Crowning Deaths of Awesome and Sadness

Yeah, Superman is on the list.Comic book deaths are a punchline these days. A few years ago when Captain America died, no one expected the death to last more than two years, even though Marvel swore up and down that it would stick (sort of like how Spider-Man unmasking during Civil War was supposed to stick and not get retconned away thanks to a deal with the Devil). Despite the fact that a comic book death currently translates into little more than a cheap sales gimmick, there have still been some really good ones over the years. Even if they didn’t stick, they were chilling, touching, or otherwise hugely influential. What follows is my totally biased opinion of the best deaths comics has had to offer.

Before I get into the actual deaths, it’s worth noting what I’m not counting. Death by origin story, such as Bruce Wayne’s parents or Uncle Ben, does not count here. If a character can’t make it out of his first appearance alive, his death is more plot device than moving event. A poignant death has to take a character the reader has known for a while and send them off in a way that has lasting emotional impact.

With one exception, I’ve also left off deaths not from the Marvel or DC Universes. That’s partly personal preference, since I read comics from the big two the most. The other part of it is that the Marvel and DC stable of characters are cultural icons recognizable almost worldwide. As such, when one of those iconic characters dies, it has an impact not only on the comic book universe but on society as a whole. The one exception to this rule comes from an ending scene in Y: The Last Man. If you haven’t read through this excellent comic yet, go read those graphic novels instead of this list. The list contains a major spoiler that will totally ruin the emotional impact of Y: The Last Man if you haven’t read it.

Oh my god! He's totally dead forever and never coming back!

Oh my god! He's totally dead forever and never coming back!

#10: Superman (Superman, volume 2, #75)
Although is was a massive marketing ploy, the death of Superman in the 1990s had a huge effect on people, whether they read comics or not. News of his death hit national news networks. It sparked debates about what Superman meant as an American icon, and whether his death symbolized a cultural shift in the United States. In the comics industry, it cemented the idea that a character’s death and subsequent resurrection meant a huge sales boost. It also really kick-started the speculator craze that characterized the 1990s, with people who had never even had an interest in comics buying the death issue and collectible memorabilia under the notion that it would be worth a fortune someday. (Those people didn’t realize that the main reason old comics such as Action Comics #1 are worth so much money is that they are rare – at several hundred thousand copies sold, the death of Superman is one of the best-selling comics of all time. Almost twenty years later now, a mint condition copy of the first printing can net you up to $25. Subsequent printings are worth only $1.50 to $2.00, even in mint condition. The rarest of the rare copies, the platinum holo-foil “bleeding S” cover, will net you a max of around $230. Not exactly the megabucks people were expecting in the 90s.)

Cultural and industrial impact aside, Superman’s death was done surprisingly well considering the massive marketing gimmick it was. Superman went down swinging against a new monster called Doomday which laid waste to the Justice League and seemed totally unstoppable. The fight was epic in size, spanning several issues. The issues preceding Superman’s death were done in a “countdown” style – one issue had four panels per page, the next had three panels per page, the next had two panels per page, and then the death issue had only a single panel on each page. Superman died heroically, but what was more significant was the issues that followed, in a story arc called Funeral for a Friend when the world had to move on without the big guy. Other comics try to mimic this style – we got special funeral issues for Captain America, Nightcrawler, the Human Torch, and even the Sentry, who died as a villain – but it’s a joke now that it’s been done so many times.

The death of Superman does have its flaws, which is why it’s so low on this list. The story was a bit forced due to it being a marketing decision rather than a creative one, the subsequent rise of four Supermen is a bit of a mess, and even fans in the 1990s knew the death wouldn’t last. Still, it manages to overcome its flaws pretty well in the actual issues, and to even toy with the idea of someone so iconic to comics getting killed off was a big deal at the time.

