The word CRISIS has always held a special meaning within the DC Universe and among its fans. Following the introduction of the Multiverse in “Flash of Two Worlds” from 1963’s The Flash #123, the term was used to denote the annual crossover between the Justice League of Earth-One and the Justice Society of Earth-Two. It wasn’t until 1985 and Crisis on Infinite Earths that it turned into the earth-shattering event we all know. The original crisis was also notable for George Perez’s ability to put every one of DC Comics’ characters into the series.
This book was so successful that DC actually expanded the concept into a Crisis Trilogy, which claimed a rather lengthy body count in the end. Infinite Crisis was a direct follow-up in 2005, and Grant Morrison’s Final Crisis put a new spin on the concept in 2008. These titles made history because they put heroes in real danger, killing off many of them over the course of the stories. Now, with the publication of Dark Days: The Forge, rumor of a new crisis has been going around. What does it all mean? For now, let’s revisit the Crisis Trilogy and remember the 15 most brutal deaths that happened in these books.
15 ANTI-MONITOR (CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS)
The antagonist of Crisis on Infinite Earths comes to a fiery and dramatic end in issue #12 of the series. The combined powers of the assembled heroes manage to damage his exoskeleton and Dr. Light lands the final blow that leaves his body inert and dead-looking. The heroes think it’s all over, but they don’t realize things are just getting started. He comes back to life and looks ready for a fight.
The villain absorbs all the energy of the Anti-Matter Universe, turning himself into a giant energy being. Darkseid channels his power through Alexander Luthor and blasts the Anti-Monitor into the heart of a star. Still not dead, he erupts from the star as a vengeful burst of energy set on the destruction of the heroes before Superman finally manages to punch him into oblivion.
14 SUPERBOY (INFINITE CRISIS)
Superboy is unsure if he has what it takes to wear the S-shield through much of Infinite Crisis. It’s only when faced with the crazed Superboy-Prime that he finally proves what kind of hero he can be. Superboy, Wonder Girl, and Nightwing discover Alexander Luthor’s base of operations, but when they attempt to dismantle his tower, Superboy-Prime attacks once again.
The two Superboys do battle in the skies before Kon-El is able to send the both of them through the tower, utterly destroying the structure and preventing their world from being replaced by a new Earth. Unfortunately, Superboy is mortally wounded in the explosion and is found by Wonder Girl with debris lodged in his body. The two share a final moment before Superboy dies.
13 BLOOD PACK (INFINITE CRISIS)
When Alexander Luthor’s plan to recreate the Multiverse and find the perfect Earth fails, he enacts his contingency plan to conquer New Earth. The Secret Society of Supervillains he helped put together instigates a massive prison outbreak that culminates in an epic battle in the streets of Metropolis. The heroes meet them in an attempt to hold the line.
Over the course of the battle, combatants are killed on both sides of the fight. When Superboy-Prime gets involved, he begins killing indiscriminately, caring little about what side anyone is on. Perhaps the most brutal death comes as the Blood Pack are fighting Solomon Grundy. Prime flies by and uses his heat vision to incinerate everyone involved, including Ballistic, Geist, Mongrel, Nightblade and Razorsharp. At least it was quick.
12 PSIMON (CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS)
During the original Crisis, Lex Luthor and Brainiac gather the world’s supervillains together and order them to attack the heroes on multiple Earths. Little did these villains know that Luthor and Brainiac planned on betraying them. The evil duo would use their assembled army to take over each world and then dispose of those who remained.
One member of the plot, Psimon, decides to stay back and spy on them, though. He overhears their plans for multi-universal conquest and decides to betray them in order to install himself as the new leader of the plot. Psimon uses his powers to destroy Brainiac, but before he can eliminate Luthor, Brainiac uploads his consciousness into another body and manages to kill their attacker by blowing up his exposed brain.
