Death has been a familiar topic for heroes in Marvel Comics. Many of them have already died. Death is a common trope for people who live in spandex. Most heroes find a way to return from the void, but this can be a loophole. Death is often seen as a temporary obstacle for the hero who has just passed away. However, it is still open to question what their fate was after they passed away. Marvel Universe offers endless possibilities, and it isn’t just for the living. The beginning of another adventure is just the other side of death.
Death – both as a character and concept – is complex and fluid in Marvel’s main continuity. Multiple times, the soul is confirmed real and continues to exist in an afterlife. There are many options, but few clear answers.
In a Big Bang-style event, the Marvel Universe was created. The echoes from that explosion created several abstract cosmic beings, such as Master Order, Lord Chaos and Eternity, which are the essence of all life. The Living Tribunal is the only one who can answer these beings. He in turn connects to the One Above-All, which the Universe’s assumed creator. They operate at a level that is almost unknowable, with motives and actions far beyond the comprehension of mortals.
Death, the cosmic entity known as the essence of death is not good or evil. It is simply the force that ends all life. To exist, Death must have life. It seems to need to keep in balance with Eternity to ensure that it doesn’t become irrelevant and disappear from the world. Although her role in Marvel is sometimes seen as sinister, Death serves an important function: it creates space for Eternity’s new life.
Much like many other Marvel Universe concepts, Death is capable of taking on physical forms. It prefers to appear as a female skeleton wearing a black, hooded gown. This form, along with others has been used by Death to direct the unfolding of events in the universe. This being even established relationships with a few select people, such as Deadpool or Thanos. Each character has a deep affection for the abstract entity and will go to any lengths to have it as their friend.
What is in store for Mistress Death’s lovers? This seems to be mostly a function of what an individual believed during their life on Earth. The Marvel Universe’s Gods aren’t a contentious topic – they exist and have great influence over human fate.
Gods is a complex group of beings that were created from cosmic power and human belief. The Earth’s earliest days were characterized by the birth of the Elder Gods. They are the first human-made beings to live on the earth. Many of these creatures fell into darkness and became wicked, demonic beings. They were brutally cruel and Atum was able to take them out. Atum was then able to fuse with Sun, a feat that again seeded Earth with “godstuff .”
These “godstuffs” were eventually controlled by conscious and unconscious beliefs. These powerful combinations led to all the pantheons on earth and their respective planes. The single-issue encyclopedia titled Thor and Hercules: Encyclopaedia Mythologica #1 (by Anthony Flamini, Greg Pak, Kevin Sharpe, and Mario Gully) details a great many of these godly families, including but not limited to the Olympian, Egyptian, Chinese, Hindu, African and of course Asgardian gods.
Each pantheon has its own realm, and possibly its own afterlife. The afterlife Valhalla is a prominent example. The hall of the dead is maintained by Odin, the father of Thor the Asgardian Thunder God and Avenger. There, all souls who have fought heroically for the Asgardian gods are welcome to visit the hall of the dead until Ragnarok comes, which is the end of the world.
Another prominent afterlife was witnessed when Doctor Doom, a member of the Fantastic Four, fell to the Thing. He ended up in Heaven with angels, golden gates and other goodies. Although he was given a place in Heaven, he was quickly returned to Earth by the Fantastic Four who convinced him it wasn’t too late to live. Even the creator himself is claimed to have been contacted by one of the members.
This type of afterlife is for souls who are more sinister. The Marvel Universe’s “Hell” is a generic term that covers a wide range of reality, with each one offering a different flavor of eternal damnation. The recent Ghost Rider (2019-2020) #1 (by Ed Brisson and Aaron Kuder) reveals an exhaustive look at the various afterlives that someone with a wicked soul may encounter. Mephisto is perhaps the most famous representation of this concept. The realm of Mephisto is the most classic representation. It’s a place where demons compete for power and torture wicked souls. Niflheim is the frozen wasteland which houses the souls those who honored the Norse gods, but didn’t die in battle. Sometimes, it even contains the Asgardian gods’ souls. The Dark Dimension is ruled over by Doctor Strange’s enemy Dormammu, and other places. These locations could be the final resting places for people who have lived an unsavory life.
There is another place than these afterlives, far beyond the notions of morality and gods — it’s the Far Shore. Jane Foster was recently able to help Heimdall, an Asgardian god, reach the Far Shore by guiding them in her role of Valkyrie. It is the place of endless mystery and it’s unknown what awaits us beyond. Although death is often dismissed as an absurdity by Marvel’s characters, it remains a fascinating topic. Marvel’s vast beyond is rich in material, both from the idea of death and its various afterlives that are governed by gods. It’s a safe bet that someone will soon end up in there as a costumed hero.