There have been many twists and turns throughout the annals of comic book history. With thousands of characters and even more storylines, you can bet there’ve been multiple instances that shocked readers to their core. From backstabbing, sometimes literal, to a fan-favorite character(s) getting killed off in horrible fashion, these moments leave a stunned audience. Occasionally Marvel and DC will tease the death of a big character to try and prepare their fanbase for someone’s eventual end. Yet once the journey for a specific hero or villain reaches its conclusion, all the emotional preparation in the world might as well been for naught.
Comic book readers are an ornery lot, ever resistant to the idea of change and even more resistant to their favorite superheroes dying. However, solace can be found in the notion that since this is comic books, those who die, will assuredly come back to life again. Except for when they don’t. It’s even worse when a major character dies without any rhyme or reason, only to disappear for potentially decades. Each death is shocking in its own right, as in that moment the future of comics suddenly becomes uncertain. Here at CBR we’re looking at 15 shocking deaths in superhero comics during the ‘00s!
In any Crisis, a major hero often dies. In leading up to Final Crisis, DC teased one of the Justice League members would die, but nobody knew who it would be; everyone placed their bets. In DC’s Final Crisis, the New God Orion has been killed and Darkseid is attacking Earth; he’s brought the Anti-Life Equation with him. From there, there’s a terrific series of convoluted events, but the event’s zenith comes when Wally West and Barry Allen, two Flashes, time travel from the future to the present. They guide the Black Racer towards Darkseid, while Batman confronts the New God.
Disregarding his vow not to use guns, Batman shoots Darkseid with the same bullet used to kill Orion, but not before Darkseid unleashes his Omega Beams. Readers thought Batman had a way out, but he didn’t and “dies” as he’s struck by the attack, leaving the audience shocked.
14 CAPTAIN AMERICA
Back in July 2006, Marvel launched Civil War. It was a big event that promised plenty of changes and it delivered. After the villain Nitro blows up a small town, the government demands superheroes register and give up their identities. Iron Man leads the charge, while Captain America leads the resistance, going against the government and the mandates he feels are unjust. After a series of battles and plans within plans, the two sides come head-to-head in a climactic battle. In a moment of clarity, Cap sees the damage to the city they’re creating and surrenders.
Flash forward later and Captain America is being held on trial. While he’s leaving the courthouse, surrounded by the media, Steve Rogers is shot and killed. Even though Marvel had teased the Death of Captain America, it hit harder than anyone expected, even making its way to news outlets throughout the world.
13 HAWKMAN AND HAWKGIRL
During DC’s Green Lantern-centric event "Blackest Night", the dead have risen courtesy of the Nekron, the evil embodiment of Death. Raising hell on earth, the demonic creature resurrects dead heroes of villain and sets them on the warpath to kill everyone.
One of the more startling deaths came at the beginning of the event, before everything’s hit the fan. Hawkman and Hawkgirl are having a lovely night in, when the reanimated corpse of the Elongated Man suddenly attacks them. The zombie hero is fast, brutal, and impossibly strong, but the shock comes when he kills both of the heroes. While Hawkman fans aren’t unfamiliar to the idea of the character dying, as it’s part of his reincarnation shtick, never before had we seen such a surprising and gory beatdown. It’s made all the worse when a dying Hawkamn loses all hope as he watches Hawkgirl die before his eyes.
12 BLUE BEETLE
Ted Kord, Blue Beetle, hasn’t necessarily been a B-list hero, but he’s never been in the proverbial spotlight nor considered one of the greats. In fact, despite his technological genius and proficiency at being a powerless superhero, he’s usually looked over by the heroes like Superman and even Batman. However, in Countdown to Infinite Crisis, it isn’t the Dark Knight, aka the World’s Greatest Detective, who uncovers something rotten, but Blue Beetle.
Max Lord wasn’t always a bad guy; in fact he helped the Justice League in the old days. However, Max changes once he becomes head of Checkmate, a covert government organization. Max and Ted clash once Blue Beetle discovers Max has secretly been developing hero-killing cyborgs called OMACS. Max captures Ted and invites the hero to join him. Blue Beetle refuses and Max Lord shoots him in the head.
In Marvel’s "Avengers: Disassembled" event, Earth’s Mightiest Heroes experience severe and soul-crushing losses within the span of a single battle. While readers knew to expect the storyline, there was no way to foresee the brutal deaths that would come out of the story.