Death is a Speed Bump: Superman didn’t even spend a full year as a corpse. Following his death, all Superman comics went on a three-month hiatus, then popped up with a new Superman taking each of the four existing titles. In Adventures of Superman #504, Superman showed back up in a black suit and without much of his power (and sporting a mullet, for some godawful reason). Turns out that he was only mostly dead, which, as The Princess Bride tells us, is partly alive. His Kryptonian physiology put him in a death-like state from which he eventually recovered thanks to some gadgetry from his Fortress of Solitude. While death had been a speed bump in comics before, Superman’s rapid resurrection really emphasized this point.

Where's Mephisto when you need him?

Where's Mephisto when you need him?

#9: Aunt May (Amazing Spider-Man #400)
Would you believe that somewhere in the wretched Clone Saga there is a decent story? That story would be the death of Aunt May, who had a stroke and spent most of the Clone Saga in a coma. In a very touching scene in Amazing Spider-Man #400, Aunt May became conscious and lucid for a while and revealed to Peter that she had known he was Spider-Man all along. It was an excellent revelation that showed that Aunt May had more on the ball than anyone suspected. At issue’s end, she dies in her bed and surrounded by family while quoting from Peter Pan, which was Peter Parker’s favorite story as a child. Amping up the tear-jerker factor even more was the fact that Ben Reilly, Peter’s clone, was on the rooftop of the building. Poor Ben shared Peter’s childhood memories with Aunt May but wasn’t at her death bed due to the fact that the presence of a second Peter Parker would have wigged everybody out. It was tragedy all around – Peter losing his aunt, Ben losing her as well but being unable to speak with her before she died – all interspersed with character development and the great revelation that Aunt May knew Spider-Man’s secret identity and gave her blessing to Peter’s crime-fighting life.

Death is a Speed Bump: Naturally, such a great story couldn’t last. Three years later, in Spider-Man #97 (different from Amazing Spider-Man…all these similarly-named titles are really confusing), Peter found out that Aunt May never really died at all – she had been kidnapped and kept alive by the Green Goblin, because Norman Osborn is a dick who likes tormenting Peter. The dead Aunt May was really an actress who had plastic surgery and who was informed of Spider-Man’s secret identity. Thus Aunt May went back to being a doddering old twit who served Peter wheat cakes and didn’t know anything about his double life as Spider-Man. Admittedly, there were a few decent stories with her written by J. Michael Straczynski a decade later, in which she discovered Peter’s secret identity (gee, what a novel idea). But then Peter sold his marriage to the Devil to give Aunt May a few extra borrowed years of life, and May has since been restored to an doddering old twit who serves Peter wheat cakes. Because comics should never change even after decades of character development and we should all be happy to be reading monthly stories where anything really significant gets undone a couple of years down the road, right?

Man, I’m depressed now.

...like a butterfly.

...like a butterfly.

#8: The Question (52, Week 38)
For many people, myself included, the Question was an unknown character until just a few years back. He was created by Steve Ditko and went through a lot of character development over the years, but it wasn’t until his appearance on Justice League Unlimited that he really became mainstream. Sadly, shortly after he showed up in that cartoon, his comics counterpart died off, leaving new Question fans with back issues and little more. Given the boost in popularity the TV show had snagged for him, it makes sense that he would pass the mantle to another comics character who was given life by a TV show – Renee Montoya, a former Gotham cop who made the jump to comics after being introduced in Batman: The Animated Series. Renee’s life had hit the skids going into the weekly comic 52, and Vic Sage showed up and helped get her back on track. Vic and Renee’s storyline was written by Greg Rucka, the guy also responsible for some of Wonder Woman‘s most awesome moments. For the first half of 52, Vic served as Renee’s mentor, taking in someone who was angry at the world and giving her direction much as someone had done for him once. Later in the storyline, we learned that Vic was dying of lung cancer and hoped to pass the mantle of the Question on to Renee. The lung cancer bit is particularly painful in retrospect, as one early scene involved Vic criticizing Renee for smoking only for her to blow of puff of cigarette smoke right into his face in retaliation.

