A longtime Marvel Universe character just became the new Death
The Marvel Universe version of Death has just retired, and a longtime supporting character is taking her place.
Genis-Vell: Captain Marvel #5 (written by Peter David and penciled by Juanan Ramirez) has major implications and questions for the Marvel Universe. What happens when a cosmic entity experiences burnout? Well, in this case, it means a longtime Marvel character steps up to take her place.
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Genis-Vell: Captain Marvel #5
Who is Marlo Chandler?
Marlo Chandler was introduced in Incredible Hulk #347 (1988) as a fitness instructor based in Las Vegas. The young redhead was set up on a date with Joe Fixit, a Vegas enforcer with a tough reputation. In reality Fixit was the Hulk in his gray form. He and Marlo enjoyed a brief romance but ultimately parted ways.
Marlo eventually fell in love with Rick Jones, one of the Hulk’s oldest friends. Rick and Marlo got married in Incredible Hulk #418 (1994), but their ceremony was interrupted by the demonic Mephisto, who tried to claim Marlo’s soul. This was the first in a series of bizarre challenges their marriage would face.
Rick and Marlo tried on a series of careers, from being talk show hosts to comic book shop owners. Of course, Rick’s association with the superhero community meant that he and Marlo were always facing some villain or world ending crisis. The couple eventually divorced, but they’ve enjoyed a few reconciliations over the years.
What’s the deal with Marlo Chandler and Death?
The being known as Death is a powerful entity who embodies the end of life in Marvel Comics. She usually appears as a skeleton in a cloak, but sometimes takes other forms. It would be an understatement to say that they have a complicated relationship.
Death encountered Marlo for the first time when the entity was forced to hide from a scorned suitor called Walker, a death deity from a distant galaxy. After she spurned his advances, Walker got a bit vengeful, forcing Death to hide for her own safety. Death used the body of Marlo Chandler as a temporary vessel. At the time, Marlo had recently been killed after a confrontation with a unstable woman who claimed to be Rick’s mother. Rick believed that the villain known as the Leader had successfully used his scientific equipment to revive Marlo, but in reality it had been Death.
As for Marlo's perspective on this situation, she learned about Death’s presence in her body just as Walker caught up with her. After defeating Walker, Death left Marlo’s body and allowed her to survive as a thank you. The experience gave Death and Marlo an odd psychic connection. At times Marlo has been able to channel Death’s powers, which includes communing with the departed. Death continued to use Marlo as a host body from time to time, finding that she valued their connection. In a strange way, this gives Marlo something in common with her ex-husband Rick, who has on occasion shared a body with the Kree warrior Genis-Vell.
What happened in Genis-Vell: Captain Marvel #5?
Genis-Vell: Captain Marvel #5 is the final issue of a limited series which reunites Rick Jones with Genis-Vell, who he once shared a body with. In this issue, Rick and Genis-Vell work together to save Marlo from a Kree villain named Ren-Varr who was seeking to resurrect generations of fallen Kree warriors, and had captured Marlo after learning of her bond with Death.
Once the rescue is complete, Rick has a heart to heart with Death. He can sense the powerful entity is feeling a common human emotion – burnout. Death confirms Rick’s suspicions, and reveals that she doesn’t want to continue playing her role in the universe. “I’m just exhausted, having to oversee everything from genocidal wars to diseases that kill millions,” Death says. Death is joined by her sister Life, who reminds her that the universe must have a Death, or the natural order will fall apart.
To Rick’s shock, Marlo volunteers to take her place. “Honey, I shouldn’t even be here. I’ve been living on borrowed time since I was murdered,” Marlo tells her ex-husband. “Death reversed herself to save me. The least I can do is save her.” After a kiss goodbye, Marlo is transformed into a new version of Death. She is seen wearing a new outfit, which is a revealing black ensemble along with Death’s signature hood and cape.
Marlo then disappears into parts unknown. The original Death also departs, presumably severing her bond with Marlo. It’s unknown what she will do now that she’s been released from her burden. What do cosmic entities do when they retire?
What are the implications of Marlo’s new role?
Make no mistake, this is a big change for the Marvel Universe. For decades Death has been a big part of Marvel’s cosmic stories. Thanos has killed millions of souls in an effort to impress her, and she’s played a major role in stories such as the 1991 limited series The Infinity Gauntlet. Now it’s Marlo’s turn to maintain the balance between life and death.
Marlo Chandler was originally introduced as a love interest for the Hulk, and now she’s one of the most powerful entities in the Marvel Universe. Once she was a vessel for Death, but now she is Death herself. Anytime a character dies in a Marvel Comic, it’s Marlo Chandler who will cut their thread of life. She may not be seen or mentioned directly in any of these comics, but if someone dies then Marlo is there. Good luck with your new job Marlo Chandler, we hear it’s a real killer.
Genis-Vell: Captain Marvel #5 is available for purchase today.
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