The Scarlet Witch’s hex power is one of potentially immeasurable strength. One of the strongest Avengers, her ability to manipulate reality and alter probability also makes her one of the most dangerous. It doesn’t help matters that her psyche is oftentimes fractured and broken. Unfortunately for the Avengers, the Scarlet Witch went crazy during "Avengers: Disassembled" (and not for the first time) and ends up killing some of her teammates. The Vision is among the first to fall. After Wanda drives She-Hulk mad, Jennifer Walters Hulks out to unprecedented levels and rips Vision in half.
10 MAX LORD
Perhaps one of the most infamous killings performed by a superhero was when Wonder Woman killed the mind-controlling madman Max Lord. After Max Lord mind-controlled Superman in Wonder Woman #219, making him nearly kill Wonder Woman, the Amazon Princess is not amused. After momentarily distracting Superman, she lassos Max Lord up in her Lasso of Truth. Wonder Woman asks how she can stop him, and Lord coolly replies that she has to kill him. She does just that by snapping his neck.
It was a momentous occasion, and not in a good way. Superheroes aren’t supposed to kill bad guys. By killing Max Lord, Wonder Woman crossed a line, ensuring neither her friends and colleagues, nor the people she’d sworn to protect, would trust her. There’d been whispers leading up to the issue, but no one could imagine Wonder Woman would commit such an act.
During the Spider-Man story arc "The Other: Evolve Or Die", Spider-Man goes head-to-head with the magical totemic-hunter Morlun. Once before, Spider-Man beat him, at nearly the cost of his own life, but Morlun has returned, stronger than ever. Stronger than anyone Spider-Man’s ever faced, Spidey does his best to avoid the fight until he realizes he has to take on Morlun. Spider-Man receives his worst beating ever. Despite hitting Morlun with everything he has, Morlun gets the upper hand, ripping out an eye, eating it, and pummeling Spidey nearly to death; it left readers in shock.
Spider-Man is rushed to the hospital where Mary Jane meets him, but Morlun arrives too. He nearly kills MJ, but driven by primordial power, Spider-Man saves his wife and kills Morlun with the last of his strength, before he too dies. It was a sudden death nobody saw coming and hadn’t been hyped.
8 THE FLASH
Following Infinite Crisis, Bart Allen, the grandson of Barry Allen, found himself older than his friends and can’t remember his time in the Speed Force. Though he wants a normal life, neither Barry or Wally are around, so Bart takes up the mantle of the Flash.
Yet the young hero meets his match in battling all the Rogues. During the battle, the Rogues use a machine that drains the Speed Force from his body. The removal of the Speed Force damages the machine, putting it on the verge of exploding and taking out the city. Bart struggles to give his friend Valerie Pere time to shut it down. He succeeds, but the Rogues unite and kill Bart Allen. Bart’s death was pretty shocking; readers thought he’d prevail and power through. That’s what superheroes do. They didn’t expect Barry’s grandson to die.
While "Avengers: Disassembled" was going on, the Vision wasn’t the only hero to meet a sudden and abrupt end. With the Scarlet Witch’s powers having gone completely out of control, it was anyone’s guess about who would be the next to fall. While the Avengers are gathered, Wanda suddenly materializes a Kree warship, having it appear over New York and the Avengers.
Up until now, several heroes have already been killed by the Scarlet Witch, including the Vision and Ant-Man. In the midst of the battle, Hawkeye is shot and his quiver of arrows is set on fire. Realizing his explosive arrows are going to blow up faster than he can remove them, Hawkeye opts to commandeer a Kree jetpack and fly into the spaceship overhead, sacrificing himself for the team.
We’re not talking about Clark Kent, but rather Superman’s clone, Kon-El, or Connor Kent. A valued member of the ’00 iteration of the Teen Titans, Superboy typically served as the muscle of the team. Yet it was his friendship with Tim Drake/Robin and his romantic relationship with Cassie Sandsmark, that defined his time with the young superhero team.
During the massive event "Infinite Crisis", the villain Superboy-Prime is on a rampage, tearing through the DC Universe, fighting and killing anyone who gets in his way. In an effort to create a new multiverse, Superboy-Prime and Alexander Luthor plans to destroy the Earth and reality with a massive high-tech tower. A bunch of heroes gather to fight the evil Superboy, but it’s Connor Kent who saves the day. He stops Superboy-Prime’s plan, but is killed in the process.
