Life’s Tough for a Marvel. Or, Umm… I Mean Tough for a Mar-VELL

Don’t be fooled. There is some SERIOUSNESS in that headline, despite the sarcasm.

But in case you didn’t pick up on it, this post is about the Marvel Comics Marvel family. You know, the one originated by the alien Kree soldier Mar-Vell, otherwise known as the original Captain Marvel in the Marvel Universe. You probably know there’s another Marvel family over at DC comics, centered on the wizard Shazam.

Marvel’s Marvels involve all this cosmic, extraterrestrial stuff, and DC’s Marvels involve lots of magic stuff. Both groups are great, but this post focuses on one…

Those crazy outer space Marvels over at the Marvel Universe, and how a lot of those poor kooks just can’t catch a break. Things have been so tumultuous for these folks that it seems like you’d have to be a masochist to put “Marvel” in your superhero name if you’re a Marvel character.

Is the Legacy of Captain Marvel Cursed?

Let’s just start with recent developments in last Wednesday’s Avengers vs. X-Men storylines. Judging by those, the latest Marvel family member whose life will probably take a dramatic turn for the worse will be Noh-Varr, who goes by the superhero name the Protector.

But before we do, here’s a quick primer on his history. The young soldier named Noh-Varr from an alternate-dimension Kree society debuted in the 2006 Grant Morrison-penned Marvel Boy miniseries, and since then his life has been one of constant upheaval. He’s had a few bright spots, though, like when he decided to follow in the original Captain Marvel’s footsteps as the protector of Earth (hence his current codename, the Protector).

Yet for the most part, things have been traumatic for him. He has been brainwashed, imprisoned, and manipulated, and thanks to these machinations, he’s beaten and kidnapped little kids and teenagers (the Young Avengers and the Runaways), and he’s been duped into joining the Dark Avengers, a supervillain team. And recently, just when things have been getting rosier for him–he currently has a girlfriend and membership on the real Avengers team–here comes Avengers #26, where Noh-Varr’s sudden downward slide seems to have begun.

In this issue, a group of Avengers are recuperating in space after failing to stop the Phoenix force from heading to Earth. They need to rest and regroup because that damn bird whooped ’em up somethin’ FIERCE. But while the heroes are healing up, Noh-Varr exercises his advanced alien cranium and comes up with a way to use the mystical properties of Thor’s hammer to actually hurt the Phoenix force, to everyone’s relief.

(And just to interject here. In my opinion, it’s kind of absurd to write that the all-powerful Phoenix force can be hurt or beaten by Thor’s hammer and some Kree engineering. It’s the damn PHOENIX FORCE.)

But anyway… guess what? Noh-Varr doesn’t want to take this Phoenix-fighting information back to Earth to help us poor humans save ourselves from obliteration. He wants to take it back to the Kree homeworld because the Supreme Intelligence (the Kree Ruler) ordered him to do so, and, since Noh-Varr’s a good soldier, he follows orders and attacks the Avengers, his teammates, so they won’t stop him.

So in one issue, Noh-Varr goes from regular Avenger to a betrayer of the whole team, and thus, goes the supervillain route, apparently.

And, man….. THAT was sudden. You’d almost think Marvel was rushing to get its current Captain Marvel-esque hero out of the way to make room for someone else to replace…

OH, that’s right!



According to some Marvel press releases and stuff, Carol Danvers, aka Ms. Marvel, will become the new Captain Marvel this summer, so it’s possible that poor Noh-Varr is getting thrown under the character assassination bus for plot driven reasons, which would mean that yet another member of Marvel’s Captain Marvel family is destined for tragedy he may never recover from.

And, did you read Secret Avengers #26, where both he AND Carol Danvers vow to help the Phoenix force destr… oh, forget it! We’ve got a list to cover, don’t we?

Let’s take look at some of the other Marvels to see what tortures they’ve endured.

1. Mar-Vell: the Original Captain Marvel

Ah, nothing beats the original does it? In the 1960s, the Kree soldier Mar-Vell is sent to Earth by his government to spy on us to see if we’re a threat to his world. He winds up liking us puny humans, becoming the superhero Captain Marvel, and turning against his own race to save us from cosmic threats. He wears these wristbands called Nega-Bands, which give him some weird, borderline omniscient mental power called cosmic awareness. Captain Marvel became one of Marvel’s greatest heroes, but he wasn’t too great to get cancer, and he died from his illness. It was stunning that a glamorous outerspace hero would die of a disease and not from like, getting killed by a supervillain or flying into the sun to save the universe or something like that.

But it gets weird later, when he’s resurrected like, three or five more times in different storylines, only to be put back to death each time. And now, in the Avengers vs. X-Men crossover, he’s resurrected yet again with the goal of killing the Avengers, his former friends and teammates.

So let’s see… an A-list hero who dies from silly old cancer when he should’ve gotten some Oscar-worthy, dramatic death who’s brought back to life upmteen times (and then re-killed each time) before being brought back again… as a supervillain.

Mar-Vell got a lot of dignity during life. But when it comes to death, the dude’s history just gets messy, and whatever happened to resting in peace?

