Comic books frequently follow trends and change with popularity. But one constant across the board from the majority of publishers, is death. It’s the one thing that consistently is a danger to heroes, villains and everybody in between. But for many superheroes, vigilantes and homicidal maniacs, death is just another obstacle. There’s been hundreds of rebirths, resurrections, clones and brain transferences that make a mockery of death. No one ever truly stays dead in comics, absolutely no one. Uncle Ben? Cloned. Bucky? Frozen. Give it a year or two, and that truly emotional death you just saw will be retconned with the character putting on a different costume or sporting a new look.
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Although death is not always a bad thing. In some cases, a character has to die before they can be reborn or resurrected as something a little more captivating for readers. In fact, the resurrected character can be a huge improvement on the original in more ways than one. A new look, a second origin story and even a brand new grudge can literally bring a boring character back from the brink. We’ve put together a list of 15 resurrected characters that needed to die to be interesting.
If we listed the amount of times that Deadpool has died and then resurrected soon after, we’d be here for quite some time. But isn’t that what keeps him interesting? We’re looking at the time Deadpool died in a vat of toxic waste, obviously. It really grabbed our interest when he wakes up in a vat in a mysterious laboratory, just to be told that he’s turning to snot. Quite literally.
It’s this type of humor that only Deadpool could get away with. But it allows the Merc with the Mouth to retell some of his most weird and wonderful stories to the scientist that's healing him. It’s an utterly bizarre story, but it strangely works in giving the reader a look at some solo adventures that use the Fantastic Four, Bullseye and Kingpin.
14 BARRY ALLEN
The silver age version of The Flash, Barry Allen, is one of the most popular characters in the DC Universe. But during “Crisis on Infinite Earths”, Barry had to run at extreme speeds to draw the power from the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter cannon, and it seemingly killed him. But 23 years later, the character reappeared during “Final Crisis”, as he chases the bullet meant for Orion.
As Geoff Johns himself put it; “When the greatest evil comes back to the DC Universe, the greatest hero needed to return.” The follow-up story that told his resurrection and saw Eobard Thawne (Reverse-Flash) wreck Barry’s life… again. But the story also saw Barry briefly become the Black Flash, the speedster’s version of the Grim Reaper. That’s one hell of a career change Barry.
“The Death of Superman” is probably the most iconic storyline involving a superhero dying. It showed fans that no one was immune from meeting their end, whilst also propelling the DC Universe in a new direction. It paved the way for new characters and stories, like the critically acclaimed “Reign of the Supermen” series. But when Superman was reborn from the Regeneration Matrix, his powers had dramatically increased.
He was now considerably stronger and could survive in space for a seemingly infinite length of time. But his return also reignited the romance between Supes and Lois. And even though he was stronger, he’d become vulnerable in the eyes of fans. It meant his adventures and fights actually had more weight to them knowing he could be killed if the threat was strong enough.
12 THE JOKER
The Clown Prince of Crime has nearly died and come back on countless occasions. His first appearance nearly killed him off before an editor realized his potential. But we’re looking at his death in The New 52. DC’s previous attempt at a continuity reboot was criticized by many. And when Batman and Joker were killed in a cave full of Dionysium, their subsequent resurrection gave DC the chance to completely revitalize The Joker.
So much so that he’s become an integral part of the upcoming "Dark Nights: Metal" storyline. Or at least one of The Jokers has. In “The Darkseid War” Batman discovered from the Moebius Chair that there are three versions of the villain. DC are using multiple versions of the character to keep him violently fresh.
Doctor Otto Octavius has been one of the web-head’s most enduring villains since the very beginning. So much so that he attempts to cheat death by transferring his consciousness into Peter’s body, and Peter’s consciousness into Otto’s dying one. Ouch. Doc Ock became imbued with Peter’s memories and decided to became a hero, and became the Superior Spider-Man.
Surprisingly, he did quite a good job of saving New York on a few occasions, even if his violent streak shone through considerably. But the whole arc itself was genuinely quite inventive, even though some fans had many complaints about the convoluted plot. But it managed to refresh an old villain and Peter Parker over the course of one long storyline, with Peter finally getting his own body back during “Goblin Nation”.
10 STEVE ROGERS
Captain America is one of the most iconic and popular characters ever created. But once he’s churned out some rousing speeches and motivational words during a fight, he begins to get a bit stale. So after the “Civil War” storyline from Mark Millar, he was murdered by a brainwashed Sharon Carter and Crossbones. Although in 2009 it was revealed that his consciousness was appearing throughout time, and he wasn’t actually dead.
From here, Steve Rogers was made head of S.H.I.E.L.D. and after being pardoned for his actions during “Civil War”, he managed to form his own team of Avengers. Going further than that, he forms a black ops Avengers team. Seriously though, does it get much cooler than a black ops superhero squad? Secret Avengers Vol.1 sees Cap lead the team go up against the ‘Shadow Council’. At one point, Steve even gets to use the Nova Force. Yeah. That happened.
9 JEAN GREY
The psychic member of the X-Men has died, resurrected and manifested herself countless times in recent years. But we’re going to look at her second proper death. After the assault on the Mansion by Xorn, she takes full control of the Phoenix Force but is killed during the fight. Years later in a dystopian future, she’s resurrected as the White Phoenix and undoes all the chaos to revert things back to normal.
She’s then absorbed into ‘The White Room’, a completely separate realm where the Phoenix Force resides. Her death and subsequent resurrection definitively prove that Jean Grey is one of the most powerful beings in the Marvel Universe thanks to the Phoenix Force. But, annoyingly she’s killed and resurrected as often as Iron Man builds a new suit.
