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Death (Marvel Comics)

This article is about the personification of death in the Marvel Universe. For the Apocalypse Horseman of Death, see Horsemen of Apocalypse.
Death on the cover of graphic novel The Death of Captain Marvel (1982).
Art by Jim Starlin.
Publication information
Publisher Marvel Comics
First appearance Captain Marvel #26 (June 1973)
Created by Mike Friedrich
Jim Starlin
In-story information
Notable aliases Mistress Death
Abilities Nigh infinite power and knowledge

Death is a fictional character that appears in comic books published by Marvel Comics. The character first appeared in Captain Marvel #26 (Jun. 1973) and was created by Mike Friedrich and Jim Starlin.

Publication history

The entity appears in the title War Is Hell and forces soldier John Kowalski to undergo a number of lives and deaths as punishment for doing nothing to prevent the invasion of Poland,[1] with Kowalski eventually becoming an aspect of Death;[2] in the title Ghost Rider posing as "Death Ryder" to test Johnny Blaze[3] and becoming fascinated with the Titan Thanos.

Fictional character biography

Death is an abstract entity, the embodiment of the end of life in the Marvel Universe, and the opposite of Eternity, the embodiment of the universe.[4] Death is predominantly depicted as a skeleton cloaked in a black or purple robe, and at times appears as a Caucasian human female. An elaborate storyline in the title Captain Marvel showcases Thanos's scheme to conquer the universe, as the character becomes determined to prove his love for Death by destroying all life. Although Thanos obtains the artifact the Cosmic Cube and succeeds in taking control of the universe, Death abandons the character when he is defeated by the combined might of Captain Marvel; Drax the Destroyer and the Avengers.[5] Two Marvel Annuals feature Thanos as he tries to "woo" Death back (courtesy of the Infinity Gems with which he plans to extinguish every star in the galaxy), but the character is killed in a final battle with the Avengers; Captain Marvel and Adam Warlock.[6] When Captain Marvel is dying from cancer, Thanos returns to the character in a vision and introduces him to the entity Death. Marvel willingly surrenders his life and embraces the entity.[7]

In Marvel's first limited series, Contest of Champions, Death agrees to a game of strategy with the Elder of the Universe the Grandmaster. The Grandmaster wins the game and Death provides him with the power (via the Golden Globe of Life) to resurrect the Collector,[8] a fellow Elder. Only then does Death reveal that the Golden Globe is an empty instrument that needs to be powered by a life-force equal to that of the being who is to be restored. To resurrect the Collector, the Grandmaster sacrifices his life and takes the Collector's place in the Realm of the Dead.[9] In the limited series Secret Wars II the entity the Beyonder takes human form and visits Earth. It decides to "save" mankind, and in doing so destroys Death, but is then shown there is a need for Death and recreates the entity.[10]

In an Avengers Annual the Grandmaster reveals his sacrifice was a ruse as he is able to steal Death's powers and via another deception tricks the entity into banishing all Elders from the Realm of the Dead, effectively rendering them immortal.[11] The threads of this storyline continue in the title Silver Surfer where a group of eleven Elders conspires to use the Infinity Gems to kill the cosmic entity Galactus and thereby destroy reality itself. After their plan is thwarted, Galactus devours five of the Elders, assuming that his status as being who transcends Death and Eternity means that he does not have to abide by Death's vow. However, Galactus finds the Elders difficult to absorb and Death is displeased that Galactus has chosen to ignore her vow.[12] Subsequently, when three Elders - the Astronomer; Possessor and Trader - threaten to use the Infinity Gems to prevent the In-Betweener from hurling Galactus (with their brother Elders still inside him) into a black hole, the conceptual being responds by summoning Death and forcing her to negate the three Elders against her will, a transgression that Death finds heinous.[13]

The limited series The Thanos Quest reveals that Death perceives an imbalance in the universe and a gradual shift towards life rather than death, the entity resurrects Thanos. Thanos successfully collects the Infinity Gems, and attempts to converse with Death on its own level. The irony is the character is now superior to Death, and as such Death may not speak with him (a fact relayed via one of Death's minions).[14] The story continues in a consecutive limited series, The Infinity Gauntlet, in which Thanos then wipes half the beings in the universe from existence as proof of his love for Death; the entity remains and watches as he battles Earth's metahumans, but after they are defeated, Death joins the cosmic pantheon in trying to defeat Thanos. Though the cosmic entities are unsuccessful, Thanos eventually loses the Infinity Gems and is defeated.[15]

The mercenary Deadpool is depicted having a humorous exchange with the entity in a self-titled Annual. Deadpool becomes infatuated with Death after he has a number of near-death experiences.[16] During the Funeral for a Freak storyline, Death appears to reciprocate the feeling, and a jealous Thanos prevents Deadpool from dying and joining the entity by cursing him with immortality.[17] In the second volume of Captain Marvel, Death reunites with Thanos to confront the Death God Walker, who tries unsuccessfully to court Death. Death hides within the body of Marlo Chandler, the girlfriend of Rick Jones, in an attempt to escape Walker. The entity eventually destroys Walker and then leaves the body of Marlo, although Marlo retains a small fraction of Death's power.[18]

