Amazing Spider-Man #26 was a landmark issue for Zeb Wells and John Romita Jr’s issue for many reasons. In the lead-up, Wells had had twenty-five issues, two years’ worth of issues for most comic books, to tell the running narrative of “What Did Peter Do?” “Why are Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson no longer together?” and “Why is MJ suddenly with a guy named Paul, who she has two kids with?” that started this Amazing Spider-Man run. Along the way we’ve had a bunch of things happen in the lives of Peter Parker and his supporting cast. But all those events, good and bad, are overshadowed by the death of Ms. Marvel in Amazing Spider-Man #26 and how it truly summarizes what Wells’ run has been about.
It is truly an achievement that with one story decision Zeb Wells and Marvel hit every terrible comic book plot device with Amazing Spider-Man #26. With the death of Ms. Marvel, they checked a lot of terrible comic book “shocking twist” check boxes such as:
- Death of Kamala Khan was used just to push Peter Parker’s arc forward, invoking the “Women in Refrigerators” trope.
- Kill a prominent superhero to garner headlines.
- Kill one of the most prominent minority superheroes in the Marvel Universe.
- Like Doctor Strange’s death ahead of Multiverse Of Madness, Kamala Khan’s death happens right before the release of MCU’s The Marvels.
- Kill a character who had no relevance to the story ahead of death taking place.
These are just some of the many things that come to mind with Wells and Marvel’s decision to kill Ms. Marvel in Amazing Spider-Man #26. They are all reasons to be angry and disappointed, among many other emotions, in all this. This all speaks to how uncreative this Amazing Spider-Man run is. Amazing Spider-Man #26 reads like a creative team and editorial just looking to swerve the reader with a big-name death without much consideration into telling an intriguing story.
Up to this point, Wells and his team have been leading us to believe the big death in Amazing Spider-Man #26 would be Mary Jane Watson, with her boyfriend Paul being another less likely possibility. This tease was driven home by how Amazing Spider-Man #25 focused on what happened with MJ and Paul in the pocket dimension they were trapped alone in for four years together, while only a month passed on Earth-616. MJ was the most likely since fans really wouldn’t have cared if Paul died. As we see with Amazing Spider-Man #26, and many other issues in this run, Paul is just a plot device for Wells’s run.
For the big death Wells has built up to twenty-five issues, plus the Dark Web crossover with the X-Men, being Ms. Marvel just comes across as cheap and bad creative. At no point did Wells put in the effort to at least build up Kamala Khan as part of Amazing Spider-Man’s supporting cast. Even when having a way to do just that with Kamala interning at Oscorp, where Peter ended up working, Wells did not utilize this plot point. While Kamala as Ms. Marvel did take part in Dark Web she did not interact with Peter, she instead teamed up with Miles Morales during the crossover.
There is simply no excusing this type of creative treatment. There wasn’t even a timing issue because Amazing Spider-Man has continued to ship at least twice a month. That means Wells more than two years’ worth of comic book issues in his first year on Amazing Spider-Man had to at least dedicate some development time to Kamala. Whether it was a couple of one-shot stories or through back-up Spider-Man and Ms. Marvel team-up adventures, Amazing Spider-Man is a comic where Wells and Marvel’s editorial could’ve found ways to fit Kamala into the greater narrative.
For Wells not even to put in the effort to make Kamala Khan a major supporting character for his Amazing Spider-Man run is disappointing, to say the least. There are many ways he could’ve led up to this that would’ve made Kamala’s death have a strong impact that goes beyond just name value. Storytelling such as when Kamala was shown to be interning at Oscorp would mean she would work with Peter on science and engineering projects. Or even better have Peter act as a mentor for Kamala both as a fellow scientist and superhero. That way Wells could’ve shown Peter’s growth in and out of being Spider-Man while continuing to build a character arc for Kamala, especially since there was no Ms. Marvel ongoing series during this period.
Those are just some simple creative ideas that if Wells and editorial put some thought into that would’ve given a powerful importance to the swerve beyond name value. And all that is not even getting into all the other problems beyond creative that Wells was allowed to fall into that Marvel had to warn him to stop attending conventions for the rest of the year. This is all given a dark comedic twist when considering Wells is one of the credited writers for the upcoming The Marvels MCU movie, which features Kamala Khan as one of the leads.
Now does anyone believe Kamala will stay dead? Absolutely not. If there are people convinced of that then that would be the true surprise twist. What is likely to happen is that we will see Kamala return by November. A very likely possibility is that the “Classified” series in Marvel’s August solicitations will be revealed to be “The Return Of Ms. Marvel” since the title is set to be revealed in July, the same month as when San Diego Comic-Con is happening. And at this year’s SDCC Marvel is also hosting a live in-person Hellfire Gala event ahead of the Hellfire Gala 2023 one-shot releasing on June 26th. The timing of all that aligns with the theory Kamala will likely return no longer an Inhuman but a mutant, matching her MCU status quo.
With all that in mind, once again, the first year of Zeb Wells’ Amazing Spider-Man run is marked with a twist that showcases a lack of creative planning. It was unnecessary when considering Amazing Spider-Man is one of the best-selling comic books month in and month out, with Batman being its only competition. This wasn’t a case about bumping sales for a struggling comic book Marvel was seeking to get back to be a top seller for a month. But at least Wells addressed the MJ and Paul having kids situation in an equally terrible “twist” way in Amazing Spider-Man #26. But that is a whole other article for another time.