Archive for Death in Comics

Robin’s Requiem


Batman and Robin #18

Robin is dead, and the first of the post-death Batman comics is an entirely wordless story focusing on Bruce Wayne and Alfred Pennyworth mourning Damian Wayne. There are no grand events depicted here — brief moments and small items that remind Batman of his son, ranging from an unfinished portrait to a sketchbook. Batman goes on patrol in Gotham, constantly expecting to see his son patrolling with him, constantly disappointed to see that he isn’t. Will the Dark Knight let rage consume him? Or will pure sorrow do the job?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s a beautiful story. Ain’t much more to say about it. It’s a beautiful story.


Batman #18

Scott Snyder gets his chance to do a little more mourning. Much of this story focuses on Harper Row, a Batman fangirl who’s been spotlighted a few times. She and her brother Cullen are still living on their own, their scumbag father locked up in Blackgate Prison. Harper keeps fairly close ties on Batman and has noticed that he’s been running himself harder than usual the last few nights. Concerned that he’s going to get worn out and killed by someone, she starts going out to try to help him. She saves him from a dog trainer who’s dosing his attack dogs with Venom, but she gets rewarded with a furious lecture and a broken nose from the Dark Knight. She ends up going to see Bruce Wayne, because she knows he helps fund some of Batman’s activities, to request his aid to help the Caped Crusader. What’s her plan? And will either Bruce Wayne or Batman help her?

Verdict: Thumbs up. Harper Row is a really interesting character, and I do enjoy any chance we get to spend more time with her. The smart money is that she’ll eventually become the new Robin, or at least another member of the Bat-family, so she’s worth watching out for. My lone criticism here is that, aside from the cover, there isn’t actually anything here about Robin. Yes, Batman is clearly mourning him, but well, it’s not much of a requiem when the kid isn’t even mentioned…

Today’s Cool Links:

  • Here’s a Kickstarter project for a printed collection of “Worsted for Wear,” a webcomic about fabric arts and crafts by former Lubbock artists Rachael and Josh Anderson. They’ve already hit their goal, but you can still pitch in to get some of the awesome yarn-related loot.
  • Speaking of Kickstarters, here’s a project from a friend of mine. It’s perfect for anyone who loves books. She needs less than $150 to get funded, so go pitch some money her way, okay?
  • Having some technology troubles? Let Star Trek be your helpline.
  • Some obsolete words are just too awesome to be believed.

Comments off

Didja Hear Robin’s Dead?


Batman Inc. #8

Yeah, it’s the worst-kept spoiler ever.

So it’s the big final battle against Leviathan, and the heroes are on the ropes. Batman’s trapped in a safe at the bottom of a swimming pool. Nightwing and Commissioner Gordon are being mobbed by brainwashed children. Red Robin is about to get ambushed. And Damian needs to save the day, against insurmountable odds. But when Damian’s clone — force-grown to adulthood and gifted with enhanced strength — shows up to the fight, things aren’t going to go well.

Verdict: For the most part, a thumbs up. Lots of action — pretty good action, too. Loved the interplay with Damian and Dick Grayson. They really were the best team, weren’t they?

However, I do thumbs it down for killing Damian, even if it’s just a temporary death. He’s an absolutely grand character, and completely unique within the Bat-family. In particular, I’m disappointed that Damian didn’t get more of a swan song — oh, sure, he was basically the star of all of the last few issues, but most of that was devoted to general ass-whuppery, and I think a character this great at least deserved a decent farewell scene with his dad. But I guess this way, we get an even more angsty unpleasant Batman back, which will be just like it was before. Is that what we really want?

Not even sure it matters. Like they’ll leave Damian dead for long? Heck, no. He’s too great a character, and DC can’t resist bringing characters back, except for the ones they hate, I guess (Wally, Cassandra, Stephanie, Donna, Lian, the Justice Society, etc.).


Uncanny Avengers #4

Pretty much a lot more hitting and punching. Thor has been mind-controlled by the Red Skull, who’s stolen Charles Xavier’s brain, and the Scarlet Witch has to take him out of the fight. The Skull works hard trying to mind-control Captain America, too. And everything eventually ends up okay, or basically kinda-sorta okay.

