American Gods, the adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s popular novel, recently premiered on Starz to much fanfare. The story concerns the secret lives of ancient gods living in modern America and how they deal with largely being forgotten by their believers. It’s already so popular that the show was given an early renewal for a second season. During the course of the story, we see how gods live their lives after centuries of being stranded in America, watching on as they scheme and plot to get back the power they once possessed. We also see them die over the course of the novel, capitalizing in on the fact that people still love to see those with power fall.
In the world of comics, we often see the same thing, just in a slightly different way. New Gods, Greek demigods, cosmic beings, and abstract entities stand on high in various places of power. Like in American Gods, we see them plot and scheme, live and die all the same. It would appear that when it comes to works of fiction, not even gods are safe from the death that humans must inevitably face. They may get better, sure, but death comes for us all — even gods. Here are the most brutal murders of comic book gods.
15 THOR DIES FIGHTING THE SERPENT
It’s fitting that we talk about Norse gods with American Gods now as popular as ever. Over the years, Thor — both the mythical son of Odin and superhero member of the Avengers — has died on many occasions. Being a god, he’s usually gotten over death relatively quickly, but it’s never an event without consequence.
In Fear Itself, the 2011 Marvel comics crossover event, the Norse god of fear known as the Serpent is released upon the world. For those not hip to the mythology, Thor is prophesied to die in battle against the true Serpent of Ragnarok. To aid him against his fate, Thor is given powerful armor and the Odinsword for his final battle against the Serpent, who is actually Odin’s brother, Cul. Just as Thor strikes his uncle down, both gods die at the same time, and the nine realms are saved from utter destruction. Of course, Odinson would make his return before too long.
14 BIG BARDA IS ASSASSINATED BY INFINITY MAN
In the run-up to Final Crisis, all the New Gods start dying around the DC Universe. A mysterious killer is hunting down and killing all the members of the Fourth World and leaving them with a bloody hole in their chest. The 2007 mini-series Death of the New Gods by Jim Starlin depicts most of their deaths and was intended to serve as some weird kind of Viking funeral for Jack Kirby's concepts.
Superman and a few other characters are seen investigating the deaths of several residents of New Genesis and Apokolips. The first issue ends with Mister Miracle discovering the assassinated corpse of his wife Big Barda. The tragedy leads Scott Free on a mission to find her killer, but the answer ends up being the most unexpected of all.
13 ORION IS SHOT BY DARKSEID
Death of the New Gods ultimately proves to be only tangentially connected to Countdown to Final Crisis and Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis. Though Orion dies in Death of the New Gods, he is shown dying in a dumpster in the first issue of Morrison’s series. He expires telling Dan Turpin that Darkseid had survived his previous death and humanity needs to fight against the coming enemy.
It is later discovered that Orion’s killer is actually Darkseid himself, who fired a radion bullet backwards through time in order to murder his own son. Ironically, the bullet he used to kill Orion is recovered by Batman at the scene of the crime and is later used to destroy Darkseid's body once again.
12 HERCULES IS BLOWN UP BY ATHENA
In Incredible Hercules #141, Hercules battles the villain Typhon in order to prevent Hera’s plans to remake the universe. The fight between the two is brutal and Hercules is nearly killed before he finally manages to defeat Typhon. Too weak to disable the computer that will destroy the world, Hercules is relieved to see Athena show up.
However, she has no intention of saving him, believing he is no longer strong enough to be the Prince of Power. Instead, she sees Amadeus Cho (Herc’s sidekick at the time) as his heir, so she uses Zeus’ lightning bolt to blow up the computer, save the world, and kill Hercules all in one shot. This might be the closest any god will come to going out in a blaze of glory.
11 SUPERMAN SLAYS KALIBAK
During the events of the Injustice: Gods Among Us comic book series, by Tom Taylor and Bruno Redondo, Superman takes over the Earth after the death of Lois Lane. The pain of his loss causes him to go on a murderous rampage, forsaking his former sense of morality in favor of attaining true peace and safety. Kalibak of the New Gods takes a contingent of Parademons and invades Earth, but things go poorly for him.
In issue #24, an enraged Superman kills off the invading army before turning his sights on Kalibak. Seeing what he got himself into, he attempts to surrender to the Man of Steel, but it’s no use. Superman demands that the fight continue before ultimately smashing the New God’s head through the ground.
10 GRANDMASTER IS PULVERIZED BY RED HULK
The Grandmaster met a brutal end at the hands of the Red Hulk in 2009’s Hulk #12 by Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness. Hulk enters into a competition between the Grandmaster and the Collector. Together with Doctor Strange, Namor, and the Silver Surfer, they take on Red Hulk, Baron Mordo, Tiger Shark, and Terrax in a battle to the death.
During the contest, Red Hulk slays green Hulk and proceeds to highjack the game by killing everyone else on the playing field. However, when the game ends, he is enraged to find that all his opponents have been resurrected and sent back to their respective lives. Red Hulk lashed out at the Grandmaster and brutally murders him with a few quick, decisive blows. The Collector takes his brother and leaves.
9 CHAOS AND ORDER KILL THE LIVING TRIBUNAL
This isn’t the only time the Living Tribunal has met his end, but it was certainly the most brutal way to go. After Galactus — traditionally an agent of destruction — was converted into the Lifebringer, Lord Chaos and Master Order take the issue to the Living Tribunal, hoping that he will rule to restore Galactus to his previous role and restore balance of the universe.
In Ultimates 2 #2 by Al Ewing and Travel Foreman, the Living Tribunal decides that Galactus may continue on his path because the reconstituted multiverse has not established a balance yet. Not liking that answer, Chaos and Order destroy the judge before Order goes on to absorb the In-Betweener and his brother in order to create the entity known as Logos, a new judge for a new multiverse.
