The Problem With All These Superhero Resurrections in Comics

 

CBR wrote up a list of superheroes and such who underwent resurrections, for better or worse, and while I do think resurrection is far less offensive than killing, which has long devolved into a repellent cliche, there are some items here that the writer just won’t look at objectively, undermining what could’ve been a more positive impact. For example, let’s take Jean Grey:

 

When it comes to the deaths of superheroes, the one character that proves that no one ever stays dead is Jean Grey. Since her death in The Dark Phoenix Saga, and then her resurrection years later, no one has died and returned from the dead more times than Jean Grey.

However, with that in mind, the first time that Marvel resurrected Jean Grey, it was a massive surprise. The fact that it came in the pages of Avengers #263 made it even more shocking, where it was explained that Jean was never the Dark Phoenix and was left cocooned in Jamaica Bay. Jean’s subsequent resurrections were not as surprising, but no one saw the first one coming.

 

Actually, that’s not the problem here. What is the problem is how Marvel kept boomeranging back on stories about Phoenix ad nauseum, and even ran the gauntlet of obscuring/retconning away the exoneration in Avengers to make it look as though she was guilty of annihilating the Shiar, rather than an energy entity that took her place. One of the most loathsome moments from recent history was Brian Bendis’ take on her. Then, there’s Wolverine:

 

By the time Wolverine died, no one believed that anyone would stay dead. No matter how much Marvel tried to make it seem like this was one time where it would stick, no one fell for it. Wolverine died in the series titled Death of Wolverine, and while it was an event series, people wanted to see how it happened, knowing he would be back anyway.

Wolverine died from suffocation in liquid adamantium, and his fellow X-Men buried him. It was a matter of months before Persephone resurrected him as an undead killer. He ended up finally coming back to life on his own after that.

 

 

 

But he didn’t have to be shunted into the afterlife to begin with. What’s pathetic about these kind of “columns” is they’re not opinions, and definitely not dedicated, altruistic ones. But at least it does hint what’s wrong with addicted fandoms: they just have to read a whole time-waster built on publicity stunts, right down to the loathsome idea of turning Wolverine into a zombie assassin, shades of Blackest Night, which also centered on living-dead revivals of past DC cast members who were killed at the time. Now, here’s what they say about the Flash:

 

When Flash died in Crisis on Infinite Earths, most people expected him to return quickly. Barry Allen was the first superhero DC Comics introduced in the Silver Age of comic books when he debuted in DC Comics’ Showcase #4 in 1956. However, while the DC Comics world rebooted after Crisis, Barry did not return, and Wally West instead became the new Flash.

Wally West was so popular that an entire generation of comic book fans still considers him their one true Flash. The return of Barry Allen was so surprising because it happened 24 years after he died, which is one of the longest-lasting deaths in modern comic book history.

 

Surprising? Maybe. But the real problem was the offensive way Geoff Johns brought Barry back – altering his timeline history so that his parents, Henry & Nora Allen, were murdered by the Reverse-Flash, Eobard Thawne, in a manner similar to the background Johns gave to his own blatant copycat creation, Hunter Zolomon. The difference is, Henry may have been framed, unlike Hunter’s psycho father, but that’s still no excuse for the ghastly direction Johns set up all for the sake of removing practically everything that could help the Flash stand apart from Batman.

 

But they’re right about something: Wally became the favorite Flash as a successor, mainly because writing in the Iron Age of comics was far better than modern, and now look what happened – Dan DiDio and Tom King ruined everything, no matter what Scott Lobdell may be doing in Flash Forward. Point: even if they do reverse this atrocity quicker than thought, there’s damage done, and based on the hideous structure of King’s miniseries, that’s why there’s bound to be audience members who won’t trust them again, even though DiDio’s long seen to it much of the readership already left. Next comes Superman’s death and return in 1992-93:

 

If there is one superhero death that no fan in their right mind believed would stick, it was the Death of Superman. This was a major event series that included a ton of promotion, including in the mainstream media, and a collectible death issue in a black protective cover. It was a big deal, and it was an obvious publicity stunt.

