Ever since 1992’s The Death of Superman, superhero deaths in comics are, at best, transient – until our heroes are brought back via magic brouhaha. So it’s only a matter of time until the two biggest casualties of Marvel’s ongoing Civil War II, James Rhodes (aka War Machine) and Bruce Banner (aka, the Hulk), return in some big fashion.
But it’s not bound to happen anytime soon. And even though the return feels inevitable, Marvel pros in attendance at the Civil War II panel at San Diego Comic-Con admitted writing off Rhodey was not an easy decision.
“We definitely went back and forth on Rhodes multiple times, but it was ultimately the best thing for the story, and even for his storyline, as well,” said Sana Amanat, Marvel’s Director of Content & Character Development, during the panel’s streaming broadcast. “But we took it very seriously. We don’t just kill people without thinking.”
Marvel is just barely better than its competitors in killing off its characters willy-nilly, but to Marvel’s credit, it has been some time since a truly memorable death happened in mainstream superhero comics. (Unless we’re counting the cancellation of Fantastic Four.)
“We’re upset that Rhodey and the Hulk are dead. We miss them,” added Matthew Rosenberg, who’s taking up Marvel’s Kingpin comic starring Wilson Fisk – which Rosenberg said at the panel is about Kingpin making “New York great again.” “I don’t think anyone [here] has killed a Marvel character. They don’t take it lightly.”
Another Marvel writer in attendance, David Walker, of the ongoing Power Man and Iron Fist, added his own take on Civil War II: as a story about grief. “It’s interesting to see how every person handles trauma and grief and loss differently,” he said. “We talk about it being this ideological struggle over this pre-cog thing, but I see it as how do we deal with the aftermath after this terrible thing happens. There’s no one right way to deal with trauma, so people get mad at each other. You get mad at your sister because she’s not crying the way you think she should after your grandmother dies.”
Given Civil War II’s timing during a tumultuous presidential election cycle, Marvel Editor in Chief Axel Alonso said Marvel thinks about its timely themes “all the time.”
“We’re looking to make good books that seem real. We’re trying to cast the widest net for characters, for the people who write them, the people who draw them,” he said. “We’re trying to create different books for different people, and we’re always looking to talk about the real world that affects you. It’s New York, it’s not Gotham.”
When a fan brought up Rhodey’s promise of being the new Secretary of Defense before his death, Walker said: “I loved that scene, because Brian was ruthless, he showed us all this hope and potential, and he just took it from us. So I drove over to his house and yelled at him.”