SPOILER WARNING: The following contains major spoilers for “Civil War II” #3, on sale now.
From the very beginning, “Civil War II” promised hero vs. hero action, just as its predecessor delivered a decade ago. One longtime hero died in the opening issue, and Marvel Comics promised that death wouldn’t be the last. In this week’s “Civil War II” #3 by Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez, Hawkeye was forced with a near-impossible decision that resulted in the death of one of Marvel’s oldest and most celebrated characters.
Bruce Banner had gone nearly a year without turning into the Hulk, but like readers, Banner knew it was possible his latest cure would be as short-lived as all those before it. Banner entrusted Hawkeye with an arrowhead of his own design that could pierce the Hulk’s skull. He made Hawkeye promise him that if he ever turned into the Hulk again that Hawkeye would kill him. After the Inhuman known as Ulysses had a vision — a vision experienced by a contingent of superheroes including Hawkeye — of the Hulk killing everyone. Hawkeye had to decide — what was the greater good? Kill an innocent man before he lost control and became a monster capable of killing everyone, or take a chance that he could successfully contain the monster. We now know Hawkeye chose the former.
It’s a challenge that rarely came up in superhero comics. When superheroes first started up in the 1930s and early 1940s, they were inspired by pulp heroes who often killed at the drop of a hat. By the 1950s, however, superheroes tended not to kill period, let alone a fellow superhero.
As the 1980s began, superheroes were becoming more and more willing to kill, but even then, the idea of killing a fellow hero was rare. Even when it has happened over the years, it was almost always the result of one the superheroes now becoming a supervillain (like Green Arrow being forced to try to kill his best friend, Hal Jordan, after Hal became Parallax) or due to one (or both) of the heroes being brainwashed (like Wolverine murdering Northstar while under the control of the Hand). A superhero killing a fellow hero just “for the greater good” is very rare, but we’ve compiled ten instances in which it has happened, beginning with a hero who is quite familiar with killing and continuing forward in chronological order.
10. Wolverine and Rachel “Phoenix” Summers
“Uncanny X-Men” #207 by Chris Claremont, John Romita Jr. and Dan Green
In this story, Rachel Summers attempted to gain revenge upon Selene, the evil Black Queen of the Hellfire Club. Rachel was the daughter of Jean Grey from an alternate future and she encountered Selene when the evil mutant murdered a man who was friendly to Rachel at a time when she was still adjusting to living in the present. Following the events of “Secret Wars II” (where Rachel used her Phoenix-level powers to take some of the life essence of her X-Men teammates to help her destroy the Beyonder — and the universe itself), Rachel was once again at odds with the world. She decided now was the time to kill Selene. However, her thoughts were exposed to Wolverine through a connection created when she took some of his life essence, so he tracked her down and told her that she could not kill Selene, as that would be cold-blooded murder. When she countered that the only way he could stop her was to kill her, he popped his claws right into her. The only reason it didn’t kill her is because she managed to use her telekinesis to keep herself alive long enough to be healed by Mojo’s Body Shoppe (as part of her later joining Excalibur). Wolverine intended to kill her, though, so we’re counting it.
9. Dazzler and Rogue
“Uncanny X-Men” #247 by Chris Claremont, Marc Silvestri and Dan Green
Precisely forty issues after Wolverine stabbed Rachel, the X-Men found themselves in pitched battle with the Prime Sentinel known as the Master Mold, who had merged with the futuristic robot known as Nimrod. The X-Men threw everything they had at the mutant-hunting robot, but to no avail. Rogue even absorbed Colossus’ power, flew high into the atmosphere and effectively dropped like a cannonball onto the Master Mold and it did nothing to stop it. Dazzler eventually came up with the idea of blasting the Master Mold through the magical Siege Perilous portal. However, following her cannonball drop, Rogue was now caught up with the Master Mold, so blasting the robot would mean blasting Rogue in the process. Rogue used her teammate Psylocke’s telepathic abilities to communicate to Dazzler that it was either kill Rogue and Master Mold or let the Master Mold kill everyone. Dazzler reluctantly blasted both Rogue and the Master Mold into the portal, seemingly killing them both (but obviously it didn’t actually kill them). Amusingly enough, in the very next issue (Jim Lee’s “X-Men” debut!), Havok seemingly also accidentally killed Storm. With friends like these, who needs enemies?!
