No one is getting out of this alive. You are facing overwhelming odds. Hope is all you have left, but this is not the end. Nay, this is your last stand. You’ve still got one more fight scene left in you, and you’re going to make them pay for every second of it. Whether you’ve just listened to Aerosmith’s “I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing,” or you’re still jazzed up from watching “Logan,” these 15 final fights should keep you satisfied.
To clarify, these don’t literally have to be last stands — the events in question do not need to take place at the end of a series or a character’s life for that matter. Some of these characters actually make it out of these encounters. Also we aren’t going to count “X3: The Last Stand,” because we’re not basic.
15. EARTH 2 JUSTICE LEAGUE
In The New 52’s “Earth 2” #1 (2012) by James Robinson, Nicola Scott and Trevor Scott, Earth 2 has been taken over by endless hordes of Parademons. Led by Steppenwolf, these Parademons’ Boom Tube technology has allowed them to easily enslave the planet. Batman has one final plan: a computer virus that will destroy every Parademon beacon tower across Earth 2, and with it the energy supply and instructions of every Parademon. If Batman can get close enough to upload the virus, it would end the war. Superman and Wonder Woman try to buy Batman some time with Kryptonian tooth and Amazonian nail, killing as many Parademons as they can. The problem is that for every wave of Parademons the two heroes destroy, another squadron can just teleport in from Apokolips, making this an impossible fight.
Two members of the JLA aren’t enough, however, as Steppenwolf manages to get the drop on Wonder Woman. Parademons swarm Superman, self-detonating and turning the Man of Steel into ash. Batman successfully uploads the virus, only to reveal that the towers’ fail-safe mechanism is in reality a self-destruct mechanism — his plan a suicide run all along.
14. BIRDS OF PREY
The cover of “Birds of Prey” #14 (2000) may advertise the “Last Stand Against The Fury of LASHINA!” but that plot line isn’t important. The true last stand belongs to a ragtag group of marshals and a busload of D-list super villain convicts marooned on Apokolips. While Black Canary tries to track down a Mother Box to teleport out, the marshals and villains form a temporary alliance to hold off against a planet’s worth of Parademons. Lead Marshall Dina even acknowledges that this will be their Thermopylae, facing a “jillion to one” odds with reinforcements a dimension away.
It’s a shining moment of the most esoteric of DC’s villains and nameless marshals — shout out to all two of you Shrapnel fans out there — in an epic battle that will ultimately rank as a blip in the grand scheme of the DC universe. From this insignificance, however, comes one of the most beautifully badass speeches: “It’s a last stand. No quarter. We can’t be sure Canary will deliver the goods. We have to face the fact we’re not leaving here. They might overrun us. They might beat us. They might kill us. But they’ll never forget us.”
13. THE THANOS IMPERATIVE
A sort of sequel series of “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “The Thanos Imperative” (2010) focuses on Marvel’s cosmic heroes trying to close a rip in our universe known as the Fault. Through the Fault, there exists the Cancerverse, made up of nightmare Avengers and apparently everyone who died of cancer. Seriously, Captain Marvel, historically known for dying of cancer, is King Cancer in the Cancerverse. Bad taste aside, this last stand moment comes in the form of Nova (Richard Rider) and Star Lord deciding to stay behind for the final 60 seconds of the Cancerverse before it implodes, ensuring that Thanos doesn’t teleport out or pull some sort of cosmic nonsense.
The details of this suicide run was withheld until “Guardians of the Galaxy: Original Sin,” (2015) where that 60 seconds rule is changed, significantly undercutting the significance of Nova and Star Lord’s sacrifice. Regardless, it stands as a sort of infinite last stand, as 616 characters cannot die in the Cancerverse. This loophole results in a game of cracked Cosmic Cube keep-away between Thanos, Nova, Drax, Star Lord and The Revengers, with the 616 heroes dying and being reborn almost instantly to fight on.