8 WAR IS STABBED BY WONDER WOMAN
In Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s run on Wonder Woman, Zeus’ first born son escapes from incarceration at the center of the earth to get revenge on all the gods of Olympus. Key to his plan is the death of baby Zeke, the latest son of Zeus, born from a mortal woman who is under Wonder Woman’s protection.
During an attack on Diana and her allies, the First Born is able to defeat the New God Orion and Wonder Woman before setting his sights on Zeke. When Ares intervenes, the First Born realizes that he can gain power by killing the God of War and taking his place. In order to avoid that from happening, Wonder Woman strikes first, taking War’s life and his role for herself.
7 ISIS IS POISONED BY PESTILENCE
In the year-long series 52, Black Adam builds a family of his own. Adrianna Tomaz and her brother Amon are given powers of their own to form the Black Marvel Family. Adrianna gains the power of Isis and takes on a new role as a goddess of nature. Isis marries Black Adam and attempts to turn him into a heroic figure for their people to believe in.
Unfortunately, things ended in tragedy when the genetically engineered Four Horsemen of Apokolips are unleashed upon the world. Black Adam and Isis fought the monstrosities, but Adrianna is infected by Pestilence in 52 #44. Sick and dying, she begs Black Adam to avenge her. The only thing the grieving husband can do is fulfill her wish and go on a rampage that killed thousands.
6 LOKI IS MURDERED BY THE VOID
After everything he had done during Dark Reign, Loki witnesses the level of destruction that takes place when the Void is unleashed. He sees that his actions have put Asgard in more danger than ever before, and as Thor fights the Void, Loki looks to make things right by assisting in the battle.
In Siege #4, he uses the Norn Stones to revive the heroes who had already been defeated, giving them a second chance to vanquish the Void. Seeing what Loki has done to oppose him, the villain quickly turns his attention toward the Trickster God and attacks him. Knowing he is about to meet his end, Loki apologizes to Thor for everything before he is torn apart by the Void.
5 THANOS IS DISINTEGRATED BY DRAX
After dying at the hand of Drax the Destroyer (he literally ripped his heart out with his bare hands), Thanos is reborn as the Avatar of Death. His new status comes in handy in Dan Abnett and Andy Lannings’ The Thanos Imperative from 2010 when the main Marvel Universe has a conflict with the Cancerverse, a universe without death.
He dies again in another confrontation with Drax, who disintegrates the Titan when the Guardians of the Galaxy need him most. However, given his relationship with Death, he can no longer be killed and so recovers. Thanos uses this ability against Lord Mar-Vell of the Cancerverse, allowing the deathless Kree to sacrifice him in order to get Death’s attention and permanently kill everyone. When the universe begins to implode, Thanos nearly dies again when Star-Lord and Nova attempt to keep him in the collapsing universe.
4 NICK FURY CUTS DOWN THE WATCHER
While not a god per se, the Watcher has held an important role among the cosmos to the point that he has taken on an almost godlike status among the heroes of the Marvel Universe. Uatu is murdered in 2014’s Original Sin by Jason Aaron and Mike Deodato when he is found on the moon in the ruins of his home with his eyes gouged out.
It is later discovered that several villains raided Uatu’s home and took one of his eyes. Nick Fury showed up to demand answers, but the Watcher held to his oath about not getting involved in Earthly affairs. Seemingly tired of always watching and never doing anything about it, Uatu tries to attack Fury, who defends himself and downs the Watcher.
3 GALACTUS IS DEVOURED BY ZOMBIES
Not even one of the most powerful cosmic beings in creation is safe from a zombie invasion. In Robert Kirkman and Sean Phillips’ Marvel Zombies from 2006, everyone on Earth eventually turns into flesh-eating zombies. The Silver Surfer becomes the last morsel on the menu, imbuing many of the undead heroes with the Power Cosmic.
Galactus subsequently comes to consume the planet but is instead attacked by zombified versions of the Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. He proves to be too powerful for them, but his attackers use a device to amplify their powers and overwhelm the Devourer of Worlds. Giant-Man, the Hulk, Iron Man, Luke Cage, Spider-Man, and Wolverine eat his flesh and become even more powerful, allowing them to leave Earth in search of more food elsewhere.
2 DARKSEID IS GUTTED BY THE BLACK RACER
Darkseid has died more than once, but the most brutal death of all has to be in Justice League #44 during “The Darkseid War.” The storyline brings Darkseid and the Anti-Monitor into conflict with each other, with the Justice League and Crime Syndicate caught in the middle. The battle only intensifies when Darkseid’s daughter Grail kicks off her own agenda.
Just when Darkseid gains the upper-hand by summoning the Black Racer to attack, the Anti-Monitor counters by melding the God of Death with the Flash. He uses his connection to the Anti-Life Equation to control the new Flash-Black Racer hybrid and sends him to gut Darkseid. The fall of the Dark Lord has a shattering effect on the gods of the universe, causing several heroes to take on new, divine roles for a time.
1 ARES IS TORN APART BY SENTRY
Sentry and Ares were teammates on the Dark Avengers during the Dark Reign storyline, but that all came to an end during Siege. As the Avengers worked to defeat Norman Osborn and his team of villains, the God of War realized he had been on the wrong side of the battle all this time. Trying to make amends for his mistakes, Ares goes after Osborn in his Iron Patriot suit, but the Sentry gets in the way.
The two face off as the Sentry continues to lose himself to the Void. After a brief skirmish, Robert Reynolds becomes more Void than Sentry and goes in for the kill against his former friend. In a violent and grotesque display, Sentry rips Ares in half as guts fly across the battlefield. That’s pretty brutal!
Do you know a more brutal killing of a god? Let us know in the comment section!