8 HAL JORDAN
One of the most famous Green Lanterns has had his fair share of death and destruction over the years. After his phase as Parallax, he died and his soul became a host for the Spectre. But when it transpired that the Spectre was only attached to Hal to cleanse his heart of Parallax, Hal was resurrected in his human form. Since he’d managed to overcome fear, he was worthy enough to wield a Green Lantern ring once again.
But after he returns to life, he finds that he has to strive to earn back the trust and respect of every single hero and Lantern he’s ever known. He even has troubles with his conscience and being unsure of his own powers as a hero. Hal really has to claw back his superheroic status and it’s one of the most captivating story arcs to come from Geoff Johns.
Elektra is often associated with Daredevil, which can sometimes bring her character down to simply a romantic interest. But during a fight with Bullseye, she’s killed with her own sai as the assassin stabs her with it to prove he’s the best choice of employee for the Kingpin. That’s one hell of a job interview.
But once she’s revived by Stone, a member of The Chaste, she manages to fight off the dark side of her personality. But what’s more intriguing, is her relationship with Wolverine. His mental state had deteriorated, and was acting like a wild beast. She managed to coax him back to normality, including teaching him to speak once again. It’s an incredible moment of character development, as it proves she’s not just a wild killer.
6 NICK FURY
The Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. has faked his death countless times, and he seems to have a real trend of using Life Model Decoys as a way of convincing everyone he’s gone. But during "Original Sin", it turned out that Nick Fury had murdered Uatu the Watcher to use the power of his eyes, which held the memories of everything Uatu had seen.
In the final confrontation with a villain who was absorbing the energy of both eyes of Uatu, Fury was killed in the explosion as the villain combusted. The real interesting part comes with the rest of the Watchers’ choice of punishment for Fury. He’s forced to be a silent, chained watcher of Earth. And he’s completely unable to interfere with anything he sees, he can only watch the events unfold. Ouch.
5 JASON TODD
Of course Jason Todd was going to be on this list. We mentioned that Jason Todd was one of a few characters that was always going to stay dead. A reality-altering punch from Superboy-Prime brings Jason back to life, and Talia Al-Ghul restores his body in the Lazarus Pit. Whilst fans disliked Todd’s Robin, going so far as to cast telephone votes to kill him off, taking on the mantle of the Red Hood works a treat.
The vigilante pushes the boundaries of justice, using guns and bullets to dish out punishment. “Under the Hood” brought the character back in 2004, and saw Jason attempt to get Batman to finally kill The Joker, as he’d killed and hurt so many of the Dark Knight’s friends and family. Todd proved that a sidekick could go from boring teenager to hardened bad-ass in a truly impressive transformation.
Al Simmons was recruited into a black ops team for the C.I.A. following a successful career in the Marines. During his time with the team he carried out morally questionable operations that sometimes caused the deaths of innocent civilians. And when a high ranking officer decided the questions Simmons was asking were too risky, he ordered his death.
After being burnt alive, Simmons was sent to hell. His spirit negotiated with a demon named Malebolgia -- who turned him into a demonic agent named Spawn. In exchange, Simmons would get to see his wife again. When he returned to Earth, he was imbued with supernatural powers, but had a ghastly appearance. Plus, his wife had moved on in the five years he’d been gone. Maybe read the small print next time, Spawn.
3 PROFESSOR X
During “Messiah CompleX”, Professor X is accidentally murdered by Bishop as he tries to shoot Cable. The shot hits Charles in the head when Cable teleports away. But during the final panel, Xavier’s body has disappeared. In his time away from the team in X-Men: Legacy, the writers take the time to develop Charles’ character a little more, and it’s incredibly interesting.
They deal with his adventures across the psychic plane and battling Exodus. The psychic mutant forces Charles to relive his most painful memories, including how he’s treated his own son (Legion), but also the deaths of many X-Men and other disasters. It takes time for Charles to work through his problems, but he manages to defeat Exodus and goes to New Avalon instead. Crazy.
Yes, he’s the Batman. We all know he’s nearly unstoppable. But, isn’t it more interesting when your favorite character has to deal with his own morality? During Final Crisis, Darkseid had created a plot to upend reality completely. And throughout his final fight with the Justice League, Batman managed to shoot him with the radion bullet, wounding him.
But unfortunately for Bruce, Darkseid shot him with the omega beams from his eyes -- leaving behind a smoking corpse. Luckily for the Dark Knight, these beams didn’t actually kill him. Instead he was sent back in time. As he clawed his way through time, fans were treated to a time-traveling Bruce Wayne across time periods and settings involving pirates, witch hunts and even the Wild West.
James Buchanan Barnes. Bucky. He was Captain America’s sidekick for many years, and when he supposedly died in the same accident that hurled Steve Rogers into the icy waters -- fans assumed that would be the last they ever saw of Bucky. So much so, that a general rule in comics was that the only people who couldn’t be resurrected were Bucky, Uncle Ben and Jason Todd. Yeah, funny story.
The teen sidekick was recovered by a Russian submarine, brainwashed and fitted with a cybernetic arm. Talk about going through some changes as a teenager. In Ed Brubaker’s Captain America Vol.5 he revealed Bucky had become an assassin for the Soviets. It’s one of the most radical changes in comic book history. From family-friendly hero, to brainwashed assassin is one hell of a character arc.
Are there any other characters who got better with death? Let us know in the comments section!