WARNING: This post is full of spoilers for multiple comics titles released in 2016 - you have been warned!
2016 sure has been one hell of a year. But while most of the world is preoccupied with mourning the losses of the world’s icons (including "the Duke" David Bowie, the artist sometimes known as Prince and, of course, our beloved Princess Leia, Carrie Fisher), CBR has turned its attention to all the fictional heroes we’ve lost over the last 12 months.
After all, while the superhero deaths might not be forever, but that doesn’t mean their suffering should be forgotten – particularly as it’s usually the result of, y’know, trying to save the entire world from a terrible fate. So read on to find out which of our heroes didn’t make it to 2017.
15 ELIXIR (JAN 20, 2016)
Cullen Bunn and Greg Land’s “Uncanny X-Men” relaunch sees Magneto leading a team of morally-grey mutants against a series of powerful enemies in order to save the mutant race from total annihilation… so it’s arguably another “X-Force” with an easier to sell title. That doesn’t mean that the series is without its merits, but it’s fair to say it has received a mixed reception amongst fans. Many were outraged (the CBR team included) when fan-favorite Josh Foley (Elixir) was hunted down and killed in “Uncanny X-Men” #2 by the Dark Riders, a team of bounty hunters trying to take out any mutant healers that could enable individuals with the X-Gene to survive M-Pox.
Things got even dicier in “Uncanny X-Men Annual” #1, when it was revealed that Elixir had managed to resurrect himself, claw his way out of his grave, and promptly get on down to Genosha in order to torture his assassin, Gauntle. And by "torture," we mean repeatedly kill and resurrect him so he can be killed again. So he’s alive again, but a lot more murder-prone. With his powers now so great that he can potentially rid the world of M-Pox, Elixir is ideally placed to play a prominent role in the upcoming "ResurrXion" event coming up next spring, but only time will tell whether he’ll use his powers for evil again.
14 SUPERMAN (MAY 25, 2016)
It’s no secret that the New 52 Superman’s days were numbered: his death was foreshadowed in “The Final Days of Superman” for months prior to the actual event and DC was planning to use Superman’s death as a catalyst to fuel new storylines in the new “Rebirth” series from the start. Still, we here at CBR couldn’t help but hope that his death wouldn’t be permanent.
That hope was crushed in Peter J. Tomasi’s “Superman” #52, when readers saw Superman save the world for the very last time before succumbing to kryptonite poisoning and dying surrounded by his friends and fellow heroes – including the Superman of the pre-New 52 universe, who was removed from the timeline when it was re-written and now the star of the title in “Rebirth.” (Confused yet? You’re not alone!)
Although Pre-52 Superman does everything he can to resurrect his younger, beardless counterpart from the New 52 Earth in “Superman: Rebirth” #1, based on the reasoning that he was successfully brought back from the dead in his own universe after being killed by Doomsday (talk about history repeating!), SuperBeard is thwarted by New 52 Superman’s lack of a Regeneration Matrix… so Superman stays dead. Lucky there’s another readymade Superdude just floating around, huh?
13 PANDORA (MAY 25, 2016)
Writer Geoff Johns got the “DC Universe: Rebirth” off to a flying start, but it was so cram-packed with goodies that some significant information may have fallen by the wayside – case and point being the death of Pandora at the hands of an unknown assailant (most likely to be the Watchmen’s own Dr. Manhattan in his new, more antagonistic role).
Fervent fans of the New 52 will already be familiar with Pandora’s character, given that she was an integral part of "Trinity War" and headlined her own comic for a while, but newer readers are given very little information about the red-robed woman fleeing an enemy she believes is the “lonely, cruel monster” who has messed with the timestream and heroes of the New 52. Pandora doesn’t get time to point out, for instance, that it was she and Barry Allen who forged the DC, Vertigo and Wildstorm universes into one during “Flashpoint,” thus setting the events of the “Trinity War” into motion. Dr. Manhattan doesn’t even allow her to finish her pronouncement that good will prevail over evil before vaporizing her in a burst of blue light!
It’s pretty tragic that the Mother of the New 52 is erased from her new world before she can see it come to fruition, but there’s plenty more to look forward to in the “Rebirth” series, ensuring Pandora has a significant and ongoing legacy.
