Just like movies, books and television shows, comic books can make you feel things. Indeed, there is no shortage of emotions in the comic book medium, and just like any form of entertainment, sometimes something so devastating, so heart-wrenching will make you ball your eyes out. Comic books may reach less people, but they have the benefit of years and years of backstory that can only add to the emotion of a scene.
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Longtime readers can form strong attachments to certain characters and stories, and be driven to tears whenever something horrifying or beautiful happens. This is all thanks to the mighty creative teams that steer these titles. Today, CBR takes a look at 15 comic books that left us reaching for the tissue box. However, considering that there is some sensitive material in this list, a SPOILER WARNING is in effect.
15. BRUCE LOSES DAMIAN (BATMAN AND ROBIN #18)
Damian Wayne may not have been everyone’s favorite Robin, but he did manage to earn the respect of his father, Dick Grayson and the rest of the bat-family. Under the creative team of Peter Tomasi and Patrick Gleason, the father and son team of Batman and Robin found a way into our hearts. Not only did Bruce turn Damian into a Robin worthy of the Wayne name, he humanized him in a way that made us care about him. That is why, when Damian died at the hands of The Heretic, it pained us all.
Regardless of how you felt about Damian Wayne as a character, there is no denying that his death was a great loss to the bat-family, and Bruce Wayne more importantly. Issue #18 is a completely silent issue, where Tomasi let Gleason’s striking artwork tell all the story. No words were needed here as Bruce mourned the passing of his son. The anguish and hurt on his face were all that we needed to see. The final blow came when Bruce found a letter Damian left him, a letter where the son told his father he had taught him “how to live.”
14. PETER LEAVES A MESSAGE (SPIDER-MAN: BLUE #6)
The relationship between Peter Parker and Gwen Stacy has been at the heart of the “Spider-Man” book and mythos for a very long time. Her death at the hands of the Green Goblin ushered in a new age of comic books in 1973 and it has stayed with Peter ever since. Gwen was his first love, the girl that meant the world to him during a simpler time, a time when Peter believed “life could be great.”
The fact that “Spider-Man: Blue,” by Jeph Loeb and Tim Sale, explored those earlier Spider-Man days framed around Peter talking to a departed Gwen through a recording device was absolutely heart-wrenching. Even in his new relationship with Mary-Jane Watson, Gwen is still so very dear to him and her death is clearly something that he will never get over. When Mary-Jane walked in on Peter in the last few pages and told him to tell Gwen hi for her, it was enough to break our hearts and tell us everything we needed to know about the trust and love between Peter and Mary-Jane.
13. EVERYTHING LIVES (SECRET WARS #9)
Not every moment that make us cry has to be sad. Sometimes, it’s all about the story, where it came from, where you knew it would go, and where you thought it would never go. In the “Secret Wars” miniseries event by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Ribic, readers were given an unofficial follow-up and conclusion to Hickman’s long-running “Fantastic Four” series, by pitting Reed Richards and the scarred Doctor Doom against each other one more time, with the fate of the multiverse in the balance.
When faced with the same power Doom had, Reed finally proved himself his superior when he fixed reality. But the ordeal he went through, from the start of Hickman’s run all the way to the “Secret Wars” finale, changed his outlook on life. That was proven to us when it was later revealed that, in all the big changes he had made in the universe, he had also made a small one; small, but extremely significant. Doom removed his mask, and his face was healed — something, even as god, he was unable to do. He laughed with joy. And we cried.
12. THE FUNERAL OF STEVE ROGERS (FALLEN SON #5)
Written by Jeph Loeb, the “Fallen Son” series explored the death of Steve Rogers through different characters each going through one of the five stages of grief. Illustrated by John Cassaday, the last issue of the series focused on Iron Man in the stage of acceptance. For the public, a grand funeral was arranged, with thousands of people in attendance. Friends, Avengers, veterans. It was a funeral where Tony Stark found himself unable to speak.
But the real blow came when Stark did speak, during Steve’s real funeral. The one held only by himself, Ant-Man and the Wasp, in the Arctic. At that time, they were the last of the original Avengers left, the ones who had found Captain America, frozen in the Arctic. This was the place Tony chose to bury his friend, the one he thought he would agree with, returning him to his true place of peace. “I miss your battle cry…” Tony told him. And by then, the tears couldn’t be stopped.
11. BACK TO LIFE (BLACKEST NIGHT #8)
The “Blackest Night” event series, by Geoff Johns and Ivan Reis, was a superhero comic disguised as a horror series, chockfull of grotesque moments. With every dead superhero brought back to life by Nekron and Black Hand as Black Lanterns, the world’s heroes were outnumbered by a veritable army of zombies that fed on emotion-filled hearts. The turn of the tide arrived with the emergence of the White Lantern, who recruited every superhero who had been dead and brought them back to life into its corps.