2. Carol Danvers: Ms. Marvel, aka Binary, aka Warbird, aka Captain Marvel, aka… Lord, Why Couldn’t the Lady Have Just Picked a Name and STUCK With It?

Carol Danvers is arguably the most well-known member of Marvel’s Mar-Vell family. Her character has been around the longest without spending decades being dead, she’s had more than one solo title of her own, and she’s a playable character in some video games. One could say that Carol’s pretty awesome since she’s so popular.

But believe me, homegirl has paid her damn dues.

Check THIS out. Carol Danvers got her powers after she was the victim of an explosion that changed her into a human-Kree hybrid, so she was forcibly turned into a different being against her will. She made the most of it by becoming the superhero Ms. Marvel and joining the Avengers, but during one of her adventures, she’s brainwashed, raped and impregnated by some dude, and then she gives birth to a boy who grows up to be a version of the dude who raped her… and THAT was some freaky sh!t.

And then there was that famous storyline where the X-Man (or errr… woman) Rogue touched her and absorbed her original powers permanently , leaving her powerless, which effectively changed her, against her will. AGAIN.

And THEN, the evil alien race the Brood kidnapped and experimented on Carol (against her will. Notice a pattern here?) and turned her into a cosmic, space-fire wielding character named Binary, inspired by the binary stars that pop up in the cosmos.

Carol eventually loses her Binary powers and becomes more like her regular, original Ms. Marvel self, but then she develops alcoholism and gives herself the codename Warbird. And really, what the hell kind of name is Warbird? That sounds like a car. “Let’s go take our Chevy Warbird out for a ride. It should be fun!” Seriously, what was that woman thinking?

But anyhow, let’s hope that Carol’s tenure as Captain Marvel later this year is a little less traumatic than what she has faced before.

3. Monica Rambeau

Monica wasn’t directly connected to the Marvel folks; she just adopted Captain Marvel’s codename after she got her powers. And her relatively thin connection to the Kree heritage, alien race angle may be why she’s the one of the people on this list who’s been spared a lot of drama. Today Monica still has her powers and her sanity. She’s just changed her codename a few times, and now goes by the name Photon.

But why, exactly, did she give her Captain Marvel codename up? That brings us to No. 4 on the list.

4. Genis-Vell

And you thought Noh-Varr had it rough…

Genis is Mar-Vell’s son, but not in the way you would think. His mother stole some of Mar-Vell’s DNA, after his death, and impregnated herself with it, so Genis wasn’t raised by his father and never knew him. And for a while, he thought his father was someone else anyway. Pretty weird.

Genis had some nifty adventures of his own in youth before he grew up and took over his father’s legacy by calling himself the new Captain Marvel once Monica gave it up. He was doing all right in his role… until he went insane.

See, when Genis put on the Nega-Bands his father wore, the ones that gave Mar-Vell cosmic awareness, they proved to be too much for poor Genis’ weak mind, and he went insane from the mental strain. This took him down the supervillain route, and he became so destructive and threatening to the safety of the universe that the superheroes the Thunderbolts cut him into pieces (of energy, that is) and separated the pieces so they’d never be reunited, and thus, never turn back into Genis.

Insanity and interstellar dismemberment. How’s THAT for an ending? Geez….

5. Phyla-Vell

Turns out, Genis’ mother impregnated herself again and gave birth to a daughter, Phyla-Vell. Phyla fights her brother a few times, and then, after he dies, she’s the only child left  carrying the family name. She becomes her own cosmic superhero, takes the name Captain Marvel for a bit, and joins the Guardians of the Galaxy, but she’s killed later during a mission.

6. Khn’nr

This guy was never even really Captain Marvel, or a Kree, at all. He was a member of the Marvel Universe’s famous Skrull shapeshifting race. The Skrull government bonded his DNA with Mar-Vell’s to lock him into that form permanently, and his mental conditioning was messed up, so he believed he really WAS Captain Marvel, even though he wasn’t. Khn’nr was just a victim of the government messing up its own experiment. And, once he found all this out, he rebelled against his Skrull makers and battled to aid the Earth, and then, of course, he was killed in the battle.

7. Hulkling

Hulkling is the son of Mar-Vell and a Skrull woman, and there wasn’t any after-death impregnating involved. He’s currently a teenaged superhero in the Marvel Universe, and he’s relatively unscathed as far as people associated with that lineage go.

But do you know why?

Because, folks, he was smart enough NOT to put the word “Marvel” in his codename. That’s why. I’m telling you, the second he changes his name from Hulkling to Marvel Kid or something, he’s doomed.

The future of the Mar-Vell Legacy

For now, it’s mainly up to Carol Danvers to fight destiny. She’s going to take the Captain Marvel codename later this year, and it will be her job to break the curse. Will she be able to fill that role without going insane, getting violated in some way, or being killed in a humiliating fashion? We’ll see, but if I were her, I’d go by “Captain Cosmos” or something instead, just to be safe.

This article’s original version was published on Superheroes are Awesome on May 19, 2012.

About the author

Hilton Collins

Loves all things science fiction and fantasy, and if he had to choose between video games, comic books, movies, TV shows and novels, he’d have a brain aneurysm. Check out his blog at Twitter: @HiltonCollins

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