Most DC fans acknowledge that there were a few bumps in the publisher’s New 52 relaunch. Several odd creative choices were made and key elements of continuity were taken out. While there was definitely some good in the mix, most readers found the New 52 to be very hit or miss.
In that regard, the New 52 ran for approximately 5 years before the DC Universe entered the Rebirth era. In that time, many shocking moments occurred that made readers experience all kinds of emotions. To look at some of the sadder moments, here is our list of the 10 most heartbreaking things to happen during DC’s New 52.
10 Batwoman’s Breakup
During the New 52, Kate Kane began a relationship with Officer Maggie Sawyer. Despite the issues between the two, they worked really well together as a couple and were one of the strongest representations of an LGBT couple in comics at the time. At one point, Kate even proposed to Maggie in her Batwoman uniform, making fans excited for another major wedding.
Unfortunately, Maggie would break off the proposal a few issues later. This action was met with a harsh reaction from fans, as many people were rooting for the couple to finally tie the knot. The sudden nature of the breakup, while it did make sense to a degree, was also a bit jarring. While worse things have happened in all of the New 52, Batwoman emotional turmoil from the breakup is still one of the harder moments to witness.
9 Batman/Superman Hospital Scene
In a latter arc of the Batman/Superman team-up series, a group of shrunken Kandorians begins to target anyone wearing the House of El shield. Since they are under a yellow sun as well, all Kandorians are essentially miniature Supermen, all of whom are flying around like nearly invisible bullets.
In one particularly sad moment, an ordinary man was dressed as Superman and performing for sick children in a hospital. After a Kandorian flies straight through his chest and begins to get blood everywhere, the man realizes what has happened to him. Rather than ask for help though, he calmly uses his last moments to reassure the kids that it is simply just ketchup. He manages to make it out of sight before collapsing. Just like Superman, this average man died setting the best example he could.
8 Supergirl Vs Her Father
As part of the New 52, the Cyborg Superman character was changed to Zor-El, Supergirl’s father. Upon learning what had happened following the destruction of Krypton, Kara and Zor-El ended up on opposite ends of what they considered to be good. Kara’s viewpoints fell much more in line with her cousin’s, while her father had changed to the point where he was barely even the same person.
Of course, this led to a violent confrontation, with both parties using their newfound abilities against the other. Though Kara should be happy to have her father return from the dead in a way, it was all the more heartbreaking to see the kind of being he had become.
7 Abby Arcane Becomes the Avatar of the Black
Following the Rotworld crossover between Animal Man and Swamp Thing, many changes were made to the Green, the Red, and the Rot. One of the latter's biggest changes included establishing Abby Arcane, a former lover of Alec Holland (Swamp Thing), as its main avatar.
Though Abby had easily become one of the Earth’s most powerful beings, it also meant that she and Alec could never be together. In the literal sense, the two could not physically be together without destroying one another.
6 Damian & the Pearls
As of the New 52, Damian Wayne had finally become Bruce Wayne’s Robin. The father/son dynamic proved to be a rather interesting challenge for the two characters. Damian's violent nature made Bruce question if he was capable of being Robin, or if Damian would eventually become more like his mother.
Therefore, it was all the more touching when Damian, in an attempt to show his father that he was trying his best, surprised him with one of his mother’s pearls from the night of the Wayne murder. This happy exchange between the two reflected a lot of character growth for both sides and was as much of a tear-jerker as any other moment.
5 Mera’s Betrayal
Geoff Johns relaunched the Aquaman title for the New 52 and breathed new life into the character. However, one major change was that Aquaman's relationship with Mera was only in its early stages. While the two were married for a long time in the original continuity, they were just getting to know each other here.
As one can imagine, it was rather shocking to learn that Mera was sent on a mission to kill Aquaman before he could ascend to the Atlantean Throne. Thankfully, Mera would actually see some potential in him and eventually fell in love with her target. While the two are definitely in a much better place now, seeing her betray Arthur in that manner was just as devastating for readers as it was for Aquaman.
4 “Death” of Nightwing
Even more shocking than Mera’s betrayal was Lex Luthor's “murdering” Nightwing. After the Crime Syndicate of Earth 3 managed to open a portal to the main DC Universe, a bomb was strapped to Dick Grayson that would only shut down if his heart stopped. When Lex Luthor and Batman arrived at the scene, Lex, without hesitation, killed Nightwing. Shortly after though, it is revealed that Lex drastically slowed Nightwing’s heart rate, tricking the bomb into thinking he was dead.
While this moment was a clever demonstration of Lex’s brilliance, the distraught Batman nearly murdered him right then and there. Likewise, the thought of losing Dick Grayson was an incredible shock to the audience and could have easily been far more heartbreaking than it turned out to be.
3 Death of Robin
Of course, Damian Wayne's death has to be on this list. After he and Bruce finally got to a good place in their relationship, Damian would disobey batman in one last valiant act against his mother. In doing so, Damian managed to save Batman and all of Gotham, but at the cost of his own life.
Though he wouldn’t remain dead for too long, the aftermath of seeing the Bat-family react to losing one of their own was just as heartbreaking as the death itself. Despite the fact that Damian could be just as much of a hindrance as a helper, this was still one of the sadder moments in the greater Batman history.
2 Death of Superman
In order to set up the massive Rebirth relaunch towards the end of the New 52, the younger Superman existing on the Earth ended up making the ultimate sacrifice, firmly establishing the pre-New 52 Superman as the main Superman once again. Normally this would have been a welcome change, as many weren’t a fan of the New 52's handling of the Man of Steel.
However, at the time of his death, this version of Clark Kent was finally starting to become the version of the character that everyone loved. Though he wasn’t quite there yet, Supes' sacrifice was further proof that he was on the right track, making it all the harder to watch him go.
1 Loss of Batman
Scott Snyder’s run on Batman is one of the character's most celebrated periods in history. Snyder introduced a lot of new and interesting aspects to Batman's mythos, challenging him in all sorts of ways. However, in the Batman: Endgame storyline, audiences had to witness the demise of both Batman and the Joker.
Throughout his run, Snyder had been drawing interesting parallels between the Dark Knight and his greatest adversary. Therefore, watching both of them die together, and in such a satisfying way, made the moment the most heartbreaking in all of the New 52.