<p>Not one, not two, but <i>three</i> "event comics" will have started in a 4-week period when both <b>Forever Evil</b> and <b>X-Men: Battle of the Atom</b> kick off next week, joining <b>Infinity</b> already in progress. While <b>Forever Evil</b>'s lead-in, "Trinity War" already featured a death, whenever one of these starts, the death knells start tolling. <p>A hallmark of major comic book events like <b>Battle of the Atom</b>, <b>Infinity</b>, and <b>Forever Evil</b> are big character deaths. Like the ones on this list. <p>So we've looked through the back issues to find 10 of the most significant character deaths during comic book crossovers ones that had a major impact on either the story it took place in, the fictional universe as a whole, or both. <p><p> <i>Note: Albert Ching contributed to an earlier version of this countdown.</i>
One of the flagship characters of a big two company was killed at the end of a major crossover. The battle was big, but in the end it came down to one shot that killed our hero, part of his universe's trinity of big three heroes. <p>In the aftermath, it was revealed the hero wasn't dead, but merely lost in time. While his greatest ally and former sidekick took up his mantle in the present, our hero made his way back through time to return as a better hero than ever, in a very literal version of the classic "Hero's Journey" by Joseph Campbell. After working alongside their ally, younger end of the legacy assumed his own identity once more, still as a friend and soldier in the never-ending battle against evil, but allowing his mentor to once again be the only hero named... <p>And yes, we can literally end that story with both "Captain America" and "Batman." <p>In the aftermath of <b>Civil War</b>, Captain America, on the steps of a courthouse where he'd be brought to trial as a traitor against his government, was shot and killed, and that led to the story above. In the penultimate moments of <b>Final Crisis</b>, Batman was hit by Darkseid's Omega Sanction angular eye blast, killed, and that led to the story above. <p>Now, some of the details are different, and this was a case of zeitgeist, as both stories had clearly been planned nigh-simultaneously, but the timing (and result) of the two "deaths" is really the more notable thing than the deaths themselves. After all, in the case of Batman, his was shown to be a ruse immediately, in the final pages of the event. Still, it makes for an amusing story of how ideas can do what people can't, be in two places at once. Unless of course there's two Batmans or Captains America running around.
For decades, Nightcrawler represented a spirit of swashbuckling adventure for the X-Men, a beacon of light for a team that has encountered some truly dark days (just look at the somber names of some of the most famous X-Men stories: "Mutant Massacre," "X-Tinction Agenda," "Decimation," "God Loves, Man Kills"). <p>That all went away when he died during the 2010 "Second Coming" storyline, nobly sacrificing himself to save Hope the first mutant born since Scarlet Witch declared "no more mutants" at the end of <i>House of M</i>, and very possibly the literal last hope for the dying mutant race. As seen in the image here, it was a rather grisly death at the hands of future super-Sentinel Bastion, and thus far, it's stuck (though the Age of Apocalypse version of Nightcrawler, a character of far less sunny disposition, is part of the main <i>Uncanny X-Force</i> cast). <p>Nightcrawler's death continues to have major repercussions in the X-Men world, as the events of "Second Coming" led to Cyclops taking an even more militaristic stance, driving a wedge between him and Wolverine that explored in <i>X-Men: Schism</i>. That led to current "Regenesis" status quo, which has also helped to inform <b>Avengers vs. X-Men</b>, the story that inspired this very countdown (circle of comic book life). <p>Now, at long last (and teased at the end of the "Hellfire Saga" in <i>Wolverine and the X-Men</i>), Nightcrawler will return in the pages of the new title <b>Amazing X-Men</b>, which launches in November 2013, taking the place of <i>Astonishing X-Men</i> in the X-Lineup.
All Stephanie Brown wanted to do was spoil the evil deeds of those who would harm the innocent, like her father did. And for a time, she was successful. As Spoiler, she unofficially joined the ranks of those in the Bat-family who patrolled Gotham City, doing what most regular humans could not, would not, and even <i>should</i> not to help those other regular joes out. <p>There was a time when Tim Drake stepped away from the role of Robin, and Stephanie took over, much to Batman's initial dismay. Stephanie decided she would prove herself to Bruce Wayne once and for all by enacting one of his big master plans, one to take down all the gangs in Gotham City in one fell swoop. The result of these <i>War Crimes</i> however, was utter chaos, loss of life to gang members and civilians alike, and oh yeah, Stephanie being tortured to death by Black Mask. <p>Now Stephanie's death, like several others on this list, was undone later, revealed to be a hoax to allow her to go live a normal life (until she came back into crime fighting as Batgirl). Her return was short-lived, however, as she was undone, hopefully not forever, with the dawn of The New 52. With the reboot, Stephanie is not only no longer Batgirl, she no longer seems to exist, at least at this point.
In terms of sheer numbers of major characters taken off the board, 2008's <b>Ultimatum</b> stands out as one of the bloodiest stories in comic book history. <p>Let's take a look at some of the casualties, due to both the "Ultimatum Wave" that kicked off the story and subsequent events: Wolverine, Cyclops, Professor X, Magneto, Doctor Doom, Daredevil, Wasp (eaten alive by the Blob), Blob (well, he kind of had it coming), Hank Pym, Angel, Beast, Cannonball, Doctor Strange, Nightcrawler and quite a few more. <p>It's been said by Marvel brass that in the Ultimate Universe, "dead means dead," and so far they've stuck to it, leaving that fictional world a very different place than the Marvel Universe proper. The upcoming <i>Cataclysm</i> crossover could spell more deaths, including, it's been speculated, the death of the Ultimate Universe itself.