8. Namor and Marrina
“Avengers” #293 by Walter Simonson, John Buscema and Tom Palmer
Marrina was an aquatic alien who served with Alpha Flight for a time before falling in love with Namor. The two were married and she was became an honorary Avenger of sorts during her husband’s tenure with the team. However, when she became pregnant, her alien DNA reacted in a tragic fashion and transformed her into a giant sea creature. Meanwhile, one of the Avengers, Doctor Druid, was manipulated by Kang’s former love, Ravonna, into getting the rest of his team to help her. He needed to get Marrina out of the way so Namor was available and used his powers to make sure Marrina did not disappear into the vast ocean. The Avengers tried to cure her, even temporarily doing so. When she reverted to her giant sea creature form, however, Captain Marvel and Thor decided they had no choice but to kill her. Thor called down lightning and Captain Marvel transformed into lightning, but their attack didn’t succeed. It fell to Namor himself to take Black Knight’s Ebony Blade and use it to kill her. (Sadly for the Black Knight, the nasty side effects of the cursed Ebony Blade being used to kill went to the Black Knight, even though he wasn’t the one wielding it.)
7. Shift and Indigo
“Outsiders” #25 by Judd Winick and Carlos D’Anda
When Indigo first arrived in the 21st Century, it was as a badly damaged android refuge from the future. After she damaged Cyborg while trying to convince him to help heal her, she found herself attacked by the combined might of the Titans and Young Justice. Her instinctual defense against the heroes led to her activating a dormant Superman robot that ended up killing Donna Troy and Lilith. However, the heroes soon realized she meant them no harm. When Arsenal formed the Outsiders, he asked the android (now dubbed Indigo) to join them. She became a stalwart member of the team and even began to find love with her teammate, Shift (who was a fragment of Metamorpho who grew into his own being). However, she was tragically revealed as the evil Brainiac-8 in disguise. “Indigo” was a program designed to gain the trust of the superheroes of the past. However, her Indigo personality fought back and took control of her body again. She then begged Shift to kill her. He did so, giving her something she always craved — he transmuted her molecular structure into a human, killing her in the process, but at least she died as a human.
6. Wolverine and Jean Grey
“X-Men: Phoenix — Endsong” #3 by Greg Pak, Greg Land and Matt Ryan
During the event miniseries “Phoenix — Endsong”, the Shi’ar brought back the Phoenix Force in an attempt to destroy it. They failed and it returned to Earth where it was distraught to discover that Jean Grey had been killed. The force then resurrected Jean Grey’s dead body and started to become Dark Phoenix again. Jean Grey, though, fought against the Phoenix Force and enlisted the help of her old friend, Wolverine, to help her. He had to kill her repeatedly to weaken the Phoenix Force as it expended energy again and again, resurrecting her each time he killed her. Ultimately, the Phoenix Force weakened enough that Jea was able to take control of the situation and separate herself from the force. In the end, after the force wreaked havoc while seeking out other hosts, Jean had to take over again, but Wolverine didn’t know that while he was repeatedly killing her. All he knew was that being forced to murder a woman he cared for deeply over and over was the only thing that could keep her free from a powerful and unwanted cosmic force.
5. Thor and Wasp
“Secret Invasion” #8 by Brian Michael Bendis, Leinil Francis Yu and Mark Morales
In the conclusion of this crossover, the superheroes looked like they were successfully repelling the Skrull invasion of Earth. The Skrulls, though, revealed a secret plan. A Skrull impersonating Yellowjacket had been giving the Wasp a formula for months, ostensibly to help her grow in size instead of just shrink. In reality, they were altering her body to essentially turn her into a giant bomb to kill everyone. Thor had to blow her away in a vortex, killing her before she killed everyone else.