Verdict: Thumbs mostly down. The action was fine. The art was really nice. And it was all just basically people hitting each other a lot. And since reading this, I can’t stop seeing this as a bunch of honkeys fighting a bunch of Nazis. The next few issues of this better be really good, or I’ll have to dump it.

Today’s Cool Links:

Comments (2)

A History of Violence

I really enjoyed Maxo Romero’s post last week about the current grim-and-gritty trend in comics. It’s too good to excerpt, so go read it, then come back. I’ll wait for ya, don’t worry.

(clips toenails, prepares Bruschetta, builds a stereo cabinet)

Hey, you’re back!

Well, I agreed with a lot of what Maxo had to say. I haven’t seen “Kick-Ass,” and I probably never will. I’m an official member of the “Mark Millar Licks Goats” anti-fan club — and if he wrote the comic version of “Kick-Ass,” I wasn’t much interested in watching the movie, either. The fact that the movie is a flop is the type of thing that puts the sunshine in my orange juice.

I really am expecting Marvel’s “Heroic Age” and DC’s “Brightest Day,” despite their promises of happier, more fun comics, to very quickly devolve back into random bloodletting, cheap and easy character death/resurrection, and general sociopathy.

I hope that readers will react unhappily to this — getting sold a specific bill of goods and picking up something that’s completely different isn’t a good way to keep business healthy in most industries — but I don’t know that the readers will actually react that way. After all, the “Kick-Ass” comic sold very, very well, and it wasn’t just Millar and Joe Quesada buying extra copies.

The reason we get comics that read like they were written by sociopaths is pretty much because we’ve got sociopaths writing comics and sociopaths running the comics companies. If Mark Millar could convince Joe Quesada that he could sell a series that featured Spider-Man raping a baby, the series would get approval in a hot minute. If Judd Winick could convince Dan DiDio to let him take over “Tiny Titans” and turn it into the angst-and-murderfest that the mainstream “Teen Titans” comic is, there’s nothing that’d stop ’em from making it so.

But of course, as should be obvious to anyone familiar with this blog, I read a lot of horror comics, with a lot of violence, gore, death, and dismemberment. I was a fan of “Blackest Night,” which was chock full o’ death and blood and gore. I’m a fan of other comics — and fiction in general — that features violence, sex, cussin’, outright blasphemy, and worser stuff. Am I a hypocrite? Well, I reckon I am, but not about this.

Context really is the big thing here. And not just context-within-story (which is important, but can be bent like crazy in the service of smacktastic awesomeness), but context-within-character. Does Spider-Man work as a character who’d make a deal with the devil? Does Deadman work as a character who’s not dead? Does Prometheus work as a character who’d let an utter schmuck like Green Arrow get the drop on him?

And context-within-artform, too. I accept levels of violence within horror and alt-superhero comics that are entirely inappropriate within mainstream superhero comics. I can deal with mutilation and child death in comics like “Umbrella Academy” or “Crossed,” but not in anything with “Justice League” in the title. You see a title set in the mainstream Marvel or DC universes, and it should be expected that it comes with an unspoken promise that you won’t get something awash in pointless gore and contempt for the audience. Sure, there are exceptions — you can’t have “Blackest Night” without zombies. You can’t have the Punisher without mass murder. You can’t have “Nextwave” without snarking at comics readers. You can’t have Spider-Man without the death of Gwen Stacy.

I’m not saying DC and Marvel comics should all be kid-friendly. There’s a place for all-ages work and a place for more mature work and a place for work that’s drenched in violence, sex, and adult sensibilities — yes, even within mainstream superhero comics. But creators and publishers have to be mature enough to grasp what context they’re writing for — and far too many either can’t do that or are unwilling to make the effort. They’re not interested in writing stories — they’re interested in inflicting their psychoses on the readers.

