Much like any form of literature, comic books are rife with death. It seems every year, superhero and their foes fall prey to any number of ill fates. These deaths are used for various dramatic effect. Sometimes they are part of a larger resurrection narrative (which is more often the case than not) or they occur to drive the motivations of surrounding characters to pick up the pieces left behind by their fallen brethren. The whole ordeal is cyclical. There is a balance among superheroes and villains and this has been the case in comic books for nearly a century.
But what happens when these deaths are caused by the heroes themselves? And what does it mean for these caped noble folks when they are the ones who distribute dire ends to other characters, particularly when those fated for the great beyond are member of their family? Naturally, the big answer is character development. When heroes take the lives of family members, be it accidental or intentional, it changes them. If pushes them beyond the limits of preemptive cardinal sin and dives into tragedy that is prevalent in mythology and literature. Superheroes stories are our new mythos, and they follow the same tragic family dynamics for yesteryear.
15 SUPERMAN TAKES LOIS LANE TO SPACE...WITHOUT A SPACE SUIT
It’s hard to believe that a video game spin-off comic has become one of the go-to titles from DC, but that is exactly what Injustice is. The world of this series is harsh and gives us stark versions of the characters we know and love. Whatever attribute a superhero has in the standard DC Universe is dialed up to 11, and the events, doubly so.
Early on, Superman is pushed to brink when The Joker gasses him with a fear toxin. While under its influence, he believes he is fighting Doomsday in order to save his wife, Lois and their unborn child. However, when he sees what’s really going on, it’s not Doomsday he has in his clutches as he speeds into the space; it’s Lois. Needless to say, this was the moment that broke Supes and spawned the twisted world of Injustice.
14 ORION AND DARKSEID'S HEART-TOUCHING MOMENT
The cast of characters who make up the pantheon of The New Gods (Jack Kirby’s massive contribution to the DC Comics Universe) definitely have some family issues, much like any pantheon of gods in any mythology. But very few internal family rivalries reached such a violent crescendo like the one between Orion and his father Darkseid.
Having trained to suppress his inherent dark rage, Orion spent most of his life as a mostly level-headed superhero and even acted as part of The Justice League. But in his final confrontation with his father, Orion lets go off all the control he had honed and gives his dad the ol’ what for. And by “what for,” we mean Orion tears Darkseid’s flaming heart from his chest. Dramatic? We’d say so.
13 MAGNETO GOES HEAVY METAL ON QUICKSILVER
House of M was a mini-series that changed the comic book landscape. After the events of “Avengers Disassembled,” Scarlet Witch created a fractured reality in which mutants were the dominant race and her father, Magneto was something of a king among mutantkind. Things were going swimmingly until Wolverine remembers the real world and went on a mission to set things right. Needless to say, there was some push back.
Once Magneto discovers what is truly happening and who is to blame, he proceeds to lash out violently, killing his eldest son, Quicksilver in the process. It’s a brutal death, one that came from a source of pure frustration and sadness if the whole act of pummeling your son with a chunk of steel is any indication. Now, to be fair, Quicksilver was to blame for the whole debacle, but man, Magneto has no chill.
12 SPIDER-MAN "POISONS" MARY JANE
The four-issue mini-series Spider-Man: Reign received mixed feelings from fans. Some considered taking The Dark Knight Returns route (fallen hero makes a comeback in their twilight years) with Peter Parker was well-intended, but poorly executed. The one point of contention this section of readers had was with how the story portrayed the death of Mary Jane.
Now, not to get to clinical here, but apparently the radioactive spider that bit Peter Parker gave him some other radioactive…um, attributes. And when Mary Jane and Peter were intimate, he passed those attributes to her, ultimately giving his poor beloved MJ cancer. While this didn’t sit well with some readers, it is undeniably tragic and broke Peter, with good reason. For years, Spider-Man had to grapple with the notion of with great power comes great responsibility, but never did he think that power would come with physiological corruption.