4. Sentry and Ares
“Siege” #2 by Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales
This one is a tricky one because this act of violence by the Sentry ended up being a sign that he was slowly losing control of the evil Void personality within himself (aided by the fact that he was already becoming increasingly unstable before Norman Osborn had Bullseye kill the Sentry’s wife in an attempt to control the Sentry better). However, at the time of the attack, the Sentry still believed he was on the “good” side while working with Norman Osborn and Osborn’s Avengers in their siege of Asgard. The Sentry bought into Osborn’s false narrative of the threat Asgard posed to the world. So when Sentry’s teammate Ares finally realized that Osborn was the villain of the piece (and had turned Ares against his friends in Asgard), and the god tried to kill Osborn, Sentry believed he was doing the “right” thing when he quite literally tore Ares apart.
3. Thor and Sentry
“Siege” #4 by Brian Michael Bendis, Olivier Coipel and Mark Morales
By the end of the “Siege” storyline, Sentry had pretty much completely given way to his evil split personality, the Void. He had laid waste to Asgard and even brutally murdered Thor’s brother, Loki, in front of everyone. Ultimately, after the heroes basically dropped an entire helicarrier on him, he reverted to his heroic Sentry personality of Bob Reynolds. He then begged Thor and Iron Man for them to kill him. They refused, as they wanted him to stand trial for what he did as the Void. Bob then pointed out that he wasn’t really making a request here, so he turned into the Void to force their hands and convince them to kill him. Thor ultimately obliged.
2. Rogue and Scarlet Witch
“Uncanny Avengers” #14 by Rick Remender, Steve McNiven and John Dell
The Avengers Unity Squad was in battle with the Apocalypse Twins (the children of Archangel back when Archangel served as Apocalypse during Remender’s earlier “Uncanny X-Force” series) when Scarlet Witch, Wonder Man and Wolverine were captured by the Twins and their Four Horsemen of Death (Sentry, Banshee, Grim Reaper and Wolverine’s son, Daken). They surprisingly made an offer to the Scarlet Witch. The Red Skull used his telepathic ability to learn all the crimes ever committed by mutants and he was going to use that information to turn the world against homo superior. In addition, the Skull vowed to take control of the Scarlet Witch and use her powers for his nefarious purposes (he already nearly succeeded in doing so during the first “Uncanny Avengers” story arc). The Twins offered Scarlet Witch two choices: Cast a spell (powered by Wonder Man) to transport all of Earth’s mutants to a space ark the Twins would use to colonize Jupiter with mutants, or stand idly by as the Red Skull turned the rest of humanity against mutantdom. and the Twins would take the mutants and colonize Jupiter with all mutants. Scarlet Witch ultimately agreed to go along with their proposal while secretly planning to deliver the mutants there, but not as passengers on a space ark — as an army to take the Twins down. Rogue, however, only heard that Scarlet Witch was going to do a spell for the Twins, and since she still bore a grudge against Scarlet Witch for “No More Mutants” during “House of M,” Rogue felt she had to do whatever it took to stop Scarlet Witch, even if it meant killing her with the claws she absorbed from Wolverine.
1. Squadron Supreme and Namor
“Squadron Supreme” #1 by James Robinson, Leonard Kirk and Paul Neary
Namor made some decisions in the interest of the “greater good” himself when he aligned himself with Thanos, Terrax, Maximus and other villains. Their aim was to destroy other Earths in order to protect the main Marvel Earth from multi-dimensional “incursions.” He allied himself with the villains after the superhero Illuminati he was a member of grew too weary of all the killing involved in fighting off incursions (only one Earth could remain standing following an incursion, so the Cabal would destroy the other Earth). The current Squadron Supreme is comprised of heroes who were survivors from different worlds destroyed during incursions, and in the first issue of their current ongoing series, the Squadron got their revenge on Namor for his part in destroying at least one of the worlds of their teammate, Spectrum. They attacked Atlantis and Hyperion raised the entire city. Hyperion then decapitated Namor.
Looking at this list, it’s interesting to see where Hawkeye’s killing of Bruce Banner ranks in terms of justifiablilty compared to these other examples. Can you think of any other good examples of superheroes killing other superheroes for the greater good?
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