Why are we still rounding up female characters?

“I belong in the fridge. Because the truth is, I’m just superhero food. He’ll devour my death and get the energy he needs to become a legend.” This clip reaches a focal point The refrigerator monologue, a 2017 novel from Catherine Valiente that remains one of the best revered and critically acclaimed comics in the world of superhero comics. organized in style The Vagina Monologues, the writers give voice to six fictional women who died in superhero-related dramas, and bear countless similarities to female characters who died (Marvel’s Gwen Stacy and Karen Page) or were abused (Marvel’s Jean Grey, DC’s Harley Quinn and Mera) in the series. The pinnacle of superhero comics. In the years since its appearance The refrigerator monologueit felt like a necessary time capsule – a showcase for how some heroines are treated (but hopefully not continue to be) in superhero comics.

Unfortunately, for the first time this week The Amazing Spider-Man #26 – and with it the death of Kamala Khan/Ms. Marvel – threw that hope out the window like a misplaced web shooter. Kamala’s stabbing death at the hands of angry multiverse villain The Scribble Man was so shocking that it couldn’t even have been kept a secret until the day of publication, with leaks and later official confirmation from Marvel that the story was on the horizon. Even with Kamala’s inevitable death several weeks beforehand, the end result is baffling and infuriating. It wasn’t just Kamala Khan who was killed. Not only is Kamala Khan murdered in the book of yet another character that, according to fan accounts, it appeared in less than 5% of the. It is a fact that Kamala Khan was frozen.

While death, and the effect it can have on superheroes, has reverberated around comics for decades, it was only in the 1990s that the concept of “cooling” began to take shape. It was penned by Gil Simon, who would go on to write historical tracks from wild birds And Red Sonya, the term was simply defined as having a female character who is “killed, maimed, or weakened” in order to advance the narrative of her male counterparts. The superhero comics of the late 80’s and 90’s were already finding new and terrifying ways to treat their female characters, but the term got its name from 1994. Green Lantern #54, when Alexandra DeWitt is murdered and stuffed into an actual freezer as part of the supervillain’s torment towards boyfriend Kyle Rayner/Green Lantern. As the term has become popular and the list of Simone’s mistreated heroines so wide, it has led fans to re-evaluate past fictional deaths – including the infamous “The Night Gwen Stacy Died” in 1973. The Amazing Spider-Man.

That ordeal, which saw Gwen Stacy’s throat snapped in an altercation between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin, was an emotional and narrative trauma, and sparked a domino effect that continues to collapse on superhero stories. (An argument could be made that we might not have Spider-Gwen in all the glory of her spunky household name today if she hadn’t existed in part as a fix for the death of the original Gwen.) The Amazing Spider-Man Proclaiming itself as “the most shocking book release” since “The Night Gwen Stacy Died,” #26 could be seen as either the latest bit of light-hearted comic hype, or a serious indication that some big changes are about to come for the Marvel Universe. the biggest. Surely, Kamala will be properly mourned by this larger Marvel universe in the future fallen friend one hit. And sure enough, there’s already been speculation that Kamala’s death wouldn’t last long anyway, and that she would either end up as a child, with powers closer to her MCU counterpart, or a combination of the two. While that possibility opens up a whole other can of worms that’s worth discussing at a later date, the fact that Marvel might have reached that destination by killing off Kamala in this particular fashion is what really hurts.

First, there’s the optics — Kamala has easily become the most iconic Muslim hero and one of Marvel’s leading heroines in less than a decade since her debut, only to be killed off in a book led by one of her white male counterparts. (In the eyes of some, Kamala was a modern-day successor to the youthful, inspiring exuberance Peter experienced when he first appeared, adding a whole other layer of nihilism to the tragedy.) But there’s also the element of cooling, and how it happens. Feels almost implausible within specific parameters of The Amazing Spider-Man. Unlike Gwen’s death mentioned above, or a number of other losses Peter has suffered since becoming a superhero, it’s not easy to see how he will be deeply affected by Kamala’s death. As many have lamented since the death was announced, Kamala had a close relationship with Miles Morales/Spider-Man, and prior to her occasional appearance in the book as an Oscorp intern, she and Peter interacted largely in group settings, or in a body-swapping series they have no recollection of. This isn’t to say that Peter can’t genuinely be affected by Kamala’s sacrifice in future issues, but starting with his reaction is a borderline offensive lens through which to frame her death. It’s chilled, but a shallower version of it – and now (even if it’s reversed and put back in limbo) forever linking the worst part of Kamala’s groundbreaking history to Spider-Man.

Kamala Khan is far from the first superhero to be cooled – unfortunately, the hollow insolence is The Amazing Spider-Man #26 She can prove that she may not be the last. Even as future issues of the book continue to sell well (which is inevitable, given the title’s longstanding popularity), and even if Kamala ends up back in the corner, it’s going to take some time to wash everyone’s bait. This is from our mouths. The current fabric of superhero comics has room for all kinds of stakes — if the story is to (in the words of Valente) “get the energy”. [it] Should become a legend,” Refrigeration doesn’t have to be the way to do it.

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