<b>***Warning! This article (including the introduction below) contains spoilers for both <I>Justice League #22</i> and the <i>Man of Steel</i> film.***</b> <p>As Laurie Anderson once so poignantly, and repetitively, put it: <em>Oh, Superman</em>. As those who've already read <em>Justice League</em> #22 already know, the much-heralded <strong>Trinity War</strong> starts with the Man of Steel breaking his sworn oath and apparently offing the new Doctor Light in a pique of anger. <p>It's obviously intended to be a shocking moment, but… is it, really? Never mind that we've just seen Clark kill at the end of his climactic battle with Zod in <em>Man of Steel</em>; the character has killed before in comics, as well. But should we be surprised? After all, he's hardly alone when it comes to big name superheroes killing for the greater good. Here are 10 of our favorite heroes who have found themselves snuffing out another life (or, in some cases, more than one).
Surely, by this point, everyone knows that Wolverine is a stone-cold killer? Even if he's become softer in recent years as headmaster of the Jean Grey School and an Avenger, as recently as <em>Age of Ultron</em>, there he was gutting Hank Pym for the greater good (and then, later, preventing himself from doing that for an even <em>greater</em> greater good). It was just like the good old days when he'd rampage around the Hellfire Club, gleefully killing whoever and whatever got in his way. <p>To be fair, he wasn't very proud of his murderous tendencies after the fact; he may tell you that he's the best there is at what he does, after all, but he'll make a point of adding that what he does isn't very pretty.
Another hero who is likely responsible for a number of orphanings throughout the Marvel Universe, Captain America is someone who, these days, you'd put next to the Man of Steel himself in terms of upright morality and do-gooder-ishness. Never forget, though, that Steve Rogers got his start in the theater of war, and that it's not only statistically unlikely, but downright near-impossible that he could have made it through his entire World War II career without killing at least one no-good Nazi. <p>To make matters worse, whenever Rogers has to hang up the cowl for whatever reason, it appears that he always seems to get replaced by murderers. Even the guys who didn't turn out to be villains are killers: John Walker killed those responsible for the deaths of his parents, Bucky spent decades as an assassin for hire. Apparently, killing people comes with the winged cowl and shield.
Instead of working our way through <em>all</em> of the Avengers — Iron Man was at least partially responsible for the death of the Titanium Man, and Thor killed the Sentry at the end of <em>Siege</em>, remember — let's instead turn our attention to a more recent inductee into Earth's Mightiest Heroes, and a character invited to the team <em>after</em> he had killed his archnemesis, Bullseye, in relatively-cold blood during <i>Shadowland</i>. <p>Sure, Daredevil had the defense of being possessed by a demon at the time — that kind of thing really <em>does</em> impact your decision making, evidently — and said death has since been undone as such comic deaths often are, but still: Avengers, you clearly have a particularly lax moral bar to be cleared for new members.
Things aren't considerably better over in the DCU. The Flash was the first of the Justice League to kill — well, kind of, but we'll get to that soon enough — but he definitely wasn't the last. What differentiated Barry Allen's killing of the Reverse-Flash, however, was that it was an accident. Barry killed his foe in the heat of the moment, and without even being aware that he had actually done it. <p>It was only after the fact investigation by the authorities (and a seemingly endless plot about the legal battle that followed) that truly brought home the truth that, yes, the Flash really <em>had</em> killed his greatest villain… and brought the Silver Age to a pretty definitive close in doing so. See what happens when you don't slow down, Flash?
Whichever way you look at it, Hal Jordan was a victim of the 1990s. Either he was driven insane because of the events of the <em>Return of the Supermen</em> story arc and turned into a homicidal maniac as a result, or else he was literally possessed by a fear demon that motivated him to act in a way unbefitting a hero — like, say, becoming a homicidal maniac in an attempt to goose sales and court speculation in the same way that Superman's death had. <p>Whichever version of reality you prefer, you're still left with the fact that Hal Jordan killed a whole bunch of Green Lanterns and Guardians to become Parallax, and all that he got for his troubles was a terrible new costume with upsettingly large shoulder pads. Let that be a lesson to all would-be murderers of little blue peacekeepers. We're looking at <em>you</em>, Gargamel.