I’ve got my problems with Alan Moore, but he writes within context. He can write violent comics like “Watchmen” and “From Hell” and “V for Vendetta,” but he knows that you write differently for “Tom Strong” and “Top 10” (which still had death and violence that made sense within the context of the TV police procedural). He knows who he’s writing for, and he respects the characters, the story, and his readers.

Writing within context is something that mature, competent writers do. Writing any blasted thing because “Oy, it’d be radikal and exxxxxtreme!” is something that immature hacks like Mark Millar, Jeph Loeb, and Brian Michael Bendis do.

Is there a solution for that? Heck if I know. You can’t talk sense to Quesada or DiDio — they both believe they were put on Earth to publish bad comic books. But maybe the only real solution is time — high quality work has a tendency to last — people remember it, recommend it, and help ensure that it sticks around. Low quality work is eventually either forgotten or held up for justified contempt and derision. How well is Rob Liefeld regarded today? That’s what Millar and his cohorts have to look forward to.

Comments off

In Which I Fix the Problem of James Robinson and "Cry for Justice" Once and for All

I’ve been avoiding James Robinson’s “Cry for Justice” series — I read the first issue or two, didn’t like them, and decided not to waste my money on any more of them. I haven’t regretted it for a second.

And, well, we now know how it ended. Spoiler warning? Nah, who cares, I’m saving you from having to read it for yourself. Roy Harper, better known to DC readers as Speedy, Arsenal, and Red Arrow, gets an arm cut off by Prometheus, who later blows up a few cities and kills Roy’s five-year-old daughter Lian. Green Arrow kills Prometheus in retaliation.

Quite aside from Robinson’s increasingly hacktastic writing, this is an absolute giant metal vat of toxic, chemically-enhanced, acid-based crap.

As we’ve said multiple times before, DC wants to embrace its golden and silver ages, so we get Hal Jordan and Barry Allen returned to life, as well as promises of the “Brightest Day” series, but at the same time, they want everyone to think they’re hardcore tough guys. And because they’re immature morons, they think adult comics have to be drenched in gory violence and gratuitous sex.

I’m all in favor of sex and violence in comics. I’m in favor of sex and violence in all fiction, because they’re some of the prime motivators of human existence, and you’re completely mad if you try to bleed those out entirely.

But Robinson’s and DC’s creepy obsessions are quite a bit more than I want to read in a comic. I’m tired of reading superhero comics where the writers slaughter people and destroy cities to prove that their villains are unusually evil. I’m tired of comic writers who kill really awesome, cool, fun characters like Lian for the sake of cheap shock value. Lian’s death didn’t mean anything to Robinson — he needed something “shocking,” and his writing skills are apparently weak enough that the only way he knows how to shock or to motivate a character is with the tired, hoary cliche of killing off a supporting cast member.

Robinson’s “Starman” and “The Golden Age” are still some of the very best comics of the ’90s. But since then? Nothing but crap. Right now, if you pick up one of his comics on the strength of his past work on “Starman,” you’re going to get suckered into reading a bad comic book.

So here’s what I’m gonna do for you. From now on, everyone can safely consider everything that happened in “Cry for Justice” to be non-continuity. It never happened. Future writers may feel free to write stories in which Red Arrow has both arms, in which Lian Harper is still alive, in which Prometheus is still available to use as a character. “Cry for Justice” never happened, Robinson’s runs on “Justice League” or any other comic series never happened. Ignore everything he said, ’cause it never happened.

How can I do that, you may ask. How can I do that when I’m not a comic writer, when I’m not running DC, when I’m lucky to muster a hundred hits a day on the blog?

Here’s how I can do that: Because it’s the only answer that makes sense. In “Cry for Justice,” Ray “The Atom” Palmer tortures a guy by jumping around in his brain. In the mainstream DC Universe, he’s just been picked as an Indigo Tribe member because he’s compassionate. In “Cry for Justice,” Green Arrow gets the drop on Prometheus and plants an arrow between his eyes. In the mainstream DCU, Prometheus spanks Batman without that much effort. How do you reconcile “Cry for Justice” with everything else in the DCU? Pick the one that makes sense and decree that the other was just badly written fan-fiction. It’s a happy accident that picking the one with the non-jerkwad Ray Palmer and the non-inept Prometheus is also the one with the two-armed Red Arrow and the not-pointlessly-killed five-year-old moppet.

