BATMAN to JEAN GREY: 11 Comic Book Deaths That Didn't Stick
Death? Permanent? Get the hell out of town! This is comics, kids! Nobody stays dead in comics. When confronted with the proposition of considering Deaths That Did Not Stick, I found myself nearly overwhelmed with the possibilities. Do we go with Psylocke? Storm (who came back as a bald child, initially)? Supergirl (I mean, really, which one? They die like Strikeforce:Morituri). The list goes on and on. In fact, comics recently had to update the old mantra “Only Bucky stays dead” (I vote that the new replacement should be “Only Rorschach stays dead”. Any takers?). That said, we’re going to look at Eleven Comic Deaths That Didn’t Stick.
Bucky: You gotta give it to the kid; he tried. Bucky died when he and Captain America attempted to stop that ill-fated rocket back in World War 2. Bucky died . . . or so we thought! Bucky later returned as the brainwashed Winter Soldier. After tangling with Cap and getting his memory back, Bucky went on to assume the mantle of Captain America and join the New Avengers. Talk about failing upward.
The JSA: The JSA is almost as unkillable as Keith Richards. Sundered when they quit after the McCarthy hearings, the JSA later reconvened on their home of Earth-2 to keep adventuring with Earth-1’s JLA and their kids in Infinity Inc. After the Crisis on Infinite Earths merged the surviving worlds of the multiverse to one Earth with one timeline, it was felt that the JSA were redundant. In the Last Days of the Justice Society of America special, the JSA became trapped in an endless cycle of preventing Ragnarok. Later freed during the Armageddon: Inferno mini-series, the JSA got their bottoms handed back to them by Extant during Zero Hour. Three members died, and several were aged out of their retained vitality. However! The team rose again with a combination of new and original members. Over time, it’s actually gotten bigger. They even managed to rescue one of the guys that died during Zero Hour (Hourman I)!
The Thing: The Thing’s most notable demise occurred during a battle between the Fantastic Four and Dr. Doom. Faced with the loss of his best friend, Reed Richards does what any scientist would do: takes the team to Heaven to get their buddy back. God (who is, shall we say, Kirbyesque) ends up giving Ben back to the FF, but doesn’t really address that whole disease and human misery thing. By the way, if God looks like Kirby, who is Satan? Frederic Wertham? Rich Johnston? Gareb Shamus? What, too soon?
Wonder Woman: Wonder Woman has tried to die more times than Aunt May. She was actually killed during Crisis. She was “supposed” to die another time, but it was really Artemis that bought it, not Diana. Her death that had the biggest impact in the DCU, though, was probably when she died fighting Neron. This was during Grant Morrison’s run on JLA, and the writer cleverly imported her replacement, her mother Hippolyta, for a brief stay on the team. Diana’s death didn’t keep her from hanging around, though. Diana ascended to Mount Olympus as Goddess of Truth, but eventually returned to life on Earth.
Colossus: Colossus gave the old dirtnap a few shots too. He was once nearly destroyed when the Brotherhood heated him white hot and smothered him in molten material, freezing and cracking him. Rogue and the Morlock Healer fixed that. During the Mutant Massacre, he sustained heavy, paralyzing damage, but eventually recovered. Much later, Colossus nobly chose to rid mutantkind of the Legacy Virus by injecting himself with the cure. What’s that mean? Well, the cure would spread to the whole world and cure everyone only if some poor bastard injected his or herself with it. Everyone would live, but they would die. Petey took it upon himself, and the Russian farmer purchased the arable ground. It’s okay; he got better. Colossus reappeared during Joss Whedon’s Astonishing run and reunited with his Katya, whom he promptly to a giant space bullet. Damn you, Joss Whedon.
Batman: Let’s just get this straight: if there’s any motherf@#$er out there that can overcome being set upon by a villain pretending to be your dad leading a club of villains in a prolonged assault on your sanity forcing you into going insane under the cover of a separate identity based on a Silver Age story in order to overcome your enemy and escape a chopper crash in order to join the other heroes for a final crisis wherein you shoot the God of Evil whom also manages to blast you and kill you only you lived and actually got sent back in time where you skip forward through various lives until you defeat said Evil God’s ultimate weapon that has come to resemble the bat demon and is also the guy pretending to be your dad . . . it’s BATMAN.
Superman: Death, Funeral, Return. That’s got to be the most literal-minded set of titles applied to any of the Deaths That Would Not Stick. Okay, I’ll give you that “Batman R.I.P.” and “The Return of Bruce Wayne” are pretty on-the-nose too. For the sake of completeness: Superman’s alive. Superman fights Doomsday. Superman’s dead. Four Supermans show up. Surprise! None of them are Superman. One is a bad guy. No more Coast City. Superman is back! Superman defeats the bad Replacement Superman. Sorry about Coast City, Hal (see you in a minute).
Mr. Fantastic: I’m not even going to explain this one. For the record, super-heroes, NEVER. EVER. Shake the hand of Dr. Doom. Seriously. It just doesn’t help anyone. Except maybe Ant-Man.
Phoenix: Jean Grey is like unto the library book of characters; it’s her whole job to be removed and returned. Obviously, the big moment was X-Men #137 from 1980, where Jean sacrificed herself so that the Phoenix Force wouldn’t destroy creation. But . . . GOTCHA! That wasn’t Jean! It was the Phoenix Force looking like Jean, and Jean was healing in a pod at the bottom of Jamaica Bay. The finding of that pod involved the Avengers and the Fantastic Four, getting Jean Grey back to life just in time for X-Factor #1 in 1985. Yes, she died again. And came back. And made Scott make out with Emma Frost on her grave. Or something. It happens.
Barry Allen: Barry Allen could probably claim the most glorious, heroic death in the history of comics, literally racing to his demise to prevent the destruction of the remaining worlds of the multiverse at the hands of the Anti-Monitor. No one would ever be insane enough to touch that, right? Lucas? Mike? Where are you guys going? Why are you on the phone?
Hal Jordan: Hal Jordan died as he lived . . . trying to look as good as he could. Hal lost Coast City, went a little nuts, rampaged through the Corps leaving some floating in space (and actually killing Kilowog…that didn't stick either), tore up Oa, destroyed the Guardians and the battery, and became Parallax. As Parallax, he was behind Zero Hour and other nasty machinations until he save the Earth during Final Night when he died reigniting the sun. Hal got the chance to be at the center of another crossover with Day of Judgment, wherein he became the new Spectre. In Green Lantern: Rebirth (and where did you think that story was going?), many revelations about the nature of Parallax and made and Jordan comes back to life. Of course, his graying hair is now totally brown again. See? It’s all about him.
So, gang, what’s the over/under on today's big death? Sound off on Twitter or on Facebook. Remember, gamble only where it’s legal and 10% goes to the house. I’m going to have a seat and wait for the emails that admonish me for not including Martian Manhunter.