"Not like this!" <p>Brian Michael Bendis started off his eight-year run on the <b>Avengers</b> with a very literal bang he blew up Avengers Mansion and killed And-Man Scott Lang in the process. <p>That was just the beginning of the deaths seen in his opening story arc, "Avengers Disassembled," which spilled over to several related books at the time. The most notable victim was fan-favorite character Hawkeye, who died in issue #502 while fending off a Kree invasion caused by the Scarlet Witch's chaos powers. <p>It was a very controversial move at the time, but also helped to galvanize affection for the already beloved character, who subsequently returned to life following 2005's <i>House of M</i>. <p>Now, Hawkeye is part of the ensemble of the smash-hit <i>Avengers</i> movie, and the star of his own ongoing series, proving that temporary death can sometimes be a great career move.
The list of deaths leading into and during <b>Infinite Crisis</b> could fill its own entire Wikipedia page (and in fact, <a href=http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Character_changes_during_Infinite_Crisis>it does</a>). But while the deaths of characters like Superboy and the original Earth 2 Superman were significant, none was felt as strongly as Ted Kord, the Blue Beetle, when he died in prelude book <b>Countdown to Infinite Crisis</b>. <p>Max Lord, formerly the trusted advisor and financial backer of the Justice League, got a nutty idea into his head: reform the clandestine organization Checkmate, steal a super-satellite from Batman, and attempt to gain control of every superhuman in the world. Unfortunately, Ted Kord figured out Lord's plan, and went to confront him... alone. When Ted remained noble and refused to join Checkmate and Max, Max shot the Blue Beetle in the head – a violent end for a character who often represented the lighthearted side of the DC Universe. <p>Ted's death kicked off the entire storyline, and has been one of those strong, not-coming-back kinds of deaths. His successor, Jaime Reyes, carries on the Blue Beetle name into The New 52, but there's no word on whether Kord might come back from his eight-year dirt nap just yet.
Characters dying in the midst of a major comic book event is fairly typical – you're reading a whole list devoted to the subject, so you've probably figured that out. <p>But killing a whole team of characters? Right at the start of the story? That's a little different. <p><i>Civil War</i> is one of the most successful comic book "events" in history, and it started with the New Warriors at the time stars of their own Marvel Universe reality series bungling the capture of supervillain and "human bomb" Nitro, leading to a high toll of civilian deaths and the demise of Night Thrasher, Speedball (who actually ended up surviving and becoming tortured Thunderbolt Penace), Namorita and Microbe. This sparked the entire <i>Civil War</i> conflict, with Iron Man (and the heroes who sided with him) pushing for regulation of superpowered beings, and Captain America (and his allies) seeing that as a restriction of freedom. <p>Since <i>Civil War</i> lasted for months and the aftermath "The Initiative" era lasted even longer, the death of the New Warriors definitely had resonance (and not just with angry fans of the team unhappy with what happened to the characters).
Sue Dibny worked with her husband, Ralph (The Elongated Man), as a detective duo. She often went with him when he was a member of the Justice League, and was beloved by the entire team. <p>Then, in <b>Identity Crisis</b>, the whole story kicked off with her rather brutal murder. <p>The story, by Brad Meltzer, launched a lot of controversy, with Sue seeming to some as the ultimate new example of the "Women in Refrigerators" concept; her death being used as a vehicle for her husband, and the Justice League as a whole, to have an adventure and drama. Of course the real controversy came when it was revealed that years before her death, Sue Dibny was raped by Doctor Light. The series was not kind to Sue. <p><b>Identity Crisis</b> also saw the notable death of Tim Drake's only surviving parent, his father, who was killed at the hands of Captain Boomerang. The elder Drake did get his simultaneous revenge, at least. Sue, meanwhile, eventually became a ghost detective with her then-also-dead husband. The pair's status, and history, in The New 52 is yet to be revealed.
OK, this one was temporary, but it's very difficult to beat. How do you top removing half of all living things out of existence? <p>In <b>The Infinity Gauntlet</b>, Thanos the villain from the mid-credits scene of the <i>Avengers</i> movie uses the ultra-powerful titular device to wipe out half of all sentient life in the universe, naturally including many of Marvel's beloved roster of characters. Why? To impress his crush, Death. <p>Of course, this didn't last long, and his considerably brash actions were undone by the end of the story. But, still. Half of every living thing in the universe – dogs, cats, superheroes and billions of other beings is a high bar to clear. It remains to be seen whether Thanos plans to try again in the pages of <b>Infinity</b>
It's one of the most iconic images in comics: the cover to <b>Crisis on Infinite Earths #7</b>, with Superman in tears, holding the body of his cousin, Kara Zor-El, Supergirl, dead in his arms. <p>It's one of those deaths that actually had <i>meaning</i> in comics: Barry Allen, the Flash, runs faster than he ever has before, faster than anyone thought possible, running himself into oblivion to stop the Anti-Monitor's antimatter cannon. <p>These two deaths, taking place in what would become the template for most modern crossover event comics, were big. They were emotional. And they <i>lasted</i>. Kara didn't make it back into comics for nearly 20 years, returning in 2004 (and again in The New 52). Barry was gone even longer, staying dead for 23 years (minus a couple little flashes of the character, naturally). <p>These two deaths were proof that dead could mean dead, at least for multiple decades. They were also proof that sometimes a character could become more important in death than they'd ever be alive. Barry's Flash series was struggling just prior to <b>Crisis</b>, but his legacy, through Wally West and grandson Bart Allen, lived on and increased the character's popularity. Now, in The New 52, Barry is once again the Flash with his legacy yet to be explored (and a Kara that never died, either is in the pages of Supergirl).