The Question’s swan song lasted thirty-eight issues of a weekly comic, during which we got to see Vic try to pass on his wisdom to somebody else. The decompressed nature of the story gave a chance to really show what made Vic Sage an excellent character (and no, it turns out he’s not actually a conspiracy nut like his Justice League Unlimited counterpart, but is actually more awesome in the comics than in the TV show). In the end, Renee winds up dragging Vic through the snow in a desperate attempt to get him healed at Nanda Parbat in the Himalayas, where Vic took Renee for training earlier. She makes it up to the gates before Vic finally breathes his last breath, muttering snatches of earlier conversations from the story all the way through. His last words are words of inspiration to Renee that help her find direction in the future: “It’s a trick question, Renee…not who are you…but who are you going to become? Time to change…like a butterfly.” The issue then ends with a zoom out, showing that the pattern in the snow from their journey is, naturally, in the shape of a question mark.

This is just a good, good story. As sad as it is to see Vic Sage die, it’s done so poignantly that I as a fan of the character actually don’t want it ruined by him coming back. Moreover, we now get Renee Montoya running around as the Question and using what Vic taught her, and she kicks all sorts of ass. It’s the best passing down of a superhero identity that I’ve seen done in comics.

Death is a Speed Bump: Well, actually it’s not for Vic Sage – at least not yet. He died in 2007, and he’s stayed dead since. He did briefly return during DC’s Blackest Night event, where the dead rose and basically served as superpowered zombies. The Black Lantern version of Vic tried to kill Renee and his friend Tot, but his former friends eluded him using a technique taught to Renee by Vic. Since Black Lanterns see in an emotional spectrum, they cleared their minds of all emotion, thus making them invisible to zombie-Vic. At the end of Blackest Night, Vic’s body was reburied at Nanda Parbat, and he has rested in peace ever since – no doubt happy that Renee is still kicking ass as the Question.

Brian K. Vaughn gains sustenance from your tears.

Brian K. Vaughn gains sustenance from your tears.

#7: Agent 355 (Y: The Last Man #58)
Despite it not being a part of the Marvel or DC Universe, Agent 355’s death gets on my list because it’s one of the only times I can remember where I felt like a comic book had just punched me in the gut. The nature of comics as a serialized medium of fantasy is that death never seems final even when it really is. For iconic characters with long-running series, everything passes, which means that bad moments will give way to happier times. Then there’s this.

For those folks out there who ignored the spoiler warning yet still haven’t read the book, Y: The Last Man is a five-year long series that begins when every male on the planet Earth dies at once except for a young man named Yorick Brown. As the last man alive, Yorick is wanted by many factions, yet insists on traveling the world in an attempt to find his girlfriend Beth. What remains of the United States government sends Agent 355, a special agent of a group known as the Culper Ring, as Yorick’s bodyguard. During the trip, 355 falls in love with Yorick, but hides her emotions away, since Yorick seems to have eyes only for Beth. But it turns out that Beth was about to break up with him before the gendercide, and Yorick himself had been clinging to the idea of his love for her rather than actually being in love. Which brings up to issue #58.

Years prior in the series, Yorick had a near-death experience (actually part of a psychologic program to get him to stop trying to kill himself through his own stupidity) in which he saw some vision that made him want to live. We don’t find out what that vision is until issue #58, when it’s revealed that it was Agent 355. Yorick tells 355 about his feelings for her, his love is requited, and we seem to be headed to a happy ending.

Then one of the other factions out to get Yorick shoots 355 in the forehead with a sniper rifle.

We get three pages of her death scene, all in perfect silence with the eerie art of Pia Guerra freezing her last perplexed look on her face as she falls backwards, dead. In the two issues that follow, the notion of 355 as Yorick’s one true love is driven home as he spends the rest of his life alone. To top it all off, the comic leaves us with a lot of tantalizingly unanswered questions, including 355’s real name. The whole story is tragic in the best of ways – we want to see more of it, but, just like real-life tragedy, some things will never be resolved neatly and a bittersweet ending is the best one can hope for.