5 THE WONDER TWINS
You might remember the Wonder Twins, Wendy Harris and Marvin White, from the animated TV show Super Friends. In the show, their goofy sidekick of a dog appropriately named Wonder Dog also accompanied them. After the TV series ended, the characters didn’t really appear in comics. However, in 2006, they made their official comic book debut in the Teen Titans comics, following "Infinite Crisis".
During their time with the Teen Titans, Wendy and Marvin happen upon a stray dog. They take him home and name him Wonder Dog. Unfortunately, their newfound domestic bliss is short-lived, as the dog was actually a demonic hellhound in the service of the villain King Lycus. In a shocking moment of ruthlessness, Wonder Dog tears Marvin apart and puts Wendy in a coma. The entire scene was not only ghastly, but completely unexpected and shocking.
4 PROFESSOR X
If you’re a member of the X-Men, odds are you’ve died at least once. Time and again Professor X has died, though oftentimes his friends and colleagues only think he’s dead; sometimes he fakes his death. You know, because that’s what people do who don’t mind putting their loved ones through severe emotional trauma. During the ‘00s however, Professor X met his end yet again, this time at the hands of the time-travelling mutant known as Bishop during the "Messiah Complex" storyarc.
Following M Day, when the Scarlet Witch wiped out most of the mutant population, a new mutant is suddenly born and there’s hysteria among the remaining mutants, both good and bad. At the story’s climax, Cable takes the baby to the future, Bishop tries to shoot him, but misses and shoots Professor X. Professor X’s body mysteriously teleports away, but his team is left thinking he’s dead.
3 EVERYONE (ULTIMATUM)
Marvel’s Ultimate Comics line wasn’t failing when they decided to administer the event Ultimatum, but plenty of series were ending and editorial decreed the death of many heroes and villains. Ultimatum featured a wrathful Magneto who reverses the magnetic poles of the Earth and brings untold chaos and destruction to the world. Tidal waves hit New York, immediately killing a bunch of heroes like Daredevil and multiple members of the X-Men.
Over the course of the event, the body count rises, including Charles Xavier, the Wasp, the Blob, Valkyrie, Giant Man, Wolverine, Spider-Man (briefly), Doctor Strange, Cyclops, and even Magneto. The deaths themselves were downright brutal and shocking; they took readers completely off guard as comic-goers realized no character was safe. Unlike the mainstream Marvel Universe, when a character died in the Ultimate Universe, they stayed dead, making the deaths all the more impactful.
2 MARTIAN MANHUNTER
Final Crisis is a lengthy and intricate read that’s loved by some and despised by others. While "Final Crisis" is primarily known for that time Batman died after shooting the New God Darkseid with a special bullet, the Dark Knight wasn’t the only Justice Leaguer to be killed.
Throughout the series, and leading up to Final Crisis, there’s a new villain introduced called Libra. While he’s actually an agent of Darkseid, Libra spends his time recruiting Earth’s villains, promising to make the world a better place for evildoers everywhere. The villains have a hard time believing the heroes won’t beat them, so to prove that the times are a changing, Libra brings forth a captured Martian Manhunter and kills him by ramming a mystical spear through the hero’s chest. One issue in, and already a big time superhero was killed; it didn’t bode well for things to come.
In New Avengers #27 Elektra and the Hand have killed Maya Lopez, otherwise known as both Echo and Ronin, and friend to the New Avengers. Doing what they do best, the New Avengers break into the Hand’s lair to rescue their friend just as the Hand is about to possess Maya.
The fight comes to a dramatic finish when an enraged and resurrected Maya Lopez takes one of Elektra’s sai, and stabs the female ninja through the chest, killing her. But surprise, turns out it wasn’t Elektra, but a shape-shifting alien known as a Skrull. The incident kicked off the Secret Invasion event; heroes didn’t know if they could trust one another. Additionally, nobody knew how far back the Skrulls had been replacing heroes and villains. It was a shocking, both the faux-Elektra’s death, and the idea that the Skrulls had been secretly manipulating the Marvel Universe for years.
Which of these deaths was the most shocking to you? Let us know in the comments!