Following the conclusion last week of Justice League: Cry for Justice, the widely panned miniseries by James Robinson, Mauro Cascioli and others, Corrina Lawson of GeekDad wonders whether children should be killed off for dramatic effect in superhero comics.
“Death is certainly dramatic,” she writes. “And it’s been handled well in children’s literature many times. The Harry Potter series is full of the deaths of Harry’s loved ones, starting with his parents. But I think it all depends on tone. And I think Cry for Justice, like Infinite Crisis (2005-2006) and Identity Crisis (2004) before that, has completely the wrong tone. It’s not a mature tone that will help children and teens learn about how to deal with death and tragedy. It’s a juvenile tone that throws out serious issues for shock value and temporary angst.”
Lawson then returns briefly to Identity Crisis and the murder of a pregnant Sue Dibny and the revelation of her rape by Dr. Light before concluding: “To me, there’s something inherently wrong with the tone of a mainstream supposedly all-ages universe if they’re basing the next few years of stories on a rape.”
Certainly it’s worth questioning whether it’s cheap, distasteful or just plain lazy for a writer to use the murder of a child (or any character, for that matter) to shock readers or to quickly and conveniently justify a protagonist’s behavior. Likewise, it’s fair to wonder why a creator thought it was necessary to retroactively introduce a sexual assault into continuity as a way to … I don’t know … explain inconsistencies in a B-level villain’s characterization over the decades?
However, Lawson starts from a flawed premise: The universe of Identity Crisis, Infinite Crisis, Cry for Justice and dozens of other titles isn’t a “supposedly all-ages universe.” It hasn’t been in a long time, for good or bad. And while the approaching Brightest Day just may turn the page on some of the gloom and gore, I just can’t imagine many writers of superhero comics will suddenly tackle bloodshed with “a mature tone that will help children and teens learn about how to deal with death and tragedy.”
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