11 MANDRAKK (FINAL CRISIS)
Though Darkseid is the primary antagonist of Final Crisis, it is Mandrakk the Dark Monitor who was secretly hiding in the shadows, pulling the strings from afar. Corrupted by the power he had leeched off the Multiverse, Mandrakk has become a vampiric monster and is the ultimate threat to all creation. The remaining heroes must regroup after their fight against the New Gods in order to take on the ultimate villain.
In the final pages of the series, Mandrakk is attacked by the Supermen of the Multiverse, who use their collective heat vision to light him on fire. The combined might of the Green Lantern Corps also show up to deliver the final blow, ending the vampiric villain with an energy construct stake to the heart.
10 ALEXANDER LUTHOR (INFINITE CRISIS)
In the lead-up to Infinite Crisis, it is established that Alexander Luthor has been impersonating his New Earth-counterpart in his plot to bring back the multiverse. Following his defeat at the end of the crisis, Alexander Luthor tries to hide among humanity in order to escape persecution from the superhero community.
Living on the streets of Gotham City, he is tracked down by the real Lex Luthor, who wants revenge for sullying his name. The Joker is there with him to get Alexander back for leaving him out of his plans. The Joker sprays the younger luthor with acid, melts half his face with an electric buzzer, and then shoots him in the head. It’s all part of Luthor’s plan to get his life back after spending so much time as a wanted criminal.
9 KALIBAK (FINAL CRISIS)
When the Fourth World gave way to the Fifth World, the New Gods of Apokolips were reborn on Earth inside the bodies of human beings. At least most of them were. Kalibak, the son of Darkseid, possessed the form of a genetically engineered tiger-man similar to those seen in the world of the Great Disaster.
During one of the biggest battles of Final Crisis, Kalibak takes on another tiger-man known as Tawky Tawny. At the same time, Black Adam and Captain Marvel fight the evil Mary Marvel. Kalibak sees his opponent’s dapper appearance and believes Tawky Tawny to be easy prey. When Captain Marvel calls down the lightning to return Mary Marvel to normal, Kalibak becomes distracted, only for Tawny to sneak in a fatal blow, disemboweling the New God and leaving him to die.
8 MARTIAN MANHUNTER (FINAL CRISIS)
The villain known as Libra returns to Earth as a scion of Darkseid and gathers the world’s greatest villains together in order to reform the Secret Society of Supervillains. Wary of his ability to make good on his promises, the villains ask him to prove his power before they agree to follow him. He obliges the assembled crowd by giving the Human Flame his greatest desire -- the death of the Martian Manhunter.
Brought to Earth from his imprisonment on the prison planet from Salvation Run, J’onn J’onzz is weak and caught off guard when Libra captures him, drugs him, lights him on fire, and executes him in public. Libra quickly slays the last Martian by stabbing him through the chest, J'onn's dying words a curse on all those assembled. They then nail him to a replica of Mars at a planetarium as one final insult.
7 THE FLASH (CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS)
For most of the original Crisis, the Flash is held captive by the Anti-Monitor. When he finally breaks free, Barry Allen is determined to stop the multiversal threat, no matter what it takes. He finds the anti-matter energy cannon that the Anti-Monitor has built to destroy the multiverse and vows to take it apart.
The Flash takes off, running as fast as he can around the machine, running faster than he has ever run before. He runs so fast that he manages to implode the weapon and destroy it, at the same time sending images of himself into the past, which were seen earlier in the book. In the end, Barry Allen runs so fast that he disintegrates into bones and dust. He dies a hero and leaves the Flash mantle for Wally West to take over.
6 EARTH-2 SUPERMAN (INFINITE CRISIS)
At the climax of Infinite Crisis, Superboy-Prime goes on a killing spree through Metropolis before taking on the Green Lantern Corps. He manages to kill 32 Lanterns before Superman and his Earth-2 counterpart manage to take him away and fly him through Krypton's red sun. All three Supermen fall to the sentient planet Mogo, where a fist fight breaks out.
The exposure to red sun radiation causes their powers to rapidly fail them, and in that time Superboy-Prime manages to severely beat Kal-L. Prime is soon after subdued, but it’s too late for the elder Superman, who can no longer heal from the vicious attack against him. His cousin Power Girl comes to his side in his final moments, and the two say goodbye before he dies.
