WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for Deadpool 2 and Avengers: Infinity War, in theaters now.
Fans know death has very little meaning in superhero comics. No matter which character dies, no matter how definitive that ending may be, and how cathartic or earned that demise is, it will likely be undone, eventually. There's an unspoken rule that any character can (and almost certainly will) come back to life, except for Peter Parker's Uncle Ben. That's why readers are rarely taken by surprise when someone like Steve Rogers or Wolverine meets his end: Sooner or later, he'll return. However, the situation is much different for movie audiences. For them, death has meaning, because cinema is more finite than comics; movies have definite endings, whereas comics continue to be published, month in and month out.
But now, moviegoers and comics readers are finally on the same page, thanks to the arrival of Avengers: Infinity War and Deadpool 2. The two films essentially form a one-two punch sequence that solidify that death in comic book movies may not be the end for beloved characters.
Deadpool 2, for all its talk about being a comedy, starts off on a somber note. Wade Wilson attempts to take his own life, but thanks to his regenerative abilities, he's able to survive. Things only get darker from there, when it's revealed Wade's actions are fueled by the murder of his girlfriend Vanessa. While the story's levity picks up afterward, doing right by Vanessa is what propels Wade on this journey, and spurs him to save Russell (aka Firefist). In his attempt to rescue the young mutant from Cable, Wade assembles X-Force, which counts a few well-known characters, including Shatterstar, and the already fan-favorite Peter.
X-Force's first mission is disastrous, and all of the team dies comically, except for Wade and Domino. Later, even Deadpool makes the ultimate sacrifice, taking a bullet that was meant for Russell while his powers were deactivated. But that's undone when Cable travels back in time and saves Wade. It doesn't stop there, however: in the mid-credits scene, Wade uses Cable's time-travel device to go back earlier in the film and save Vanessa, as well as Peter. While we're uncertain about the fate of X-Force, the main deaths of the film, Deadpool and Vanessa (and yes, Peter), are "fixed." Therefore the movie ends on a much brighter note, and it finally lives up to the Deadpool promise.
A similar situation unfolds in Marvel's blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War, which begins brutally, with the shocking death of Loki -- and the body count only keeps rising. Gamora is later killed by Thanos, and eventually many fan-favorite Avengers are turned into ash when Thanos wipes out half of life in the universe. Beloved heroes like Spider-Man, Black Panther, Doctor Strange, Star-Lord, Drax, Mantis and Groot die at the end of the film, to the shock of the audiences. But comic book fans know there is no way all those deaths will stick.
By some manner or another, whether due to the Infinity Stones, time travel or the arrival of Captain Marvel, most of the characters will be back. After all, sequels to Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Guardians of the Galaxy are in development. Star-Lord, Spider-Man and Black Panther will return, there's no doubt about that.
For Infinity War, the situation is a little different because we will have to wait until next year's Avengers 4 for the resolution of the cliffhanger. However, most moviegoers have undoubtedly figured out there's no way Marvel has killed off so many popular heroes, some of whom have only just begun their own franchises.
When most of the Avengers died, viewers might have been shocked initially, but then the logistics start to kick in. And now, as much of the same audience goes to see Deadpool 2, it might begin to figure out what these comic book movies are trying to do. Yes, they feature death in a meaningful way, but it's something that can swiftly be undone. That doesn't mean there won't be any deaths in the Marvel movies from now on, but it does mean that the audience will start to put two and two together. When you introduce plot devices like time travel, all bets are off. Anything can happen -- and most certainly anything can unhappen.
In theaters now, director David Leitch’s Deadpool 2 stars Ryan Reynolds as the titular Deadpool, Morena Baccarin as Vanessa, T.J. Miller as Weasel, Leslie Uggams as Blind Al, Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, Stefan Kapičić as Colossus, Zazie Beetz as Domino, Julian Dennison as Russell and Josh Brolin as Cable.