12 WAR MACHINE (JUN 1, 2016)
In the very first issue of Brian Michael Bendis and David Marquez’s “Civil War II,” James Rhodes (War Machine) learns that fighting crimes that haven’t happened yet isn’t all it’s cracked up to be when he gets taken down by Thanos. Rhodes’ death is significant for several reasons, not least the fact it triggers a new civil war between Marvel’s greatest heroes set to be even more catastrophic than the last.
As Danvers’ boyfriend and Stark’s best friend, his death comes as a serious blow to both sides. His death also enraged many fans who felt killing off a prominent black hero to provoke an emotional response follows a disturbing trend wherein BME characters are regularly used and abused, although Bendis has since justified the decision by saying it had nothing to do with race. It’s arguable that War Machine could potentially have had a significant impact upon the storyline without being laid out on a slab, but as characters in the Marvel Universe rarely stay dead, we may see Rhodes make a comeback in the future.
11 VIN VISION (JUL 13, 2016)
It’s fair to say that Marvel’s “The Vision” series has been one of this year’s biggest highlights: creators Tom King, Gabriel Hernandez-Walta and Jordie Bellaire have succeeded in transforming Vision’s little synthesized family into something strangely human we can all identify with. Of course, that means occasionally kicking readers right in the feels, because tragedy unites us like nothing else can.
One of the most shocking twists to date occurred in issue #9 when the Avenger Victor Mancha inadvertently caused fatal damage to Vision’s synthezoid son, Vin. After agreeing to spy on Vision on behalf of the Avengers to prevent him going rogue – a future fans have been aware of for some time now – Victor is overheard by Vin conversing with the Avengers and, in a moment of panic that his cover has been blown (fuelled by Mancha’s addiction to Vibranium), he lashes out, leaving Vin as close to dead as a robot child can be. Mancha’s regret is clearly evident as he watches Vin’s parents grieve, but his actions set into motion the very set of events the Avengers sent him to divert – the descent of Vision into full-on rampage mode. And who can blame him?
10 HULK (JUL 13, 2016)
War Machine isn’t the only hero to fall in Bendis and Marquez’s “Civil War II.” In issue #3, the ideological conflict between those for and against using “predictive justice” to protect the world comes to the fore again when Ulysseys has a vision of Hulk killing multiple Marvel heroes after losing control. In what many fans consider to be the most outrageous moment in the series to date, Clint Barton (Hawkeye) decides to put Banner down with a well-targeted anti-Hulk arrow before a consensus can be reached about what should be done about the vision.
Barton’s snap decision is all the more troubling when considering the fact Banner hasn’t transformed into the Hulk for months and is apparently managing to keep the green-skinned monster at bay using experimental Gamma radiation (which doesn’t sound risky at all!). However, it’s also true that Banner was getting pretty damn angry about the accusations being made against his future self, and Barton and Banner made a prior agreement that he should be neutralized the moment it looks like he’s about to transform. The jury’s still out on whether Hawkeye was right to shoot, but one thing’s for certain: the body count is set to keep rising!
9 SUPERWOMAN (AUG 10, 2016)
DC Comics teased the whole Lois-Lane-taking-up-the-Superwoman-mantle-again again in the New 52 pretty hard this year, so when Phil Jimenez’s “Superwoman” #1 hit the shelves this summer, fans were pretty gobsmacked to discover that her superpowers lasted just one issue, with Lois being brutally killed off in the closing panels. We know what you’re thinking: surely they wouldn’t go to the trouble of hyping up Lane’s powers, just to kill her off in the same exact way that the New 52 Superman went down, right? Right?
Wrong. Turns out that’s exactly what DC did. While there’s still another older, parallel-dimension Lois Lane knocking around, it looks like it will be Lana Lang flying solo as the new, electric-powered Superwoman. However, hope isn’t lost. In the closing moments of Lois’ life, she sees Clark and claims to finally “understand” something about Superman’s death (which makes sense, really, seing as she meets the same mysterious and rather ashy fate). Does someone finally know what the hell really happened to New 52 Superman? We need answers, pronto!