12. CATACLYSM: THE ULTIMATES’ LAST STAND
After Wolverine got his adamantium all up in the fabric of space-time in “Age of Ultron,” the Marvel multiverse essentially begins to collapse in upon itself, with tears in reality opening up all across the multiverse. The 616 Universe gets Angela from the Image Universe, while the Ultimate Universe gets the purple planet eater, Galactus. It’s curtain call for the Ultimate Universe, so everybody gets a chance to go out as loud and noisy as possible. The clock is ticking as Galactus builds his world-eating machine, so the Ultimates are willing to sacrifice everything just to buy their universe more time: Cap headshots a quinjet right into the hungry Galactus’ mouth. Susan Storm gets to Force choke Reed Richards, while Kitty Pryde gets a suicide run as a proverbial giant space bullet, punching Galactus right in the face.
Destroying the super-serious (but with vampires?) modern/edgy Ultimate Universe with a classic Jack Kirby designed gigantic guy in a purple Kermit helmet is just the perfect ironic twist. Oh, Ultimate Universe, for all of your incestuous mutants and cannibal Blobs, you were undone by your lack of an Ultimate Nullifier, or some sort of 616 Nullifier.
11. THE DEATH OF WOLVERINE
While “Death of Wolverine” had a ton of great scenes, we’ve got to give the nod to Logan’s henchman war. When a bounty is placed on his head, a de-powered Logan speeds the plot along by literally leaving a map with directions and instructions to “COME AND GET ME YOU COWARDS.” We only get to see Nuke’s shot at taking down a Wolverine without a healing factor, but judging from the corpses of the henchmen representing a plethora of organizations sprinkling Logan’s combination home/kill-zone, we know a henchman massacre too brutal for comics took place here.
This was actually Logan’s attempt at reducing collateral damage. The bounty was to bring Logan in alive, with a twist. The more time goes on, the lower the bounty gets, so it’s a race to see who can run into a set of adamantium claws first. Honestly, we could go for a complete miniseries of just Logan fighting henchmen on this island forever.
10. HARD BOILED
Nixon is a tax collector, but that’s just what he thinks. Nixon is a robot assassin created by the Willeford Home Appliance corporation to take out corporate rivals. In the classic hero’s dilemma, Nixon can head back to HQ to re-enter his delusion of being a tax collector or insurance salesman, or he can make one last stand at taking down the Willeford corporation to free his robot brethren.
Honestly, “Hard Boiled” (1992) is probably the most underrated Frank Miller work. We don’t see Nixon’s final stand but just the aftermath: a “Where’s Waldo” war zone that tells so much more than words ever could. From revolvers jammed through henchmen biceps, the beautiful billowing smoke leaking out of a wrecked Willeford brand tank, to the daisy-chained cans of Cola-Cola hooked up to the already intricate Willeford Lazy Goy war behemoth, the intricate locales and details provided by Geof Darrow perfectly complement Nixon’s simplistic rhetoric. Ultimately, Nixon failed to realize that if the Willeford corporation can design a killer robot, they can surely design something stronger.
9. PUNISHER VS. BULLSEYE
In this epic climax to the “Bullseye” story arc from “PunisherMAX” by Jason Aaron and Steve Dillon, Bullseye gets into a glorious final fight with the Punisher. This Bullseye isn’t just a guy with perfect aim, he’s a method massacrer. Bullseye studies his prey with demented devotion, trying to become The Punisher in order to think like The Punisher. Bullseye begins wearing Frank’s old clothes and sleeping in his old mattress in a former Punisher safe house. Bullseye’s methods prove to be fruitful, however, discovering all of Punisher’s safe houses, and military arsenal, prompting Castle to siege Fisk Tower for a final showdown.
Technically this is Bullseye’s last stand, his magnum opus of murder, as he prays to God: “And I only ask one little favor… this awful bloodshed that’s about to happen here… This horrible reckoning of vengeance and the most depraved sort of violent shenanigans imaginable…Please just make it last.” Bullseye’s prayers are answered when his elevator fight with Frank leads them to a floor still under construction, with construction tools conveniently lying around and not a single piece of safety equipment in sight. Bullseye exclaims: “There is a God.”
8. BATMAN: KNIGHTFALL
After facing an onslaught of villains, from Amygdala to Zsasz, a beyond exhausted Batman returns to Wayne Manor to find Bane waiting for him. By organizing a jailbreak at Arkham, Bane has forced Batman into a war of attrition, wearing him down to a point where he couldn’t fight back even if he wanted to. From giving Bats a chance to giving Joker a beatdown for killing Jason Todd, to interrupting Batman’s rooftop Bat-naps, Bane’s plan is an elaborate rope-a-dope, running the Batman down for this one fight.
