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Comics…Deconstructed

You Vote: Which Five Comic Book Characters Are Better Off Dead?

If there is one truism in comic books, it’s that no character stays dead for long.  Like soap operas, the episodic nature of comics seems to compel writers to develop (sometimes) creative ways to extricate characters from seemingly impossible situations.  Rather than generate our own list, we thought we’d ask our readers and see which characters comics fans wish would just stay in the grave.  Read the overview below, then leave your vote and comments below.  I’m sure many have been let off, so feel free to add your own to the list if you wish:

 

175px-UncannyXMen101 Jean Grey:  Many would argue that Jean Grey’s death in the pages of X-men represents one of the best moments in comic book history. The nobility of self-sacrifice in the face of overwheming odds, coupled with a love story and well-executed writing and art created a transcendent moment in comics.  Her return, while not destroying the sanctity of the Claremont/Byrne story, significantly devalued the character in what was obviously a marketing ploy.

 

 

 

 

 

160px-Deadjason Jason Todd:  Never has a character been so loathed that readers actually voted to kill him.  Thus is the original fate of the second Robin, Jason Todd.  Victim of a publicity stunt where DC allowed readers to call a 900 number and vote whether Jason lived or died after a vicious assault by the Joker, readers essentially agreed that it would be best for the Joker to beat the hell out of a young boy with a crowbar.  It is amazing, then, that DC opted to resurrect the character.  Jeph Loeb played around with this concept in his classic Hush storyline (and, in retrospect, perhaps he should have been encouraged to bring him back in those pages), but it was ultimately Judd Winick who had the cajones to return the character to DC continuity.  I’m not sure anyone is really clear about how he returned, but like it or not, he’s back!

 

 

170px-Bucky Bucky Barnes:  A few years ago, the thought of resurrecting Captain America’s long-dead partner Bucky Barnes was simply anathema to creators and fans alike.  Things change, it seems.  Bucky’s back, rechristened the Winter Soldier by scribe Ed Brubaker.  While the reaction to Bucky’s return has been decidedly mixed, there is no doubt among fans that Brubaker is in the midst of crafting some of the very best Captain America stories ever told.  Testament to this fact is that he has continued writing a riveting book even following the assassination of its title character.

 

 

 

 

200px-Mar-Vell Captain Marvel:  No, not the DC SHAZAAM! variety of Cap.  Like Bucky, Marvel has also decided to bring back a character that no fan ever thought would come back.  Mar-Vell died in a poignant story (one of the very first graphic novels, actually) ungracefully titled The Death of Captain Marvel.  Cap’s death from cancer is strangely still in Marvel continuity, since the convoluted method of resurrecting him doesn’t change any of the facts of his death (Don’t try to figure it out.  I’m confused just writing about it!).  Still, he IS back, and no one is quite sure if that’s a good thing.

 

 

 

215px-Warlock-172 Adam Warlock: Not sure who Adam Warlock is?  You’re probably not alone.  One of the lesser-known characters created by Jack Kirby and Stan Lee, Warlock began his existence known only as “Him” in the pages of The Fantastic Four.  The character suffered through several “showcase” titles and even his own lackluster title in the 70s, but it was not until Jim Starlin began working on the character that Adam Warlock became a noticeable part of the Marvel Universe.  No stranger (no pun intended) to cosmic-level stories, Starlin used the Warlock character to continue many of the themes and conflicts he developed earlier in the pages of Captain Marvel (who he would later kill, see a trend here?).  Self-sacrifice, per usual, plays a huge role in Warlock’s demise, but no good (or even mediocre) character gets much rest in the Marvel afterlife.  Starlin resurrected the character in the 80s during his extended Infinity Gauntlet storyline, and Warlock again had his own title, but it, like all the others, was short-lived.  If ever a character showed evidence of Repetitive Death Syndrome, it’s Adam Warlock.

 

175px-Green_lantern_76 Green Arrow:  Don’t mistake me here.  I LOVED Kevin Smith’s resurrection of the character in the new Green Arrow series, and I even enjoyed Brad Metzler’s follow-up Archer Quest.  The problem is that very few writers seem able to competently handle Oliver Queen.  His backstory is not terribly compelling or original, and his “rogues gallery” is virtually non-existent.  Denny O’Neil wrote Ollie superbly in the 70s by developing a radical political viewpoint for the character, but that is given relative lipservice today (odd, considering the politically-charged climate we now live in).  A recent attempt at bringing politics into a Green Arrow storyline just devolved into the usual slugfest. There’s no doubt that Green Arrow is one of the best characters in the DC Universe when properly written, but too few have been able to do just that.

 

 

250px-HAWK005 Hawkeye:  If Green Arrow is a second-rate Batman, then Hawkeye is a third-rate Green Arrow.  Wearing what is arguably the ugliest costume in superhero history, Hawkeye has bandied about from one side of the Marvel Universe to another, only to find himself killed in the now-famous Avengers Disassembled.  In an extremely quick turnaround, even by Marvel standards, Clint Barton is back again, though whether or not he will become Hawkeye again is up in the air (any bets, anyone?). 

 

 

 

 

180px-Crisis7 Supergirl: Just who the hell is Supergirl these days, anyhow?  After multiple iterations of the character (and one colossally terrible film), many are left stumbling for an answer to what should be a very simple and straightforward question.  One thing is clear: the character most recognize as the classic Supergirl DIED in the pages of Crisis on Infinite Earths.  Today we have an approximate reincarnation of the same character, which in some eyes diminishes the impact of her death in the 80s (well, if nothing else, at least her headband died).  Supergirl is ultimately a character who cannot maintain interest in her own title.  Many attempts have been made, and now she has rather mechanically been grafted onto the current Legion of Super-Heroes series.  If she dies again in the future, how will all of THAT mess be sorted out?

 

 

200px-Deathofsuperman Superman:  Let’s get controversial, shall we?  In a media circus that eclipsed even the death of Jason Todd, DC opted to kill its flagship character, Superman, in the early 90s.  Why this got so much press is beyond me, when it was more than clear from the very start that the character would be back in fine form in no time.  Still, he was technically dead for a short while, and its arguable that he should have remained dead.  Like the current death of Captain America, Superman has become more of an icon and symbol than a character.  In death, then, why not fully elevate him to symbolic, almost mythic proportions by removing his physical (but not spiritual or emotional) presence from the DCU?  Again, this is, in essence, what Ed Brubaker is attempting in the pages of Captain America.  DC could have done the same thing more than a decade earlier.  Should they have?

 

230px-Dd181 

Elektra:  Of all the characters listed here, none has had as wild a ride as Elektra.  Dead and buried after Frank Miller’s Daredevil run, she remained out of the Marvel Universe for years and years.  Interest certainly never waned for the character; in fact, her death at the hands of Bullseye became the stuff of comic book legend.  Still, Miller couldn’t let her stay dead, and chose to resurrect her in an extremely oblique way in the graphic novel Elektra Lives Again (and we won’t even try to comprehend the significance of the Miller/Sienkiewicz Elektra: Assassin mini-series).  The character continues to show up throughout the Marvel Universe, even inhabiting her own ongoing series for a time.  The question must be asked, however – was she better off dead?

 

There’s the list.  Again, we want to know what you think.  Post your comments, votes and suggestions below.

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July 17, 2007 Posted by | Comics, Commentary, Graphic Novels | Leave a comment