8 PROWLER (AUG 31, 2016)
In the lead-up to the “Dead No More” story arc in “The Amazing Spider-Man,” creators Dan Slott and R.B. Silva racked up a fair number of deaths. In addition to killing off the villain Electro and transferring his powers to his psychopathic ex, Francine (with a kiss, no less), “The Amazing Spider-Man” #17 also engineered the demise of Peter Parker’s ally and Spidey double, Hobie Brown (Prowler).
After being sent to investigate a medical company, New U, Brown learns that the miracle cures being promised are really a front for Jackal’s unsanctioned cloning experiments. However, he blows his cover trying to save Dillon from being fried like an egg and ends up fleeing the scene with a newly-charged Francine in tow. Despite Jackal’s orders not to kill him, Francine lights Prowler up like a Christmas tree.
But fear not! By the end of the issue, Prowler has been successfully cloned. The only catch? He’s been brainwashed into supporting Jackal’s cause and is wholly reliant on his once-enemy for the medication that is keeping him alive. Sucks to be you, Hobie – although it ties into Sean Ryan and Jamal Campbell’s “Prowler” nicely. Who said you can only live once?
7 VICTOR MANCHA (SEP 21, 2016)
As noted earlier in this list, “The Vision” series has already seen its fair share of tragedies, but in Issue #11, King, Hernandez-Walta and Bellaire offered up a plot twist that was truly heart-wrenching… in more ways than one. After the death of his synthezoid son Vin, Vision decides prison is too good for Victor Mancha and visits the Avengers in order to take vengeance on his would-be brother in his cell. However, there’s just one small problem: Iron Man, Thor and a litany of other Marvel heroes are standing in his way.
It’s one against many as Vision fights for revenge, but he’s not the only one in the family out for blood. As the Vision prepares to take Mancha’s life, Vision’s synthezoid wife Virginia arrives on the scene and promptly rips out Mancha’s heart before he can act. Victor’s last words – “I shall not be Victorious” – are particularly poignant for fans of “The Runaways,” as the character was originally created by Ultron to be a great superhero named Victorious, who was supposed to join the Avengers as a sleeper agent before being activated and killing the entire team. In his death, he finds peace in knowing that future will never come true.
6 MULTIPLE MAN (OCT 5, 2016)
The Marvel Universe might have jumped ahead eight months following the conclusion of “Secret Wars,” but there are still some very important questions that fans need answers to. Did the toxic Terrigen Mist wipe out all the mutants? Were there any survivors? And where does that leave the conflict between the Mutants and the Inhumans – resolved through defeat, or in all-out war?
Jeff Lemire and Charles Soule jumped right into answering these questions from the very first issue of “Death of X,” revealing the tragic news that Jamie Madrox, the fan favorite otherwise known as Multiple Man, was the first victim of the Terrigen Mist… and the second victim… and the third (you get the idea). In fact, dozens and dozens of Madrox’s dupes suffer the agonizing death of M-Pox, and as Madrox feels each of these deaths as though it’s happening to him directly, Multiple Man dies countless times before actually perishing. By the time Cyclops and Emma Frost respond to his S.O.S. and arrive at the facility, the scene is scattered with identical corpses and it’s too late to save Madrox from a terrible fate. Even by superhero standards, CBR reckons this is a pretty grim way to go.
5 APOLLO (OCT 5, 2016)
After a hiatus that has felt like a lifetime to hardcore fans, the most kickass gay couple in comics made an explosive return in Steve Orlando and Fernando Blanco’s “Midnighter & Apollo” #1 this autumn, and it was all we had been dreaming of and more. The two heroes have always made an excellent team, with Apollo counterbalancing Midnighter’s murderous impulses with his morality and belief in preserving life, but it seems that now that they’re back, they’re better than ever!
The sheer perfection of this partnership only made Apollo’s death and subsequent descent into Hell all the harder to take. In the climactic scenes of issue #1, Midnighter is sealed in a lab with his villainous creator, Henry Bendix, by his own teleportation system and is forced to watch as Apollo gets taken down by the demonic Mawzir, unable to do anything to save him. Apollo then awakes in Hell to be told by a shadowy figure that it’s “time to put out that light.” (Cue a collective “Nooooooooooo!” from everyone in the CBR office!)
With a version of Apollo (albeit a dead one) still existing in some form in Hell, it’s altogether possible he could be resurrected, but for now it looks like this power couple is going to be spending even more time apart.
