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“I Got Better!” A Look At Death in Marvel Comics, and What It Means for the MCU

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This past Wednesday Marvel released Uncanny X-Men Annual #1, in which popular (or popular whipping boy, depending on you perspective) X-Men leader Cyclops rose from the dead, to the surprise of…well, absolutely no-one who has read comics for any length of time.  It was an engaging issue, a romp through Cyke’s recent past and previous resurrections, penned with aplomb by Ed Brisson, one of the architects of the X-Men’s return to prominence in the publisher’s fold.

It’s not the first time an X-Man has returned from the grave, or the first time a Marvel character rose from the grave, in fact (looking at you, Frank Castle).  It will not be the last, to be sure.  Death and resurrection is a time honored tradition in comics, and specifically in the Marvel Universe.  So much so that there were only a handful of characters that were considered “permanently” dead, mostly because they had an emotional impact on, and guided the story of, another main character.  Take Uncle Ben Parker, for example.  Dead since Spider-Man’s inception in 1962, Ben is the poster boy for staying dead in the Marvel Universe.  They’ve toyed with his return, but he’s stayed dead.  The other “untouchable” is Gwen Stacey, who has stayed dead since her fall from the Brooklyn Bridge sorry, George Washington Bridge in Amazing Spider-Man #121.  Like Ben, Gwen has been teased at returning–an alternate universe Gwen even posed as the 616-universe version–but Gwen has stayed dead.  Bucky Barnes was once on that list, but Ed Brubaker brought him back to unanimous acclaim in his run on Captain America, re-christening him the Winter Soldier.

But for these three, there has been much resurrection in comics.  Captain America himself has died and come back.  Jean Grey has done it several times.  And now, Cyclops.  For the third time.

Image Copyright Marvel Comics

So what does all this death and resurrection mean for the Marvel Cinematic Universe?  It means that all the heroes who were “dusted” by Thanos in Infinity War are likely to return.  It also means that, for all intents and purposes, even Gamora, who was sacrificed by Thanos to get his mitts on the Soul Crystal, will likely be back.

More, it means that even though some fan-favorite characters may die by the time the last frame Avengers: Endgame is projected onto that silver screen, they will likely return in some form.  The beauty of the Marvel Universe is that it is an endless multi-verse, and that means we may get alternate-reality versions of popular Marvel characters Iron Man, Captain America, or Thor, for example.  So, MCU fans rejoice, the probability that Groot, Black Panther, Doctor Strange and Star-Prince–sorry, Star Lord are going to stay dead is actually pretty low.  In fact, the real question is not “will they return,” but “how will they return”.

No, not who will wield the Infinity Gauntlet to snap everyone back, more is this resurrection a re-set of the MCU as a whole?  The hints are there–the reality altering properties of the Reality Stone, the fact that they aren’t hiding Spider-Man’s return (Far From Home takes place after Endgame), and even visual cues in the trailer for the new Spidey flick (say, that Happy is the one who interacts with Aunt May and not Iron Man, meanwhile Stark Tower is getting a facelift in the background of one of the scenes).  But what does it all mean?

One thing is for sure–death is a part of the Marvel Universe.  But so is resurrection.