Following Death of Superman was Funeral For a Friend, which was a fantastic story, followed by Reign of the Supermen and finally Return of Superman. In our time, he was only “dead” for seven months.

 

 

Oh boy, do tell us what’s a “fantastic” story, please! There’s adventure fare from the Silver Age that rates far higher than this, including plenty of the early Fantastic Four tales. No mention of Cat Grant’s son being killed by the Toyman around the time, or one of the Super-duplicates breaking a bank robber’s hands, or Hal Jordan’s native burg, Coast City, getting blown to smithereens, or how a handful of supporting cast members who appeared in Green Lantern during 1984 were on the obituary list when the local Ferris Aircraft branch went out with the rest of the town. Speaking of which, GL is next on the list:

 

Hal Jordan is another interesting case, similar to Barry Allen. However, the big difference here is that Barry died saving the world as a hero. Jordan turned into the universe’s deadliest villain before finally coming around and saving the planet by sacrificing his own life.

Hal ended up becoming The Spectre after his death, while Kyle Raynor became a very popular replacement for fans. There was also en entire generation who fell in love with John Stewart and more with Guy Gardner. There was no reason for Hal to resurrect, but it happened anyway because of Geoff Johns.

 

*Ahem* Much as I now loath the writings of Johns, there was a reason to resurrect Hal, and more importantly, remove his slaughter of the GL Corps from official canon (didn’t actually happen, I don’t think, but definitely should): Emerald Twilight was an offensive story, carrying on the grim-and-gritty shift putting an emphasis on massive deaths for shock value and such, something that hasn’t improved even today. That he’d seemingly do a good deed circa The Final Night does nothing to alleviate the embarrassment of having innocent blood dripping off his hands. Nor does a retcon to claim Parallax is a separate entity that forced him into it. I think the real reason Hal was resurrected was based on commercialism, so they could get around to making the 2011 movie that was largely a flop. If that’s why Hal was resurrected, that’s where you could argue they didn’t go about it the right way.

 

And is Kyle really popular, or, is he still? I recall that around the turn of the century, sales on GL were circa 40,000 copies at best in most sales charts. But I do think the hostile reception in some early web forums to anybody who spoke positively about Kyle was idiotic in hindsight. What should’ve been made a talking point was the abominable premise Kyle’s ascension was built on, and somebody should’ve pointed out how absurd it was that anybody who’d complain Hal lacked a personality – a silly claim that could just as easily have been made about Superman and Batman, to say nothing of Alan Scott, the Golden Age GL – could just as easily apply to Kyle, and indeed, there were people over the years who argued so, including IIRC, on Chuck Dixon’s original site forum.

 

It should also have been made clear how cheapjack it was to introduce a girlfriend like Alexandra deWitt just to be murdered by Major Force, and then succeeding girlfriends were only established superheroines like Donna Troy and Jade. I also remember the ending to the 3rd volume was a cop-out, because, even if it was only briefly, Kyle gave Major Force his power ring in their final scuffle. That was one of Ron Marz’s worst insults to the intellect with mainstream superheroes.

 

It’s interesting they mention John Stewart, because if they’d wanted to, I’m sure DC could’ve made him the successor to Hal, though it wouldn’t make Emerald Twilight any less reprehensible. Mainly because the 1989 miniseries Cosmic Odyssey set up a premise for John that was just as revolting: he led to the wipeout of a planet called Xanshi. How could even he make a good star of a series if that remained canon, as it possibly did at least until the early 2000s? Next is Captain America:

 

Captain America’s death served a significant purpose. It showed the heroes of Marvel that there was too much to lose by continuing to fight each other during the Civil War. It was also a tragic loss because Cap had surrendered to stop the fighting before his assassination.

However, this is Captain America we’re talking about. In Marvel Comics, his death was as close to Superman’s in DC Comics as you can get. There was no way they would keep him dead forever, and they resurrected him by claiming that the gunshot froze Captain America in time instead of ending his life.