As White Lanterns, Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, Wonder Woman, Superman and many others defeated Nekron and the Black Lanterns. But the White Lantern didn’t stop there. It also brought back to life dearly departed members of the DC Universe throughout the years like Aquaman, Firestorm, the Hawks, Jade, Hawk and Deadman. It was a beautiful, emotional moment for many fans of the characters; a moment that seemed to herald a return to the old days of DC Comics.
10. THE STORY OF HAL JORDAN (GREEN LANTERN #20)
Hal Jordan and Sinestro have always had a very long a complicated relationship. From student and mentor to sworn enemies, they have been at each other’s throats for a very long time. But as Geoff Johns’ “Green Lantern” run neared its end, the relationship between the two grew once again, to that of reluctant partners. By the run’s final issue, Johns showed us a possible future, where a new Green Lantern recruit was told the story of Hal Jordan, the greatest of Green Lanterns.
The story is told by the bookkeeper, a mysterious hooded figure that watches over the book of Oa. We are told of every deed Hal Jordan accomplished, and the love that he found. But the biggest surprise came when it was hinted that Sinestro himself is the bookkeeper, telling the story of Hal Jordan with the utmost respect, admiration and inspiration. Sinestro, once the Green Lanterns’ most dangerous threat, was now the keeper of their knowledge and told the most moving story about the man who was his enemy.
9. ONLY THE END (BATGIRL #24)
Stephanie Brown stepped into the Batgirl boots during a dark period. At a time when most of DC Comics’ books were quite serious, she came with a joy and flare that set her apart not only from the the rest of the books, but of both of her predecessors, Barbara Gordon and Cassandra Cain. Thanks to writer Bryan Q. Miller, there was a vulnerability to her, an inferiority complex that made her strive for greatness, and it made her all the more strong and relatable as a character.
But this was also the end of the DC Comics as fans used to know them. We knew that “The New 52” relaunch was coming, and that newer legacy characters would be dropped in favor of their more well-known precursors. First on the chopping block was Stephanie, who would be forced to retire from the Batgirl mantle and make way for the return of Barbara Gordon. Stephanie’s final story as Batgirl showed us a series of pages of what could have been, and it left us in bittersweet sadness, when, in her usual brand of bright attitude, she looked to the future and ended things with a smile, and a message of hope.
8. KITTY PRYDE SACRIFICES HERSELF (GIANT-SIZE ASTONISHING X-MEN #1)
Kitty Pryde was brought to the forefront of the X-Men in Whedon and Cassaday’s “Astonishing X-Men.” With a hostile relationship between Emma Frost, a strong friendship with Wolverine and a return to her long-lasting love story with Colossus, Kitty was one of the main characters of the series. She was the one we were all rooting for, the one we were attached to thanks to some strong characterization and an engrossing story that centered around her.
This made it all the more unbearable when it became obvious that Kitty was heading towards certain doom. Fused to the Retaliator, a giant moon-sized bullet heading straight towards Earth, Kitty barely held on while the Avengers and the X-Men exhausted all possibilities in hopes of saving her as well as the planet. But Kitty proved herself a selfless hero when she sacrificed herself, using her powers to make the entire bullet intangible, phasing it straight through the planet. Just like that, she was gone, doomed to fly through space forever, and we were left with nothing but tissues to hold off our tears.
7. GLENN DIES (THE WALKING DEAD #100)
The long running series by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard was hitting issue 100. The cast had suffered many losses over the years, but it had been a long time since one of the main members, the ones who were there from the beginning, had lost his or her life. With the introduction of a terrifying new villain in Negan, all that would change. After a drawn-out introduction that told you everything you needed to know about the group’s new foe, Negan played a game to choose his victim.
We all lost our collective minds when he finally pointed Lucille, his barb-wired bat, at Glenn. But the hurt didn’t stop there. Negan kept on hitting Glenn, again and again, until there wasn’t much of him left. This was a devastating blow to the group, and to the readers, considering Glenn was in some ways the heart and soul of the group. The scene was so terrible in fact, that it was played out, almost entirely exactly (save for a few added tweaks) in “The Walking Dead” television series.
6. DEATH OF SUPERBOY (INFINITE CRISIS #6)
By Geoff Johns, Phil Jimenez and other great artists, “Infinite Crisis” was the biggest event of DC Comics at the time. An official sequel to the classic 1985 event Crisis On Infinite Earths, this event saw a new terrible threat emerge in the form of Superboy Prime. Superboy Prime was looking to bring back his own Earth, his world, and bring back an age of, in his opinion, good heroes. But he went about it all wrong, and grew increasingly unstable.
When Nightwing, the real Superboy Connor Kent and his girlfriend, Cassie Sandsmark (Wonder Girl), were trying to destroy Alexander Luthor’s replicating Earth tower in the Arctic, Superboy Prime attacked them. But Superboy was quick to protect his friends and engage the evil version of himself in a brutal fight. Sacrificing everything, Superboy flew both of them into the tower, effectively saving the universe. But by the ordeal’s end, Connor had given up his life, and we were left crying as much as Cassie was over her fallen boyfriend, who had died a true hero.