11 HAVOK LAYS WASTE TO CYCLOPS
“Age of Apocalypse” was not a good time for anyone. Not even Apocalypse…unless you consider getting ripped in half at a molecular level a good time. Mutants were pitted against each other in this dark alternate reality over the course of a half dozen rebranded titles and over 40 issues. Some bouts between heroes and villains (and heroes and heroes) didn’t really carry a lot of emotion weight despite being rendered beautifully and made to look really cool. But one confrontation worked not just on a visceral level, but on an emotional one too.
Havok (Alex Summers) has always had a bone to pick with his big brother Scott (Cyclops) in Earth-616, and that beef carried over in “Age of Apocalypse.” But instead of working things out, Havok literally blasts his own brother and Jean Grey to death. Luckily, his victory celebration is cut short by Wolverine. Karma, man.
10 HULK SMASH...HIS DAD
To say Bruce Banner has some serious anger issues is a gross understatement. Usually when one of us gets our hackles up, we express our frustration through various means. Usually a tirade of profanity or we smack our desk out the fist and wind up hurting ourselves because, he guess what, desks are usually tougher than skin and bone. But what we don’t do is freak out and turn into a giant, green rage monster. Nor do we accidently kill our father…
Brian Banner, Bruce’s old man, was by no means father of the year material. He murdered his wife and mentally tortured Bruce in his formative years. After 15 years of initialization, Brian reunites with his son, and things don’t go well. Bruce gets into a tussle and without ever turning green, he causing his father to crack his skull open on his dead mother’s tombstone. Karma?
9 DEADPOOL BURNS DOWN THE HOUSE
They say laughter is the best medicine. When tragedy befalls us, we often seek out comedy to help ease the pain or at the very least give us some sort of mild distraction for fleeting moments of levity. When it comes to the Merc with the Mouth, Wade Wilson, and the horrors he has endured, this old adage is properly the reason for the non-stop barrage of one-liners and non-sequiturs that he utters to other characters and the reader.
One of most tragic moments in Deadpool’s history is the fate of his parents. While under the influence of mind-altering drugs that were administered by the villainous Weapons Plus member, Bartol Utler, Wade Wilson set his parents’ home ablaze, killing them in the process. It’s a stark reality that goes to show that Deadpool has as many scars on the inside as he does on the outside.
8 WONDER WOMAN SKEWERS ARES
Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s 35-issue run on Wonder Woman (2011) was the crown jewel of DC’s New 52 relaunch. The series did a wonderful job of maintaining the fragile balancing act of reinventing the origin of Diana Prince while still keeping it firmly rooted in the 70 years of mythos that had preceded it. This take on Wonder Woman posits the idea that Diana is more than an Amazon; she’s a demigoddess and the offspring of the Greek god Zeus.
With this newly-discovered lineage, Diana’s family tree grew to include of most of the Greek Pantheon One of the more notable family members is her former teacher Ares the god of war, who was revealed to be her half-brother. In the final act of Azzarello and Chiang’s arc, Diana is forced to kill Ares in order to stop the reign of terror of their eldest sibling, The First One.
7 LEGION TURNS HIS FATHER'S DREAM INTO A NIGHTMARE
David Haller is one of the most bizarre mutants in the X-Men universe. It’s not so much his appearance (though the hair is a bit much). What makes Haller so unique is how his mutant powers manifest through the many personalities that call his fractured mind home. You see, Haller suffers dissociative identity disorder, and each identity possess a different power, making him one of the most powerful and unstable mutants in comics.
During the story arc “Legion Quest,” Haller travels back in time to help his father, Charles Xavier, bring his dream of peace between mutants and humans a reality. But sadly, Haller loses his memory in the process and winds up killing Xavier, thus setting in motion a series of events that would bring on the Age of Apocalypse. So…oops.
6 MARVEL BOY GOES TO JAIL
Vance Astrovik (better known as Marvel Boy) has quite the sordid family background in the Marvel Universe. The most horrifying moment occurred with his father, Arnold attacked Vance who had been injured in a previous battle, and physically assaulted his wife when she tried to save her son.
This tussle resulted in Marvel Boy killing his father unintentionally. Despite possibly being justified in his actions, Vance turns himself in to face trail. Vance does face incarceration for his crime, but comes out on the other end stronger and dons the name Justice. Maybe if Matt Murdock had taken the case instead of Foggy Nelson, Vance could have walked free instead of spending time in The Vault. But then where would the drama be in that?