That, and it looks pretty likely that I’m a better writer than the current non-Starman version of James Robinson. At this point, we’re ALL better writers than the non-Starman James Robinson.

And that’s all there is to it, y’all. “Cry for Justice” never existed. Lian’s fine, Roy is fine. Go forward from that point from now on, and never pick up another comic by that hack James Robinson again.

Comments (6)

Batman Kicks the Bucket Again


Detective Comics #853

DC Comics sure does love killing their most popular character, don’t they?

It’s the second part of “Whatever Happened to the Caped Crusader?” by Neil Gaiman and Andy Kubert. (Part I came out waaaaaay back in February.) In this issue, we continue the strange funeral of Batman, attended by his friends and foes, telling stories — always wildly contradictory — about how the Dark Knight died, while a mysterious woman keeps Batman company. We get stories from the Joker, the Mad Hatter, the Golden Age Batgirl, Robin, Clayface, Harvey Bullock, Ra’s al Ghul, and even Superman. And finally, Batman realizes that he’s not dead… but he is dying. How is the woman accompanying him going to help him? What secrets will she reveal? Is there an escape from the other side of the grave?

Verdict: Thumbs up. A strange, fun, bittersweet story, perfectly designed for Gaiman’s strengths as a storyteller. And Kubert was a great match for this story — his artistic style makes the whole thing look modern, gritty, and classic all at the same time, where a popular, more glossy artist would’ve killed the mood. If you didn’t get a chance to read the first part of this story, you might wait to see if DC is going to put out a collected paperback of this story, to go with the paperbacks of Alan Moore’s “Whatever Happened to the Man of Tomorrow?”


Astro City: The Dark Age, Book Three #1

Charles Williams, former cop, and Royal Williams, current hoodlum, are on the trail of the man who killed their parents many years ago during a superhero battle. But now it’s 1982, in the midst of the darkest period of Astro City’s history. No one trusts superheroes, and the superheroes don’t care much about the people of the city either. We get to see the debut of the new Cleopatra as she helps defeat a villain called the Hellsignor, then we follow Royal, undercover as a henchman at a training camp for the evil Pyramid organization. He’s able to avoid the indoctrination treatments as he tries to track down his parents’ killer. But will he be able to continue his investigation when the authorities raid the camp — and when he learns that Pyramid suspects his treachery?

Verdict: Thumbs up. It’s been a long time since the last issue of this one, but I’d forgotten how much I liked the Williams brothers. The Pyramid stuff is a nice glimpse into the world of the Hydra/Cobra-style organizations. As always, Kurt Busiek brings a great story and excellent dialogue, and Brent Anderson provides the excellent artwork we’ve come to expect from him.

Comments off

Worst of the Week


Teen Titans #62

I’d love to review some good comics today — goodness knows, I got a lot of good, entertaining comics that’d be a lot more fun to review — but this one just made me wanna smack the tar outta someone, and I’m not gonna dilute any good reviews I’ve got by pairing them with this turkey.

Okay, backstory time. A while back, after DC revamped the “Teen Titans” series again, they brought in a couple of hipster kids to serve as general maintenance/techheads for Titans Tower and as low-key comic relief. They named them Wendy and Marvin — yes, just like the comic-relief teens in the old “Super Friends” cartoon back in the ’70s. And yes, I rolled my eyes when they were introduced, because it really is a completely silly idea.

Well, in this issue, Marvin and Wendy find a dog. They name him Wonderdog, because no one can really figure out how he got all the way out to Titans Island. While all this is happening, Miss Martian leaves the team, Robin tells Wonder Girl that his old girlfriend Spoiler is alive again, and the remaining members of the team go off to the gym for training. And while no one’s looking, Wonderdog turns into a monster, kills Marvin and Wendy, and disappears into the night.