Brian K. Vaughn, the series’ writer, does this often. I want to punch that man in the face for all the emotional pain he’s caused me. One day, I hope to become a skilled enough writer that one of my readers will want to enact similar violence on me.

Death is a Speed Bump: Not in a Vertigo comic with a defined ending, it’s not. Outside of a flashback, this is the last we see of 355.

Don't worry, Bats...you can always get another one.

Don't worry, Bats...you can always get another one.

#6: Robin (Batman #428)
Robin dying is kind of a joke these days, since Batman has gone through so many boy wonders. Of all the Robins, though, Jason Todd – the second person to wear the mantle – is the only one to have actually died in continuity.

Jason Todd’s death occurred in the storyline A Death in the Family, in which Jason went in search of his mother and found the Joker along with her. Jason’s mother turned out to be a criminal who helped the Joker capture Robin in hopes of protecting herself. The Joker proceeded to beat Jason to the verge of death with a crowbar and then lock both Jason and his mother in a warehouse with a bomb. Jason’s last action was to try and shield his mother from the blast with his body despite what she had done. He thus died a hero, although his last-ditch attempt to save his mother was in vain.

Jason’s death is a hot button among comic fans, since it was handled in a fairly tasteless way. Jason had proven unpopular as the replacement for Dick Grayson, and so DC held a poll where readers could call one of two 900 numbers (for a dollar a pop) and vote whether Jason lived or died. They even drew up an uncolored version of an alternate Batman #428, where Jason lived, just in case. In the end, over 10,000 people called in, and the vote to have Jason die won out by a mere 72 votes. That means that if the poll had a margin of error greater than .72%, the results are in doubt. That the hotline stunt even occurred or that more than 5,000 people voted to graphically kill off this fictional teenage boy says something about the industry and fans, though.

Jason Todd’s death allowed him to go out as a hero, which was a nice final gesture for a character who had struggled in popularity partly because he was less moral and less disciplined version of Robin. The big impact of his death was naturally on Batman, though. The death of Robin had been repeatedly shown as Batman’s greatest fear going back into the Golden Age. That he failed to save Jason – and that Jason was even in harm’s way to begin with – remains as Batman’s greatest failure. To really illustrate how deeply the death affected Batman, the Joker tried to cover up his crime, figuring that if Batman discovered that he had killed Robin, the Dark Knight would finally snap and kill him. When the Joker doesn’t want to take credit for a crime, you know it’s pretty massive.

Death is a Speed Bump: Jason’s return was hinted at in the storyline Hush, when an adult version of Jason attacked Batman. However, that version turned out to be Clayface playing games with Batman’s head. The idea of Jason Todd’s return had been planted, though, and in 2005 DC actually brought him back as the Red Hood, a more violent version of Batman who set about killing criminals rather than just jailing them. To be fair, a 16-year run in the grave is pretty impressive in an industry where the dead pop up six issues later and ask what’s for breakfast. Hurting the story, though, is the actual manner in which Jason returned. He had definitively been killed, so how did he come back? Did someone steal his corpse and drop it into one of Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus pits? Was there dark magic involved? Or maybe there was some elaborate scheme pulled that fooled even the world’s greatest detective into thinking a live boy had died?

Nope, none of that. As it turns out, Superboy Prime punched the wall of reality and changed the past. You know, I love comics and all, but some of the shit they come up with is just stupid.

Don't worry, she gets better. And then worse. And then better. And then worse.

Don't worry, she gets better. And then worse. And then better. And then worse.

#5: Jean Grey (Uncanny X-Men #138)
Actually, Jean grey has died a few times. Most recently, she got killed off because Marvel hates married couples. (I’m paraphrasing there, but Jean Grey, the Wasp, and a few other wives have gotten killed off in the 2000s because Marvel wanted to make their husbands “more interesting.” Because apparently married people are boring and shouldn’t read comics.)