You're thinking "Batman? <em>Batman</em>? Batman doesn't kill anyone, that's the whole point!" To which I respond <a href=http://www.cracked.com/article_20111_the-6-most-brutal-murders-committed-by-batman.html>au contraire, my friends</a>. Whether in the Golden Age, the All-Star universe of the late 1980s, Batman has been perfectly happy to ensure that crime doesn't pay, even if it means that he has to ensure that by cashing criminals' chips in himself. (Warning: There may have been a mixed metaphor that went nowhere there.) <p>Even in relatively recent years, Grant Morrison's <em>Final Crisis</em> gave us a Dark Knight who murdered Darkseid by shooting him with a magic bullet. Fine, Darkseid didn't <em>die</em> per se, but Dan Turpin, the human Darkseid was possessing, definitely did. And you call yourself an anti-gun advocate, Batman.
Arguably one of the more famous murders of the pre-<i>Flashpoint</i> DC Universe, Wonder Woman's killing of Maxwell Lord in the run-up to the <em>Infinite Crisis</em> event was something that temporarily split the trinity, shattered the public's trust in the Justice League and superheroes in general, and reminded a generation or two of comic readers quite what it means for the character to come from a line of warrior women. <p>In many ways, Diana's actions were motivated by kindness — not for Max, obviously, but for Superman, who was possessed by Max at the time, and a desire to prevent any more bloodshed at his hands — making this death something more nuanced and subtle than its initial headline-grabbing may have made clear. It was thought-provoking and subtle, while still powerful and immediately dramatic.
What <em>was</em> behind Scott Summers' murder of his mentor and surrogate father? Was it the Phoenix Force, corrupting him from inside, or was it the "real" Scott's subconsciousness lashing out at the man who was withholding the respect and approval that he so desired? We may never know — and any answer we <em>did</em> get could easily be retconned away nonetheless — but nothing can change the fact that Cyclops, long-time leader of the X-Men and Professor Xavier's favorite student, crossed a line when he vaporized Charles Xavier during <em>Avengers Vs. X-Men</em>. <p>Except… it was a line that he'd already crossed. In the opening arc of Grant Morrison's <em>New X-Men</em>, Scott killed Ugly John to spare him a slow, agonizing death after a Sentinel attack. Clearly, once he'd done it the first time, Professor X's days were numbered…
Yes, yes; the Superior Spider-Man killed Massacre to prevent him from killing again in <em>Superior Spider-Man #5</em>, but that's not what I'm talking about. After all, blaming the true Spider-Man for the actions of an Otto-piloted Spider-Man would be like blaming Bruce Wayne for what Azrael got up to when he pretended to be Batman, and that's just not worth arguing about; like AzBats, SpOck is kind of <em>meant</em> to be a bad guy. <p>No, what I'm talking about is the trail of bodies apparently left lying in Peter Parker's wake. At first I had assumed that the only person who had died as a result of Peter's actions was Charlie in the 1987 <em>Spider-Man Vs. Wolverine</em> one-shot, but <a href=http://www.spiderfan.org/faq/killed.html>then I saw this list</a>. It's food for thought. After all, Otto has only killed one person so far in his Spider-Man career. Maybe he really <em>is</em> the superior Spider-Man...
The idea that Superman doesn't kill is one of the core ideas about the character — his first story is about a rush to save a life, after all, and as <em>the</em> central character whom represents a higher morality, killing seems something that he <em>would</em> always shy away from. And yet, even before <em>Justice League #22</em> or <em>Man of Steel</em>, he's done it before — in John Byrne's <em>Superman</em> #22, in fact, when he acts as judge, jury and, yes, executioner for the Phantom Zone criminals who have destroyed an alternate Earth. <p>That killing led to a nervous breakdown for Superman — and a temporary third identity, as well as the character leaving Earth for six months. What will be the after-effects of Superman's actions in <em>Justice League #22</em>? Well, it'll ignite a war and, if future solicits are to be believed, result in some dead Justice Leagues. Even more blood on Kryptonian hands? This looks like a job for… well, <em>who</em>?