The limited series Avengers: Celestial Quest continues to explore the relationship between Death and Thanos, as the entity reveals to Thanos that their energies merged when he was resurrected, creating an offspring called the Rot. Death and Thanos work together to destroy their offspring, and it is at this time that Death finally addresses Thanos and admits to feeling "love" for him.[19] The pair also share a kiss in the limited series Marvel: The End, moments before Thanos, possessing the artifact the Heart of the Universe, recreates the universe minus a critical flaw that would have destroyed it.[20]

During the limited series Annihilation, Thanos joins the fight to stop the Annihilation Wave, and during the war is killed by his old foe Drax the Destroyer. When the hero Nova is near death from injuries sustained in battle, he glimpses Death and Thanos standing together watching him.[21] The second volume of the Guardians of the Galaxy features a new development: Phyla-Vell, the heroine Quasar, agrees to become the new avatar of Death in exchange for the freedom of lover Heather Douglas.[22]

In The Thanos Imperative, the Captain Marvel of the Cancerverse, called Lord Mar-Vell, using a ritual to the Many-angled ones that involves sacrificing the Avatar of Death, is able to destroy Death's M-body and remove her from his universe.[23] In the last issue of this six-part mini-series, it is revealed that Thanos, upon coming back to life, has been completely removed from the realm of death and can no longer die. In a twist he appears to accept Lord Mar-Vell's proposal to be a sacrifice so the Many-angled ones can invade the 616 universe; however, this proves a trap set by Death herself in order to get close to Mar-Vell. By destroying him, she kills every living thing in the Cancerverse, initiates its and the Fault's collapse, and even injures the Many-angled ones to such a degree that it will take them eons to heal.[24]

During the Chaos War storyline, Daimon Hellstrom mentions to Hercules that Death has fled their reality upon Amatsu-Mikaboshi triumphing in the realms of the dead, causing the souls of the deceased to be unleashed upon the Earth, and rendering the victims of the siege, whose injuries might otherwise prove fatal, merely locked in a deathless limbo.[25]

Powers and abilities

Death is an abstract entity, possessing nigh infinite power and knowledge. The character occasionally appears as a humanoid female so as to be able to be perceived by lesser beings, and resides inside a pocket dimension known as the Realm of Death.[26]

Other versions

Earth X

In the series Earth X, Thanos uses the Ultimate Nullifier to destroy Death.[27]

In other media

Video games


  1. ^ War Is Hell 9 - 15 (Oct. 1974 - Oct. 1975:bi-monthly)
  2. ^ Man-Thing vol. 2, #10 - 11 (May & July 1981)
  3. ^ Ghost Rider #35 (April 1973)
  4. ^ Quasar #19 - 25 (Feb. - Aug. 1991)
  5. ^ Captain Marvel #26 - 33 (Jun. - Jan. 1973 - 1974)
  6. ^ Avengers Annual #7 + Marvel Two-In-One Annual #2 (1977)
  7. ^ The Death of Captain Marvel (Apr. 1982)
  8. ^ Killed by the entity Korvac in Avengers #175 (Sep. 1978)
  9. ^ Contest of Champions # 1 - 3 (Jun - Aug. 1982)
  10. ^ Secret Wars II #6 (Dec. 1985)
  11. ^ Avengers Annual #16 (1987)
  12. ^ Silver Surfer vol.3, #10 (April 1988)
  13. ^ Silver Surfer vol. 3, #17 (Nov. 1988)
  14. ^ Thanos Quest #1 - 2 (Sep. - Oct. 1990)
  15. ^ Infinity Gauntlet #1 - 6 (July - Dec. 1991)
  16. ^ Deadpool/Death '98 (1998)
  17. ^ Deadpool vol. 2, #61 - 64 (Feb. - May 2002)
  18. ^ Captain Marvel vol. 2, #17 - 19 (Feb. - Mar. 2001)
  19. ^ Avengers: Celestial Quest #1 - 8 (Sep. 2001 - Apr. 2002)
  20. ^ Marvel: The End #1 - 6 (May - Aug. 2003)
  21. ^ Annihilation #6 (Mar. 2007): Annihilation #1 - 6 (Oct. 2006 - Mar. 2007)
  22. ^ Guardians of the Galaxy #12 (May 2009)
  23. ^ Thanos Imperative vol. 1, #3 (October 2010)
  24. ^ Thanos Imperative vol. 1, #6 (January 2011)
  25. ^ Chaos War #2
  26. ^ Thanos Quest #1 (1990)
  27. ^ Earth X #0-12 (March 1999 - April 2000)
  28. ^ "New Characters Revealed for DEADPOOL Video Game". January 8, 2013. Archived from the original on Feb 17, 2013. 

External links