 

It was still uncalled for, and if they wanted to, I’m sure they could’ve written a tale where Steve Rogers was injured and decided to take time to recuperate, while somebody else filled the costume and heaved the shield. Interesting they mention Civil War – that was something uncalled for due to its revolting liberal politics.

 

Next is Steve’s sidekick, Bucky Barnes:

 

As mentioned earlier, the people that would never resurrect were Uncle Ben, Bucky Barnes, and Gwen Stacy. Then, one day, Marvel chose to resurrect Bucky. This resurrection was a massive surprise since Bucky had been dead since World War II.

After revealing his death in Avengers #4 in 1964, Bucky was gone for over 40 years before Marvel resurrected him. It turned out Bucky lived, much like Captain America, but he was taken in by the Soviet Union and turned into the assassin known as The Winter Soldier.

 

In fairness, this could’ve been done, but without hitting us over the head with the notion Steve must be sent into death limbo in his place, however briefly. Then comes Batman:

 

If Superman won’t die because of his major player status in DC Comics, neither will Batman. The difference between Batman’s death in Final Crisis and Superman’s death in Death of Superman is that DC didn’t even pretend that Batman was dead for good.

Much like Captain America, Batman was lost in time. However, almost immediately after his sacrifice and death, DC released a new batch of stories showing Bruce Wayne sent back to the prehistoric era and trying to figure out how to get back to his own time.

 

Here’s the problem: if this was part of a company wide crossover/event, it ruins everything, and dampens whatever clever conceit they thought they’d come up with. If you think the idea of Batman time-traveling is inventive, that’s fine, but do it stand-alone without going to such lengths as to make it part of a crossover. Now, here’s where the article gets around to the 2nd Robin, Jason Todd:

 

Jason Todd’s death was a unique period for DC Comics. The company had fans vote on whether Robin should live or die, and the voting came back with fans wanting the death of Jason Todd. It appeared the voting was rigged, but Joker still beat Todd to death and killed him in Batman: A Death in the Family.

Tim Drake moved into the role of Robin, and it appeared Jason was forgotten. However, Jason resurrected thanks to Superboy-Prime altering reality, and it was kept as a big mystery when he showed up as Red Hood, making his vengeful return a massive surprise for even the most dedicated DC fans.

 

 

And this too was more or less part of a crossover, Final Crisis, and that’s precisely why it’s so tasteless. If they want to resurrect JT, I’m not against it in principle, since resurrection is part and parcel of science-fiction. But the way it was done was so insulting and contrived, that’s why it fails, though what’s really bizarre was the revelation Judd Winick lied about voting in the phone poll against terminating JT at the hands of the Joker in 1988, and his statement he would’ve been quite fine with voting to put an end to a fictional character. Last on the list is Spider-Man, and this has to be the most embarrassing:

 

 

The death of Spider-Man was something that, similar to Superman, no one bought. In Amazing Spider-Man #700, Otto Octavius was dying of cancer and found a way to transfer himself into Peter Parker’s body and Peter into his dying body. Peter then died, and the Superior Spider-Man was born.

While Octopus became a hero as Superior Spider-Man, but Peter was still there in his self-conscious and eventually resurrected.

 

That nobody buys Marvel would really have put an end to Peter is beside the point. What made this really obnoxious was the way Dan Slott used the whole premise as an excuse to have Doc Ock “play hero” in some sort of “one man’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter” type of direction. And all the while, Slott and company were trolling the fans and insulting Mary Jane Watson along the way. What’s so great about that? CBR predictably takes the biased route here.

As I said before, resurrection in itself isn’t wrong in science fiction. But the way it’s handled can be, and as some of these examples demonstrate, the Big Two can be pretty awful how they go about it, courtesy of the worst staffers ever to infest their business.

 

 

Originally published here.

Avi Green

Avi Green

Avi Green was born in Pennsylvania in 1974, and moved to Israel in 1983. He enjoyed reading comics when he was young, the first being Fantastic Four. He maintains a strong belief in the public's right to knowledge and accuracy of facts. He considers himself a conservative-style version of Clark Kent. Follow him on his blog at Four Color Media Monitor or on Twitter at @avigreen1

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