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Content warning: This piece discusses themes of sexual assault and trauma.
Before Carol Danvers was robbed of her powers and memories by Rogue, she gave birth to her own sexual assaulter, a son of Immortus named Marcus. This is one of the more cringe-worthy story arcs in the Avengers series, because Carol is violated in one of the most intimate ways a person can be and her Avengers teammates fail her in every possible manner with their mishandling of the situation.
The story begins in Avengers #197. Carol and Wanda Maximoff are on the beach having a conversation about Wanda's frustrations with wanting a child when all of sudden Carol falls ill. In the last few pages of this issue, it is revealed Carol is three months pregnant. By the next day, she is six months pregnant. Something is extremely odd about the pregnancy and of course, Carol is confused and by scared by the news. She makes it very clear that she doesn’t know what the hell is happening or even how it happened. Wanda assures her that she’s not alone and that the Avengers will stand by her; unfortunately, that doesn't come to fruition.
Avengers #200 opens with Carol going into labor. Similar to the pregnancy, the labor is just as out of the ordinary. Carol is not even in control of the birthing process; her body operates like it's being controlled by someone else — and it is. Once the child is born, the Avengers cheerfully react to the news, which is strange given the circumstances.
They gush over the baby boy as though Carol didn't go through the entire pregnancy process in less than three days. As Carol is being wheeled to her room, the Wasp congratulates her, telling her how lucky she is, and Carol rightfully snaps. Her body was just used in an unimaginable way and without her permission and there is nothing to celebrate about that. Wasp congratulating her on her own rape is maddening because neither she nor the other Avengers are truly seeing what happened to Carol for what it is: An act of bodily and mental violation. The Earth’s mightiest heroes can spot danger everywhere, but not where they needed to the most.
The way this arc is written is pretty disgusting because it juxtaposes Carol being thrust into motherhood against Wanda’s conflicting emotions with wanting to be a mother. This contrast essentially downplays the magnitude of Carol’s situation because she gained something Wanda wants and that's supposed to be some miracle of creation. There is nothing beautiful about Carol giving birth to her own assaulter; however, everyone around her treats it like it is.
Even when Carol tries to go on about her life after such a traumatic experience, she is continually gaslit by her teammates who act as though she is the one treating what happened inappropriately. Meanwhile, the child continues to grow at a rapid rate and soon begins building the machine that is supposed to take him and Carol away.
Carol eventually caves to the pressures of trying to accept both her ordeal and the son she birthed, even though she still has no idea how or why he came to be. By the time she goes to see him, he is a fully grown man, calling himself Marcus. Things go awry due to the machine built by Marcus from the supplies given to him by some of the Avengers upon his insistence. In the middle of all this chaos, Marcus tells Carol that he wants her to go with him. When she refuses, he knocks her out.
For a short moment, it seems like the members of the Avengers have finally caught some sense after all of the disturbances caused by Marcus’s machine. They sort of confront him but whatever he did to Carol when he knocked her out changed her entire demeanor towards him and she instead sides with Marcus. He then begins to tell an equally creepy story of manipulation to rival his own birth by way of Carol.
In the story, his father, Immortus, saves a woman from near death and manipulates her into falling in love with him after taking her back to a pocket of time known as Limbo, resulting in Marcus's first birth. Once both his original mother and father disappeared from Limbo, Marcus was left stuck there for what would have been forever until he found a strong enough female human to give birth to him. That ended up, of course, being Carol. He then brought her to Limbo and manipulated her in the same way his father had manipulated his original mother. After Marcus used Carol and her body, he then sent her back to Earth and masked her memories of the entire time with him in Limbo. It doesn’t get any more messed up than that. However, the story is treated like some fairytale instead of the very sick and twisted narrative it really is.
Carol is still under Marcus’s influence, so she chooses to leave with him back to Limbo. Not one Avenger steps in to stop her after hearing how Marcus came to be and how he violated their teammate and supposed friend. Thor actually acts like an Asgardian Lyft driver and takes them to Limbo following the destruction of Marcus's machine. By the time the Avengers truly begin questioning their actions, it’s too late and they elect to keep on with things as normal after Carol’s departure. A disappointing closing to a horrendous story arc. Carol’s follow-up story arc to this narrative is no better. Once again, it involves another violation of Carol’s body by way of Rogue robbing her of her powers and memories.
Writer Chris Claremont tried to retcon what happened to Carol in Avengers Annual #10. The story provides background to what happened to Carol after she is saved by Spider-Woman following Rogue’s attempt to kill her. It’s with the help of Charles Xavier that Carol gets her memories back and the story of what happened when she gave birth to Marcus is treated like the actual violation and kidnapping it really was. Carol finally confronts the Avengers who come to visit her at the X-Mansion. The Avengers acted as enablers to her assaulter and allowed their fellow teammate to be manipulated right in front of them, betraying Carol in the worst way imaginable. Not even the Avengers are safe from being trash.
This story’s existence speaks to a few things. The poor handling of such a traumatic situation and calling it anything but rape when it was a very clear violation of Carol’s body speaks to how society often minimizes sexual assault survivors' stories. The way the Avengers are depicted in their handling of the situation is terrible, but at the same time, it also holds some semblance of how the people closest to survivors often let them down by not being there for them in their time of need, acting as unwitting enablers to their assaulters.
It's really unfortunate that Carol has had not one but two stories involving the violation of her body, but it was nothing new then or now. Pop culture to this day often handles depictions of women’s bodies as poorly as it did during Carol Danvers' darkest arc, and that is dishearteningly merely a reflection of our society's systemic misogyny. Hopefully, as the members of the Avengers did, society can come to terms with how it's let the female population down over and over again by refusing to protect them and opting to want to control them instead.