Yeahhh, how ’bout that?

DC has this ongoing problem where they can’t decide if they want to embrace the innocence of the Silver Age or if they want to tack the other direction, so they can tell everyone they’re making comics for grownups. Hence, you’ve got DC bringing back Hal Jordan, Barry Allen, and the silly kids from the “Super Friends” because it appeals to their sense of nostalgia. And then, to make ’em feel like they’re hardcore badboys who’d fit in at the nastiest corner of Image Comics, they kill Sue Dibny, they kill Bart Allen, and they turn Mary Marvel into a psychotic bimbo. It’s a constant push-and-pull — Is DC all about innocent, goofy fun? Is DC all about gritty and adult mayhem? Wait five minutes, and the answer will change again…

This is the same thing. They bring in Wendy and Marvin — isn’t it cute? It’s just like the crazy cartoon you loved when you were a kid! Then someone else at the company thinks to himself, “Hey, this is like a kid’s comic! I don’t make no kid’s comics!” And so they make yet another “Teen Titans” comic that looks like it was written by some sadistic lunatic.

It’s not like I really mind death in comics. I mean, I’m a pretty huge fan of horror comics of all types. What I do mind is gratuitous and unnecessary death in comics. And this was a picture-perfect definition of gratuitous and unnecessary.

And lo and behold, who’s that listed down there as one of this comic’s editors? Dan DiDio. Of course. What a complete and utter surprise. The guy who ain’t happy unless his comics are blood-soaked slaughterfests supervises yet another completely pointless and gratuitous blood-soaked slaughterfest.

Verdict: Thumbs down. I’m dropping this comic as of now.

Comments off



World War Hulk #5

It’s the last chapter of this series, as the mega-powerful Sentry shows up to try to take Hulk down. Completely spoiler-free review: There is a LOT of hitting.

Verdict: Thumbs up. There’s really no way they could’ve ended it with the big bang that ended every issue of this series, but I think it ended well. So many pure-action superhero epics end up devolving into plotless and characterization-less exercises in mindless brutality. This has been a high-quality and very exciting story all the way through.


Metal Men #4

Lots of stuff happens, both in the present and the past. The Proto-Metal Men defeat Chemo in the past, the current Metal Men have to deal with a new tendency to temporarily turn evil — or as they call it, turning into “radioactive werewolves.” On top of that, Lead has been transmuted into Gold and vice versa — so the old Gold is now a bit dumb and dull, while the old Lead is now a supergenius. The Missile Men make an appearance, though they’re now called the M-80s, Dr. Morrow is a robot imposter, and Dr. Magnus’ badass evil brother shows up.

Verdict: Well, I love the stuff with Lead, I mean Gold, I mean Lead… but the rest of it is confusing as heck. We’ve been told that this will start making sense soon, but if that’s the case, I wish they’d just published the full story all at once so I wouldn’t have to wait 30 days between chapters in the hopes that it’ll make sense. Thumbs down.


Titans East Special

Actually, I didn’t buy this one. The ending of this was telegraphed to just about everyone — they lined up a bunch of DC teenagers, including (ugh) Power Boy, Little Barda, the current Hawk and Dove, Lagoon Boy, Son of Vulcan, and Anima, and they just killed ’em all.

Why? I really don’t know. It’s not like the Titans haven’t had enough deaths in the past few years, what with losing Superboy, Kid Flash, Pantha, Wildebeest, Terra, and others. I think DC has a quota — “Must pointlessly kill X number of characters per week.”

One wonders if the people running DC right now are actually trying to destroy the company by killing off all their characters and simultaneously running off all their customers. Could someone please call Time-Warner Inc. and ask if they’ve checked in on their DC subsidiary lately? Maybe they’ll appoint a editor-in-chief who’s not crazy…

Comments off

Killing Batman


Rich Johnston reports a rumor — far from confirmed — that DC plans to kill Bruce Wayne next summer and have one of the Robins replace him as Batman.

Sure, DC, we totally believe you.




