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  • Writer's pictureAaron Fonseca

Ms Marvel Fans Decry Kamala Khan's Death as Exploiting Sexist, Racist Tropes

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Ms. Marvel fans are angry with Marvel, believing the publisher may be exploiting sexist and racist stereotypes following the announcement the fan-favorite hero will die in an upcoming issue of Amazing Spider-Man.

Marvel has confirmed Kamala Khan -- created by Sana Amanat, Stephen Wacker, G. Willow Wilson, Adrian Alphona and Jamie McKelvie for 2013's Captain Marvel #14 -- will die in Amazing Spider-Man #26 (by writer Zeb Wells and artist John Romita Jr.), which releases on May 31, 2023. Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel #1 (by writers Wilson, Saladin Ahmed and Mark Waid and artists Humberto Ramos, Takeshi Miyazawa and Andrea Di Vito), a one-shot releasing in July 2023, will continue the storyline and see characters throughout the Marvel Universe come together to mourn the loss of the young hero.

News of Kamala's impending death leaked online the morning of May 16, and was verified by Marvel and Entertainment Weekly later in the day. While many readers find themselves nonplused by the news, reiterating that comic characters die and come back with regularity, others have expressed anger and frustration. This sizable contingent of fans have been accusing the publisher and creators of "fridging" Ms. Marvel in order to progress Peter Parker's story. A key point they focus on is that Kamala has only been a supporting character in Amazing Spider-Man for a short period of time. She also received a two-issue Dark Web special, an event that tied into Amazing Spider-Man, Venom and X-Men.

While not confirmed by Marvel, fans also speculate that Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel could either include or lead to Ms. Marvel's resurrection. Some suggest this will be done through the X-Men's Krakoa's resurrection protocols in an effort to retcon the character's origin to resemble her MCU counterpart. The final episode of Disney+'s Ms. Marvel series revealed Kamala is a mutant, and the upcoming MCU film The Marvels is co-written by Wells, who scripted her comic book death.

This theory has subsequently led others to question why Kaare Andrews' Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel cover features characters with little relation to her. Spider-Man, Wolverine and The Thing, along with Mary Jane and her new boyfriend Paul, are represented rather than Kamala's Champions teammates, her family or other characters she interacts with on a regular basis.

Comics, Pop Culture and Fridging: A Persistent and Problematic Trope

Despite Ms. Marvel's likely quick resurrection, fans are still angered by her death due to how and why it is happening. The term "women in refrigerators" -- also known as "fridging" -- was coined by writer Gail Simone in 1999. The trope refers to a story where a female character is killed, subjected to extreme violence, depowered or put through a traumatic experience in order to advance a male character's storyline. The phrase was initially used in reference to 1994's Green Lantern #54 (by Ron Marz, Steve Carr, Derec Aucoin, Darryl Banks, Romeo Tanghal, Steve Mattsson and Albert DeGuzman), an issue that saw Kyle Rayner come home to find his girlfriend Alexandra DeWitt had been killed and shoved into a refrigerator by supervillain Major Force.

A multitude of comics, movies and other areas of pop culture have included instances of fridging, both before and after Simone came up with the term. One of the earliest fans point to is Gwen Stacy's death in 1973's "The Night Gwen Stacy Died," (by Gerry Conway, Gil Kane, John Romita, Tony Mortellaro, Artie Simek and David Hunt), while Barbara Gordon's treatment in 1988's Batman: The Killing Joke (by Alan Moore, Brian Bolland and John Higgins) is another commonly cited example. Films such as 2018's Deadpool 2, which includes a line where the movie openly acknowledges it's playing into the trope, and 2018's Avengers: Infinity War have faced similar scrutiny over the treatment of fan-favorite characters Vanessa Carlysle and Gamora.

The Main Reason Ms. Marvel's Death Is Angering Fans

Fans have taken issue with Ms. Marvel's death for several reasons beyond the perceived fridging. Not only is she being killed in somebody else's book, one where her presence has been minimal, she's a hero representative of people who have been historically underrepresented in pop culture. Kamala is Pakistani-American and is the first Muslim character to headline her own Marvel comic. While she will most likely return in the near future, the current Amazing Spider-Man storyline has revolved around the question, "What Did Peter Do?" meaning the death of a POC character is being used as motivation for a white male character, an unfortunate, long-lived trope in fiction.

Other readers have pointed to the issue's release date adding to the previously discussed issues, noting that Amazing Spider-Man #26 will arrive during Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month. Fans question the decision to publish the story during a time meant to support, recognize and celebrate Asian Americans and Pacific Islander Americans' contributions and impact in American history.

While Marvel has not addressed fans' complaints, Spider-Man editor Nick Lowe has tweetedhe hopes "reading the actual book changes your mind" in response to one reader's take on the issue.

Amazing Spider-Man #26 releases on May 31, 2023, from Marvel. Fallen Friend: The Death of Ms. Marvel #1 follows on July 12, 2023.

Sources: Twitter, Marvel, Entertainment Weekly

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