Let’s not be mistaken, this is a one-sided whooping. When Batman summons whatever strength he has left for a punch, an unflinching Bane responds: “You are already broken.” Bane even beats Batman with a piece of the Batcave before crushing him under the giant penny. When Batman’s internal monologue begins wanting for death, he can still muster up the energy to say: “G-Go… back to… Hell.” Not wanting to end Batman’s agony, nor silence his shame, Bane decides to break the bat. Turning this entry into a literal last stand, Bane breaks the Dark Knight’s back over his knee as if it were a dead twig.
7. WHATEVER HAPPENED TO THE MAN OF TOMORROW?
In this story within a story, “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?” (1986) by Alan Moore, Curt Swan, George Pérez and Kurt Schaffenberger, we witness the last stand of Superman. As Superman’s rogue gallery undergoes a murderous metamorphosis — the ’90s — Superman is pushed to the limit, sealing the Fortress of Solitude for siege against an onslaught of old-school opponents.
Forget Doomsday, this is the proper final fight of Superman, who sounds awfully human: “Perry, I’m scared. I think I’m going to die, and there’s so much in my life I have to get straight…” Alternatively, Jimmy Olsen and Lana Lang turn super, powering up to show that nobody loved Superman more. Krypto the super dog, however, puts this claim to the test. See, Brainiac-Luthor’s ace in the hole is the Kryptonite Man, whose powers, profession and lethality-level are, well… “Kryptonite Man.” Krypto knows that Kryptonite Man’s touch is deadly, but understands that going for the jugular is the only way to help Superman. Superman is also defeated, not by a boney juggernaut in green spanx, but by breaking his one oath to never kill. It’s like “Man of Steel,” but the exact opposite.
6. STAR WARS EMPIRE: TO THE LAST MAN
In “To The Last Man” by Welles Hartley and Davidé Fabbri, we get a space-homage to “Zulu.” On the planet Maridun, the Galactic Empire faces the native Amani, whose spears pierce through Stormtrooper armor like lightsabers through younglings. The Amani are no savages though, utilizing superior numbers and space-guerilla tactics to thin the Imperials. Humanizing the faceless soldiers of the Galactic Empire, Imperial Officer Sunbar is our protagonist, the only officer who knows what he’s doing. His superior officers, however, are useless, too busy seeking promotions to realize they’re not making it out alive.
Sunbar knows his fate, so he plans to make the Amani hurt. The Imperials dig three angled trenches, pointing towards a fortified AT-TE that serves as their final fallback position. Sunbar is “punished” by being ordered to command the first trench, embracing hope: “You’re right. Somebody has to command that position. It should be me.” As the cowardice of superior Imperial officers betrays the plan, however, we begin to understand the more questionable Imperial tactics in the Star Wars Universe. Finally, “To The Last Man” summarizes the beauty of last stands eloquently: “All duty is sacrifice… sometimes that sacrifice provides its own reward.”
5. INVINCIBLE VS. CONQUEST
With the Invincible War leaving the Image Universe severely lacking in heroes, but perfectly setting the stage of war, Invincible must prove his namesake as he faces Conquest. A Viltrumite war-fighter, Conquest is who the Empire sends to assimilate planets solo. Conquest could use Viltrumite equipment that would fix the scar running on his face, or regrow his eye or hand, but doesn’t. Scars are his war trophies. Conquest could crush Invincible at any time, but must thank him first: “It’s not very often that I get to cut loose like this. I mean really cut loose like I have here. Usually, there are so many mission parameters… But not here — not with this planet. For whatever reason, I don’t really care why, to be honest, I was told — take control, no matter what it takes… take control of the planet. So whatever you did to piss us off — thank you. This has been fun.”
Mark refuses to make this his last stand, even though Conquest is trouncing him. When Conquest snaps Mark’s right arm, Mark switches to south paw straights. When Conquest crushes Mark’s left fist, Mark still has plenty of skull cracking head-bashes to spare.