5 SCARLET WITCH (SORT OF) RIPS THE VISION A NEW ONE
Brian Michael Bendis’ first giant gut punch delivered to the Marvel Comics canon was “Avengers Disassembled.” The arc saw Wanda Maximoff getting possessed by a cosmic entity and altering reality, causing her to go mad. During this spell she kills Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and the Vision, who was married to her…so, yeah…not exactly the perfect honeymoon.
Luckily this whole debacle was retconned, but the moment in which She-Hulk, who had been hexed by Wanda, tears Vision in half is one of the most horrific comic panels committed to the page. Needless to say, even after Vision returns, his relationship with Scarlet Witch is never the same. Which makes a lot of sense. You would be pretty peeved if your wife made a giant, green woman rip you asunder.
4 MIRACLEMAN SNAPS KID MIRACLEMAN'S NECK
Alan Moore’s 1982 run on Miracleman (nee Marvelman) was his first venture into superhero deconstruction fiction. One could even see the series as a dry run for Watchmen. His arc told the story of shlubby middle-aged man who discovers he was part of a government experiment that gave him super powers. But our hero was not alone. Miracleman man had a small “family” of fellow heroes.
One member of this family is Kid Miracleman, the younger “brother” to the protagonist who never lost him memory of being a superhero and only grew more powerful…and more deranged. Moore’s arc comes to a head with Kid Miracleman attacks London, killing scores of people. Miracleman is forced to face his brother and is forced to kill him to stop the carnage. Despite these two not being blood brothers, the emotional heft of the event felt like fratricide.
3 WOLVERINE DROWNS DAKEN IN A PUDDLE
Being one of Wolverine’s love interests is tough. The women he has romantic relationships with either wind up dead, spiteful, or just plain awkward when they’re in the same room as Logan. But what’s tougher is being on of his offspring. Enter: Daken, the mohawk-sporting, tattooed son of Wolverine with some questionable claw placement.
Daken and his father didn’t exactly see eye to eye, to say the least. In fact, their final confrontation in Uncanny X-Force issue 35 begins as an emotionally-charge fight between father and son, and ends with said father drowning said son in a shallow puddle. It’s a jaw-dropping death, one that is hard to believe came at the hands of Wolverine. Logan is known for his legendary brutality and take-no-prisoners attitude, but even for his, this was coldblooded.
2 JAINA SOLO PUTS DOWN HER BROTHER, JACEN
A long time ago, in the Dark Horse Comics galaxy, long before Disney bought Lucas Ltd. and The Force Awakens gave us Kylo Ren, there was Jacen Solo, the original homicidal offspring of Han Solo and Leia Organa. Jacen was a tragic character, but he was also a monster. Seriously, this guy makes Kylo Ren look like a golden retriever puppy by comparison.
But what makes his death so impactful, and arguably one of the most notable in what is now deemed as “Star Wars Legends” is that fact that readers watch Jacen grow up. We saw him as a little boy and grow into a powerful Jedi, and be corrupted by the Dark Side. What’s worse, is that Jacen met his end at the hands of his twin sister, Jaina. The legacy of Jacen Solo is fantastic, and one that long-time fans will always remember fondly, despite the darkness.
1 CYCLOPS BLASTS PROFESSOR X
Professor Charles Xavier has a knack for getting himself killed and finding his way back to the realm of the living, usually through a series extraneous metaphysical circumstances. In fact, there may not be an X-Man who has rapped at death’s door and then turn heeled to leave the party more times than ol’ Chuck (except maybe Jean Grey, but really who’s keeping count?).
Xavier’s most recent bout with getting sent to the great beyond came at the hands of his surrogate son, Scott Summers. While, yes, Cyclops isn’t technically a blood relative, he was Xavier’s first pupil who set the standard for what it meant to be an X-Man. During the climax of Avengers Vs. X-Men, a Phoenix Force-possessed Scott Summers blasted Charles in a huge dramatic confrontation. Now one could argue that it was The Phoenix what did Xavier in this time, but Cyclops was its tool.