Yeah, Bruce Wayne’s totally gonna stay dead forever, ain’t no doubt about that, is there? It’s not like you’d do something like this just for a quick sales boost for your comics before bringing the character back to life, right?

Comments off

Death in Comics

Death has gotten to be an outright common occurence in comic books, but it’s been a lot more rare in newspaper comic strips. Comic strip characters who have died include Farley the sheepdog in “For Better or For Worse,” Dick and Lacey Davenport in “Doonesbury,” most of the crooks in “Dick Tracy,” Bill the Cat in “Bloom County,” and not too many others. The newest comic-strip death happens today, as Lisa Moore, one of the main characters in “Funky Winkerbean,” dies of breast cancer.


The storyline has been getting a lot of positive reviews. Folks say Lisa’s death has been handled very realistically, dramatically, and sensitively — this storyline has been running, off and on, from the time Lisa was first diagnosed with cancer back in 1999. A lot of the recent strips I’ve seen in archives are about the support she gets from her friends. And part of the reason for the storyline, and the way it’s ending, is to draw attention to the fight against breast cancer. October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, ya know.

Other people aren’t happy with the strip, or creator Tom Batiuk. Some say they don’t want their funnypages to deal with serious issues, as they’d rather they be a break from the bad news filling up the rest of the paper. Of course, lots of comic strips nowadays are transitioning to something midway between a gag strip and a soap opera serial. “For Better or For Worse” leads the pack, of course, but other gag strips are slowly trending toward more dramatic storylines, like “Luann” and “9 Chickweed Lane.” And it’s hard to find a webcomic that doesn’t mix the pathos in with the comedy. And with so many strips that have characters who age in real time, it’s inevitable that some would die.

If you’d like to check out today’s “Funky Winkerbean” strip, just click here. And they’ve got a few weeks of archives, so you can read some of the previous strips.

Comments off

Wedding Crashers


Green Arrow and Black Canary: Wedding Special

If we’re gonna talk about this issue, I’m gonna have to spoil it.

First of all, let me tell you about what I was expecting from this one. See, lately, DC Comics has been on a killing spree. They can’t seem to publish an “event” comic without killing at least one superhero for the sake of nabbing a little cheap shock theater. So part of me expected the big wedding of Green Arrow and Black Canary to end with the death of at least one of those two characters. But the smarter part of me — the part of me that’s actually written fiction before and knows that you gotta keep your readers guessing — figured that DC would give the readers a nice break from the usual carnage and let them enjoy a nice traditional superhero wedding, without all the angst and sorrow and bloodshed.

So we start out with Ollie and Dinah fighting, making up, fighting, sending out invitations, having bachelor and bachelorette parties. And the bad guys find out, and they show up, and everyone has a nice big fight. This is traditional for superhero weddings. You can’t have a superhero wedding without supervillains showing up to fight with everyone. And of course, the bad guys get their butts handed to ’em, and the bride and groom get successfully wedded.

Okay, let’s take a short break, and I’ll tell you how good it is so far. First, Amanda Conner’s art is entirely awesome. She’s really one of the best artists around — does outstanding facial expressions, great action, draws the sweetest eye candy you ever saw, and just makes ya wish she drew every dadgummed comic book out there. And it’s a funny comic, too. Everything from the reactions of the wedding invitees, Ollie’s and Dinah’s arguments, Ollie’s sedate bachelor party vs. Dinah’s raucous bachelorette party — they’re all chock full o’ funny. Even the big wedding battle has good funny moments, especially if you watch what’s going on in the background — even Lois Lane gets to pop out the brass knuckles and pepper spray and beat up on bad guys. Up to this point, it’s a wonderful comic book.

And then, on the wedding night, Ollie goes into a trance, tries to kill Dinah, and she stabs him through the neck with one of his arrows. Is it mind control? Oh, sure. Is Ollie dead. Probably not. Just seriously, horribly maimed. On his wedding night.

Thanks, DC. Thanks for living down to my low expectations.

Verdict: Thumbs down. You could list DC’s plotlines on a matchbook cover.

Comments off