4. PUNISHER: BORN
“Punisher: Born” by Garth Ennis, Darick Robertson and Tom Palmer claims that The Punisher was not born when Frank Castle’s family was gunned down in Central Park, rather The Punisher was born in Vietnam, through an internal exchange made to ensure that Frank wouldn’t become another nameless corpse on some forgotten hill. We are privy to Frank holding out during the final days of the Vietnam war, trying as he might to hold the vastly overrun Firebase Valley Forge.
With a pop of a flare, we are witness to an endless wave of Vietcong, charging Valley Forge with ostensibly endless numbers. It’s a battle that Frank should not win, and he doesn’t. There’s a darkness stirring within Frank, a presence that can allow him to make it out of Vietnam alive, keeping his war going forever, as long as he agrees to it. From this punishing pact a persona is produced — The Punisher, bloodied and bruised, clutching a shattered M-16 that he used to beat two dozen men to death with while suffering from eight bullet wounds. This is the last stand of Frank Castle, but the first fight of the Punisher.
Frank Miller’s epic retelling of the battle of Thermopylae between King Leonidas with his 300 Spartans against a thousand nations of the Persian Empire is basically one big last stand. Leonidas knows he cannot kill every Persian; however, he can win via a war of attrition. Make the losses so great that Xerxes’ men will be so demoralized that they will have no choice but to abandon their campaign. For a story that’s about 300 dudes in capes and thongs, it’s kind of amazing.
Even if you’ve seen “300” like, 20 times (300 times? That’s 585 hours, don’t be hyperbolic), the graphic novel is worth checking out, if only for the best of Frank Miller’s artwork. Notable differences between the two mediums include comic Leonidas not offering the hunchback Ephialtes the chance to tend to the wounded. Instead, Leonidas just rejects him. In the film, this turns Ephialtes’ betrayal into vengeance, a deliberate choice, rather than an emotional reaction of being rejected. Instead of helping Sparta, Ephialtes helps himself by pledging loyalty to Xerxes. Oh also, instead of that one goatman, and the pierced nipple executioner, there’s like tons of free-hanging dong.
2. THE LAST STAND OF JOHNNY STORM
Taking place in “Fantastic Four” #587 (2011), the portal between the Negative Zone and Earth has been ruptured, with the control console wrecked and the Annihilation Wave — an endless horde of insect destruction — only four minutes away. In order to close the portal permanently, someone will have to stay behind. Ben Grimm volunteers, only for Johnny Storm to suddenly throw Ben back through the portal.
As a teary-eyed Thing looking on, Johnny declares that this is his where he will make his last stand. With the portal closing and the universe saved, Johnny finds the perfect final words for one final effort — one final flame on: “A billion to one. You think I’m afraid of that? You think I’m afraid of that?! FLAME ON!” It’s a simple line that not only epitomizes the Human Torch, but also inspires the reader to spark a flicker of bravery from within. If Johnny Storm can face literal annihilation without a trace of fear in his heart, you too can make it through one more ordeal.
1. HE STOOD ALONE AT GJALLERBRU
In Walter Simonson’s “The Mighty Thor” #362 (1985), Thor and company are trying to escape the Norse equivalent of Hell — appropriately named “Hel” — in order to return innocent souls that Hela (Asgard’s version of Hades) had stolen from the mortal realm. With endless waves of demons in hot pursuit, Thor decides to make his last stand at Gjallerbru, the bridge out of Hel, in order to ensure his friends’ survival. Skurge The Executioner, long-time Thor villain, however, knocks Thor out.
Skurge no longer wishes to be the fool. With a pair of enchanted M-16s and plenty of ammunition, one God fights the entirety of Hel. Through his final act, Skurge not only earns himself a place in Valhalla, but also produces some of the most beautiful words to ever appear in comics: “They sing no songs in Hel, nor do they celebrate heroes. For silent is that dismal realm and cheerless. But the story of The Gjallerbru and The God who defended it is whispered across The Nine Worlds. And when a new arrival asks about the one to whom even Hela bows her head… The answer is always the same… He stood alone at Gjallerbru… And that answer is enough.”
Did we leave out your favorite last stand? Think of a final fight worthy of Valhalla’s Greatest Hits? Let us know in the comments!
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