4 MR. IMMORTAL (OCT 12, 2016)
You’d be forgiven for not shedding too many tears for Mr. Immortal of the Great Lakes Avengers, given that he’s already died too many times to count and always manages to return from the dead, often within a few minutes of perishing. There was that time he got shot by a common criminal, and that other time by he got taken down by Malestrom, and then that time he shot himself in a suicide pact with Malestrom… and all this is excluding the many ways he’s been killed by Deadpool!
Despite all that, it’s worth sparing a thought for his fate in Zac Gorman and Will Robson’s “Great Lakes Avengers,” when he stayed dead long enough to be buried (as we found out in issue #1) and is left to claw his way out of his own grave in issue #3. He may not stay dead for long, but that doesn’t mean dying is any more pleasant of an experience!
3 CYCLOPS (NOV 23, 2016)
Although Marvel has kept its fans in the dark regarding the fate of Scott Summers by only dropping various hints about his fate ever since “Uncanny X-Men” #600 was released back in November 2015, Lemire and Soule’s “Death of X” series finally gives up the goods and explains what really happened to Cyclops… with a humungous twist.
Although readers are initially led to think that Cyclops is killed by Black Bolt after starting a war between the Mutants and Inhumans (which we already know will lead Storm, Colossus and Magik to side with the opposing team) it is revealed in “Death of X” #4 that Summers actually died on Muir Island shortly after exposure to the Terrigen Mist and Cyclops has actually just been a projection conjured by Emma Frost ever since this point.
And why? As his dying wish, Summers begged of Frost, “We… can't… can't end like this. Don't let it end Emma!"… and what other justification do you need for impersonating your boyfriend, starting a super-war and recruiting baddies like Magneto to the cause? Okay, in fairness, the Terrigen Mist has the power to destroy all of mutant-kind, but still.
2 THE LIVING TRIBUNAL (DEC 21, 2016)
Okay, so the Living Tribunal isn’t technically a hero per se, but he is the emissary of God (or at least Marvel’s version of God) and is responsible for preserving the ultimate balance of the cosmos, so he’s pretty damn important. Also, his death in issue #2 of Al Ewing and Travel Foreman’s “Ultimates 2” is pretty shocking and therefore warrants a mention on this list.
If you’re not currently following the “Ultimates 2” story arc, it goes a little something like this: thanks to the cosmic makeover Galactus received from the Ultimates last year, the once Devourer of Worlds is all into life and stuff now. Sounds peachy, right? Well, it turns out not everyone is happy about the change. Specifically, the Lords of Order and Chaos feel that Galactus’ change of heart has thrown the whole cosmic hierarchy out of whack and decide to put him before the Living Tribunal to face judgment.
However, when the Living Tribunal decides that it’s perfectly okay for Galactus to become the Lightbringer as it’s time for a “new balance for a new cosmos,” the Lords of Order and Chaos murder him for it. Turns out they’re only in favour of law and order when it suits their own agenda. Who’d've thunk?
1 HE-MAN (DEC 21, 2016)
The “He-Man/Thundercats” series is arguably the crossover every ‘80s fanboy (and girl!) has been dreaming of for decades, a burden which Lloyd Goldfine, Rob David and Freddie E. Williams have not taken lightly. However, its fast-paced action and gripping storyline have come at a heavy price. Only three issues in, the team has already found itself one super-powered prince down as He-Man is stabbed through the heart by the evil mummified monster, Mumm-Ra the Ever-Living. (Remember him? He’s a badass now.)
Although the creators tease readers with the possibility of a reprieve – He-Man’s holding the Power Sword when he’s stabbed and manages to utter the magic words, “by the power of Grayskull… I have the power!” – it’s soon revealed, after Skeletor hijacked his mystical powers in order to wield the Power Sword himself, that the Prince did indeed die of his wounds (so He-Man transformed back into a dead Prince Adam). Lion-O and the Thundercats gang up and manage to take down Skeletor, but the damage had already been done, and Eternia is left to mourn the death of its prince. But who knows? Maybe they’ll find a way to revive him. This is the comic book world, after all…
Can you think of any other fallen heroes of 2016 who are missing from this list? Let us know in the comments below!