guy, because of reasons that I swear make sense in-story but aren't important right now).
It's not unheard of for Marvel (or DC, for that matter!) to kill off beloved characters for hype in the midst of an ongoing storyline. Just a few months back, they gave Magneto the epic hero's death he deserved. These moves (usually) make for good PR, because shock value sells. But shock value can make for good stories, too, even when you know it might get undone. Some cynics will roll their eyes and say that such deaths are always a cheap move, because these characters always eventually return. Others assume that the shocking news is a permanent move — like five years ago, when Marvel revealed that (a version of) Captain America had "always" been a Nazi. A volatile political climate can certainly contribute to extreme reactions, too, especially when you're turning an already-Aryan superhero into a literal white supremacist, or murdering a brown-skinned Muslim girl.
In the case of Kamala Khan, there seems to be a greater weight of outrage. If you're going to kill off a Pakistani-American in the middle of Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, in another character's book, as part of another character's storyline, you might expect some people to take it as a slap in the face. To add insult to a community-wide industry, Marvel's Editor-In-Chief C.B. Cebulski, who has served in the role since 2017, is a white man who previously published comics under a fake Japanese identity in order to skirt around some of Marvel's freelancer rules.
It's not my place to say whether Cebulski's words or actions since that time are worthy of forgiveness. But I can understand why some AAPI comic fans might be upset that an EiC who did yellowface approved the death of a prominent South Asian American character during AAPI Heritage Month.
Ms. Marvel's death could be part of a great story; I've really been enjoying Zeb Wells run on Spidey so far, and his work on Hellions was one of my favorite Marvel books in recent memory. As soon as the news of her death leaked, many fans began speculating that she would be resurrected just in time for The Marvels movie, in a way that retcons her origins and powers in order to align the comic book version of the character with the movie version.* We'll see what happens; I try not to judge the entirety of story when I'm still in the middle of it. Still, I can't help but wonder what kind of conversations were had about this decision behind closed doors, because it certainly feels like a risky move.
A Major Spider-Man Comic Leak Is Driving Shock and Suspicion [James Whitbrook / Gizmodo]
Kamala Khan, a.k.a. Ms. Marvel, will die in upcoming Marvel comic [Christian Holub / Entertainment Weekly]
*When Ms. Marvel debuted, she was revealed to be an Inhuman, during a time when Fox still owned the movie rights to mutants. For this reason, Marvel Publishing was trying to push Inhumans over mutants. Since then, Marvel has regained the rights to mutants, and the X-Men franchise overall. The recent Ms. Marvel TV show went as far as to suggest that the movie version of the character might actually be a mutant. (If you're wondering "WTF is the difference?", it's that Mutants get their powers from a naturally-occuring X-gene, while Inhumans have a, uhh, different genetic mutation resulting from Kree experimentation, but their powers don't actually manifest unless they're exposed to the Terrigen Mists. Duh.)