Any veteran comic book reader knows that superheroes who died and came back to life are a dime-a-dozen phenomenon. In the pages of Marvel Comics, the afterlife features a revolving door, but dead MCU characters are nowhere near as fortunate. In that franchise, deceased generally means deceased - well, unless you count the half of the universe that got dusted by the Infinity Gauntlet and returned five years later, but that’s an extenuating circumstance.
Most MCU villains perish in their first appearance and then never get a chance at redemption via resurrection. Most bold, heroic sacrifices will never be undone. Even in a franchise full of sequels, Marvel Studios has resisted the urge to retread its expired characters. Ergo, anyone who wants to see their favorite MCU characters come back to life will have to turn to the comics - where it’s almost guaranteed to have happened at least once!
Erik Killmonger had a lengthier, but less impressive, career in the comics than he did in the MCU. In the latter, he briefly conquered Wakanda before falling on his cousin’s blade. In the former, he tried for years to take over his home nation, unsuccessfully and alongside countless supervillain allies - and still ended up slain by T’Challa for his troubles.
Killmonger remained off the board for years until the Mandarin laid claim to his corpse and reanimated it with one of his Ten Rings. This quasi-revived version of the character was fairly easily defeated by the Black Panther, after which it turned back into a skeleton and the Mandarin moved on to another scheme.
Many years thereafter, Killmonger returned again, and this time for real - though no one ever learned exactly how he did it. In his latest lease on life, Killmonger did successfully invade Wakanda twice, only to be slain again by a lightspeed Monica Rambeau bursting through his chest for his troubles.
Most recently, his body was brought to a Resurrection Altar, revived, and then paired with a symbiote for good measure.
The real Mandarin has recently arrived in the MCU, complete with his Ten Rings, so the possibility remains that he could choose to resurrect Killmonger. After all, somebody will have to rule Wakanda in the wake of T’Challa’s presumed tragic demise.245Potential comeback?
As soon as he was done returning the alternate Infinity Stones to their rightful place in the timeline, Steve Rogers headed back to a version of the late ’40s and carried on his life with Peggy Carter as if he’d never gone into the ice. Decades later, he showed up in the present day to hand the shield off to Sam Wilson and then went... somewhere. Whether he’s back in his adopted timeline or shacked up in some retirement home for superheroes, the original Captain America is “gone,” in the words of Wilson.
Cap’s end in the pages of Marvel Comics was significantly more definitive. It involved him surrendering at the height of the Civil War, only to be gunned down by Crossbones on his way into the courthouse for his first day of trial. A twist came when Sharon Carter - brainwashed by Dr. Faustus - was revealed as the secondary shooter who pumped a handful of extra rounds into Rogers’s chest. A second twist came when it was revealed that Carter had actually shot Cap with a special gun, one that trapped his nearly deceased body in space-time and sent his mind rocketing around through his own personal history.
The disembodied Cap relived all of his greatest and worst moments, powerless to change anything - though he did manage to get a message through to Reed Richards about his predicament. All the while, the Red Skull was preparing to retrieve and occupy Rogers’s body from space-time. Rogers showed up right on time to square off against the Skull for control of the body and won, meaning Captain America was back in action and as good as new.
As far as something like this occurring in the MCU, it’s actually quite feasible: Steve did end up trapped in the past, and willingly so at that. Getting Chris Evans to return to the role, however, might be significantly tougher to pull off.248Potential comeback?
In the course of Civil War II, Tony Stark came into conflict with Carol Danvers over the morality of stopping wrongdoings before they had actually occurred, and that conflict soon came to blows. Fighting over whether or not to incarcerate Miles Morales for the supposed future demise of Captain America, Iron Man and Captain Marvel duked it out on the Capitol steps until Danvers overwhelmed Stark and punched him right out of his armor. As a result, Tony was believed to be in a coma - but then it turned out he was straight-up deceased. It was a demise far less dramatic than his iconic Endgame snap, but no less devastating to the Marvel Universe.
On his own posthumous orders, Stark’s body was placed in a “bio-structuring” pod - basically a 3D printer for bodies - and reconstituted cell by cell, with any brain damage filled in by an artificial backup of Tony’s mind. After months of digital-only appearances, the flesh-and-blood Tony emerged, seemingly back to normal, but with lingering doubts about his being the “real” Tony.
In time, Tony would use the genetic material of his biological parents to re-reprint his cells with genuine, human DNA, assuaging any fears he might have had about being the authentic Iron Man. Tony having a backup plan this complicated might track with his MCU characterization, but his posthumous plans there will likely remain limited to the hologram he had speak with his daughter - and perhaps the odd cameo appearance thereof.177Potential comeback?
Gamora’s first demise in the pages of Marvel Comics was frighteningly similar to how she expired in the MCU: She became disillusioned with her adopted father Thanos, futilely tried to stab him with a dagger, and then got slain by the Mad Titan. There was no sacrifice for the Soul Stone to be had, but there was a Soul Gem, wherein Adam Warlock placed Gamora’s soul and later joined her.
When Warlock detected from within the Gem, however, that Thanos was attempting to assemble the Infinity Gauntlet, he popped his and Gamora’s souls back into some new bodies, and they were reborn, just like that and better than ever.
However, even after defeating Thanos, Gamora felt incomplete. She would later learn that a chunk of her soul had remained within the Soul Gem, forever altering her personality and preventing her from ever finding true peace. Decades later, she’d collect all six Infinity Stones herself and fold the universe in half just to retrieve her missing soul-piece, but she’s been a lot happier ever since, so it was probably worth it.
In a sense, Gamora has already returned to the MCU via the magic of time travel. Her memories of everything since 2014, however, are a different matter. With the Soul Stone destroyed, perhaps the secret to restoring the “real” Gamora may lie on the planet Vormir that once housed the stone - and where her body still presumably lies.1810Potential comeback?