Justice League Death Proves Comic Book Deaths Can Still Matter

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Comic book deaths are a dime, but DC’s Death of Justice League has the potential to show why superhero deaths still matter.

In a dramatic twist, DC Comics kills the Justice League — and while no one expects the deaths to last, they’ll still prove that comic book deaths can be of some use. Thirty years ago, DC Comics killed off Superman. These days, high-profile comic book deaths are a dime a dozen, but back then, that was international news. Now, in honor of the event, DC is killing off the entire Justice League.

A mission to a dead multiverse will see all but one member of the Justice League die, with the survivor returning to Earth with news of the team’s tragic fate. No one actually believes that all of Justice League will stay dead – there’s no way the comic book publisher will kill off so many top brands at once, or even for long – but in truth it doesn’t. the goal. DC is honoring the famous “Death of Superman” arc in the best possible way – by proving that comic book deaths really matter.

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It’s easy to forget that Superman’s death wasn’t just a media gimmick. in narrative terms, it was designed to demonstrate to the world just how important Superman really was to the DC Universe. The fateful battle between Superman and Doomsday may have been brutal and bloody, but the really interesting comics came after, as heroes wept and new characters emerged from the shadows in an attempt to fill the void left by the death of Superman. Events headed in an apocalyptic direction, demonstrating how bleak the world would be without the Man of Steel as the champion of truth, justice, and the American way. The Justice League’s upcoming death seems to honor the original comics by serving the same purpose.


Comic book deaths rarely last forever; it was once a joke in Marvel Comics that only Uncle Ben and Bucky remained dead, and Captain America’s sidekick returned in 2005 – underscoring the point. In general, there are two types of death stories in comics. The first uses death as a shock tactic, with a hero killed as part of a major comic book event to try and trick readers into believing that particular story truly threatens heroes. It became so common in the 2000s that readers started approaching every event wondering who the death would be, and once it happened they stopped feeling there was a risk. The second, however, are stories that use death to explore the impact a character has had on the world they live in. These are the stories that help readers understand why a particular superhero matters, and they usually provide an opportunity to develop legacy heroes who attempt to fill the void.


Seen from this angle, The Death of Superman – and, more importantly, the stories it led to – is one of the best examples of a comic book death, which serves a strong narrative purpose. Looks like DC Death of the Justice League arc will take the same approach, which means it will be particularly interesting to see how it plays out; the simultaneous deaths of so many high profile heroes is a cataclysmic event that could potentially send ripples down the entire release line. It’s going to be interesting to see what the DC Universe looks like without the Justice League.


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