5. THE FLASHPOINT LETTER (FLASHPOINT #5)
When Barry Allen traveled back in time and saved his mother from dying at the hands of the Reverse-Flash, he created an alternate reality called “Flashpoint.” In the series by writer Geoff Johns and artist Andy Kubert, the Flash found himself alone and powerless in a very different world. But he found an ally and friend in the “Flashpoint” version of Batman. Only, in this reality, Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father, was under the cape and cowl.
With Thomas’ help, Barry regained his powers and managed to save reality. But before Barry left a beaten and bloodied Batman to be erased from time, Thomas handed over a letter to Barry, one meant for his son Bruce, the son he had lost. Back in his restored timeline, Barry told Bruce everything about what had happened to him, and he handed him the letter. With tears in his eyes, Bruce read a letter from a father he had lost a long time ago, and we were left appropriately gutted.
4. VEGAS SAVES ARCHIE (AFTERLIFE WITH ARCHIE #4)
This is one for all the dog people out there. Back in the early days of the zombie outbreak in Riverdale, Archie came home only to be attacked by Jughead’s zombified pet Hot Dog. But before the rabid dog could attack Archie, his faithful companion Vegas leaped to his defense, in a battle that he knew he couldn’t win. Adding flashback scenes showing us Archie meeting, adopting and developing a bond with Vegas, writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa and artist Francesco Francavilla gave us not only heart-warming context, but a frightful sense of dread.
Vegas’ sacrifice was made all the more devastating thanks to the use of caption boxes where readers were able to read the dog’s thoughts. Calling Archie “archiemaster” and using words like “run” and “protect,” Vegas did not hesitate for a single second to defend his master. When he turned to Archie with fear and love in his eyes and thought “Thankyou– Loveyou– Forever–” and pleaded him to run and live, this scene easily turned into one of the saddest in comic books, one we are sill mourning to this day.
3. THOR SUMMONS THE GHOST OF STEVE ROGERS (THOR VOL. 3 #11)
Because he was dead at the time, the God of Thunder took no part in the Superhero “Civil War” that tore through the Marvel Universe, an event that led to the death of Captain America. But after Thor’s return to life, writer J. Michael Straczynski took the time to explore his reaction to the loss of his friend Steve Rogers. Using Mjolnir, Thor cried out “Avengers Assemble!” and managed to summon the spirit of his deceased teammate, and the two had the time to share a talk.
Thor payed his respects to his friend, even offered to avenge him – an offer that was declined – and Steve used that time to explain why he fought the way he did, saying that what he did was all for the country as a whole. Thor bid him farewell after telling him the honor that was fighting by his side, and if that wasn’t enough to make us cry, Thor then flew off into space and used his massive power to shut down all satellites and communications device in order for the world to have a minute of silence for the fallen Avenger.
2. KRYPTO SEARCHES FOR SUPERBOY (SUPERMAN VOL 1. #712)
Over the years, Krypto the Superdog had developed a strong bond with Connor Kent, aka Superboy. Together, they used to play in Smallville during their downtime. Because frisbees were too flimsy for Krypto, Connor would use a manhole cover for him to fetch. But, after the events of “Infinite Crisis,” Superboy was gone, and Krypto was left all alone. Saddened, Krypto traveled the world in search of his best friend, only to follow his scent all the way to the Arctic.
It was there that, thanks to his super-senses, Krypto learned of Connor’s passing. The poor dog then let out a massive howl that was heard half-way around the world. Krypto then flew off into space to find refuge and solace on an asteroid, and sitting by his side was the very manhole cover he and Connor used to play with. Written by Kurt Busiek and illustrated by Rick Leonardi, this is a very quiet issue that tugs at the heartstrings and would leave anyone hugging a pet ever so tighter.
1. IZABEL DIES… AGAIN (SAGA #38)
Izabel, the lovable red ghost with no legs and loose intestines appeared in the second chapter of the “Saga” series, by the brilliant creative team of Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. In no time, she warmed her way into the hearts of readers and became an integral part of not only the cast of the series, but also of the story when she bonded with Alana and Marko’s daughter Hazel, effectively becoming the Cleave-born child’s babysitter.
The ghost had become a part of this family, a fact that she reminded us of in Chapter 38, during a talk in which she said how thankful she was for them, for allowing her to see the universe. But our then fragile hearts got dealt an even bigger blow when Izabel got apprehended and killed by The March. The sadness in her eyes when she pleaded not to die again, and her final act of defiance by protecting her family were as devastating as seeing that sword run through her. By then, Hazel’s reaction at knowing instantly that Izabel was gone was more than enough to send us over the edge.
What comic books made you cry? Let us know in the comments!