5 SUPERGIRL (CRISIS ON INFINITE EARTHS)
During the fight against the Anti-Monitor in Crisis on Infinite Earths #7, Superman is knocked unconscious and left defenseless. Supergirl comes to his rescue and takes on the Anti-Monitor by herself, hoping to destroy him once and for all. She manages to damage his containment armor, rendering him vulnerable to physical attacks.
Supergirl sends the two of them hurdling through the Anti-Monitor’s machines, preventing the destruction of the Multiverse. Unfortunately, she makes the mistake of turning in battle when she is distracted by Dr. Light and her cousin. The Anti-Monitor takes this moment to unleash his energy on Supergirl, blasting her into oblivion. The villain then makes his escape and Supergirl dies in Superman’s arms. It’s one of the saddest scenes in comic book history.
4 MARENE HERALD (FINAL CRISIS)
In Final Crisis #3, Wonder Woman searches through the ruins of Bludhaven in an attempt to discover the truth about the evil gods. She enters the quarantine accompanied by the Atomic Knights that guard what is left of the city. On their way to Command-D, they are intercepted by a now-evil Mary Marvel.
Mary, who is possessed by the New God Desaad, attacks Wonder Woman. In the fray, she tears through the body of Marene Herald at superspeed, leaving her body in pieces on the ground. It all happens so fast that her brother Douglas Herald has little time to warn her of the attack. Diana manages to subdue the attacker, but Doug’s desire for revenge causes the distraction Mary Marvel needs to infect Wonder Woman with the Morticoccus virus that will make her a slave to Darkseid.
3 ALL THE TEEN TITANS (INFINITE CRISIS)
In the opening salvo of Infinite Crisis, Superboy-Prime goes off to confront Superboy and the two begin a destructive battle through Smallville. As the fight intensifies, Kon-El calls for reinforcements and dozens of heroes enter the fray. Unfortunately, this only escalates the situation as the unstable Superboy lashes out against those around him.
The Teen Titans get the brunt of the devastation. A sneak attack by Pantha causes him to accidentally punch her head off. He then goes on to blast a hole through Baby Wildebeest with his heat vision. After freezing Red Star with his ice breath and ripping off Risk’s arm, he uses his heat vision again to blast Bushido in half. The Flashes then show up to carry Superboy-Prime into the Speed Force.
2 FREEDOM FIGHTERS (INFINITE CRISIS)
No team took a beating during these three crisis series quite like the Freedom Fighters did in Infinite Crisis. Led by Uncle Sam, the embodiment of the American spirit, the team was defeated in order to show just how bad things really were. The team was ambushed by a collection of villains and went down fighting.
Sinestro blasted Black Condor through the chest with his yellow ring. Damage’s face was destroyed by Zoom. Phantom Lady was mauled by Cheetah and then run through by Deathstroke in a rather vicious display. Angry after seeing his friends killed, the Human Bomb unleashes the full force of his power, killing Doctor Polaris. He is then violently beaten to death by Bizarro. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam is beaten and left for dead.
1 PSYCHO-PIRATE (INFINITE CRISIS)
During Infinite Crisis, Alexander Luthor uses the Psycho-Pirate to gather heroes who originated from different universes. The villain has the ability to control the emotions of others, which proves instrumental in Luthor’s plans. When he has gathered enough people, Psycho-Pirate uses his power on Black Adam to make him say SHAZAM and call down the lightning that will power the Multiverse Tower.
Superboy, Wonder Girl, and Nightwing raid the Tower in issue #6, freeing those who had been trapped. As retribution for what had happened to him, Black Adam finds the Psycho-Pirate and puts an end to all of his manipulations. He pushes the villain's mask clear through his head, killing him in one of the most gory ways imaginable. When asked if what he did was necessary, he only says “absolutely.”
Those are our picks for the 15 most brutal deaths from DC's crisis trilogy. Do you know of any more? Let us know in the comments.