It is woefully evident that Kamala Khan’s death was nothing but a marketing gimmick – a stunt to generate controversy and to get people talking. Even to that end, Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel tries to be an issue that honors the character, but underneath the hood, it’s a story written by people who love the character and are clearly aware of the fact that this death was a mistake through and through.
This issue is broken down into three stories, (along with a bonus one-page epilogue at the end), by three different creative teams who were important to Kamala’s development as a character. In that same fashion, the three are different tonally and in terms of what their focus is.
Chapter 1 – Kamala is written by G. Willow Wilson, with art by Takeshi Miyazawa, colours by Ian Herring, and letters by Ariana Maher. This is the most personal of the three, focusing on characters who showed up in Kamala’s first solo series and mainly people who were a part of her personal life. It’s a good story, but one that stings because even textually and visually we can see all these characters and how they feel about the fact that she was taken too soon. I do like that, nonetheless, it is a touching story, and the consequences of being a hero that lie even in death – that if the secret was kept, others can’t know of their other life.
Chapter 2 – Champion is written by Mark Waid, with pencils by Humberto Ramos, inks by Victor Olazaba, colours by Edgar Delgado, and letters by Ariana Maher. This one is more focused on the superhero side of Kamala and the strides she made to form the Champions. It starts off strong but ends up being the weakest of the three stories as it shifts from being a story centered around celebrating Ms. Marvel to one where the Champions start arguing in the middle of a prayer even though they’re meant to be more mature than that. It just reads as childish and out of place, even if Viv’s conflict about her emotions is good.
Chapter 3 – Avenger is written by Saladin Ahmed, with art by Andrea Di Vito, colours by Edgar Delgado, and letters by Ariana Maher. This one is about Ms. Marvel’s impact as a hero, through the lens of Iron Man, Doctor Strange, and Captain America. It’s here that we get another dig at the choice of killing her, as Strange tells Tony how even though she died, just bringing her back would be disrespectful. Steve gives a speech at the prayer about the kind of person she was, and it ends with the only good way you could include Peter Parker in this, so I’m glad it was done the way it was.
However… if that was the actual ending, then maybe this would be satisfactory. Instead, at the end of the issue (if you’re reading physically), there’s a QR code that you can scan which leads you to an extra page at the end (this was not in the review copy). Before getting into the story itself, it is baffling that there is a whole QR code printed, when they could have just waited and added the page into the issue itself. What an odd choice.
The ending itself – treated as a post-credits scene, which is weird when this issue is meant to honor Kamala– has Scott Summers show up after the funeral, and… It’s a weird ending because it feels like it teases her resurrection. I could be wrong, but that’s how it reads to me. (UPDATE: As this review was being written, Marvel announced that Ms. Marvel is returning as a mutant, in a comic co-written by her actress in the MCU, Iman Vellani.) If that does end up being the case, it’s a spit in the face to the stories in this book where they mourn her, specifically the Doctor Strange bit about how it would be disrespectful to resurrect her. There are also seemingly no credits on the page itself, so it’s hard to say who even wrote this bit.
Overall, this issue reads a lot like a reaction to Ms. Marvel’s death – as in why it really shouldn’t have happened. Even so, it told a good story for the most part, until the very end with the post-credits page: a baffling choice that brings the book down when you take it into account. The issue does not still legitimize the death in any way, and the way I felt when she was killed off in Amazing Spider-Man was only amplified with this.