The most iconic death of Jean Grey, and the one that has some actual emotional resonance, comes at the end of the Dark Phoenix storyline. Through various adventures in space, Jean had become the host for an alien entity known as the Phoenix. Later, aided by some psychic tampering, this newfound power drove her mad, causing her to use her awesome cosmic might to destroy entire solar systems. Ultimately, Jean regained control of herself, but not before the alien Shi’ar declared her too dangerous to live. The X-Men fought to save Jean, but in the end it was Jean herself who pulled the trigger, literally. Feeling herself starting to lose control, she telekinetically activated a laser cannon, shooting herself dead in order to save the universe. Thus we get the iconic cover above of her husband Cyclops holding her corpse and the X-Men looking on in shock. Her heroic sacrifice served as a capstone for the Dark Phoenix story, which stands as one of the best X-Men tales out there.

As it turned out, neither writer Chris Claremont nor artist John Byrne planned for Jean to die. They originally intended Jean to be depowered at the end of the story, leaving open the possibility of the Dark Phoenix personality returning. But during Jean’s rampage, Byrne had explicitly drawn aliens dying in the solar system that she destroyed. Editor in Chief Jim Shooter didn’t want the death of billions to go unpunished, thus ordering Jean’s execution. Personally, I think it’s a case of editorial interference doing some good, since the story has more power with jean’s ultimate sacrifice at the end. Not that it matters, since…

Death is a Speed Bump: Jean stayed dead for six years (this was in the 80s, when resurrect-o-matics hadn’t fully made their way into comics yet). She was ultimately brought back under the condition that she be absolved of the deaths she caused in the Dark Phoenix saga. In order to do that, the story was retconned so that the Phoenix was an alien entity that took Jean’s form and personality, effectively creating a double. Jean herself had been left in stasis, and thus returned without any recollection of the Dark Phoenix saga. Jean got killed off again later when an impostor Magneto killed her. Said story arc concluded with her husband literally making out with another woman on Jean’s grave. Because married dudes are boring, but young hip guys who make out with hot scantily clad chicks at their wife’s funeral are awesome and relatable.

How do you make dying of cancer into something epic?

How do you make dying of cancer into something epic?

#4: Captain Marvel (The Death of Captain Marvel)
No, not the Fawcett/DC guy. Mar-Vell was a Kree warrior who was introduced in 1967 as a way for Marvel Comics to gain hold the then-dormant copyright for the Captain Marvel name.

Mar-Vell had a lot of intergalactic adventures, but what eventually laid him low was cancer. Due to his exposure to toxic gas and their subsequent reaction to his cosmic-powered nega-bands, Captain Marvel found himself dying of a mutated and incurable form of cancer. His death was chronicled in Marvel’s first graphic novel release, aptly titled The Death of Captain Marvel. The graphic novel is basically a long send-off for the character as Mar-Vell comes to accept his death. The various superheroes of the Marvel Universe who have called him friend come to pay their respects as he succumbs to cancer. Meanwhile, his sidekick Rick Jones (who has also been sidekick to the Hulk and Captain America) plays the denial game and spends most of the issue refusing to believe that there’s nothing he can do to save his friend. In the end, it turns out that, like any normal human, he does have to accept the inevitable: people die, no matter how much you don’t want them to. Rick tearfully apologizes to Mar-Vell for his behavior, and Mar-Vell naturally forgives him. He dies peacefully in his bed, and his spirit is carried off into the afterlife by Death. In a medium filled with cosmic-level terrors and fisticuffs in almost every issue, it’s pretty eerie seeing a superhero just lie down and die like a normal human being. Eerie…and poignant.

Death is a Speed Bump: Mar-Vell died in 1982. Surely he’s come back since then, right?

Well, yes and no.

He’s been around as a ghost here and there, and he briefly returned in the recent Chaos War event, which led to Death temporarily fleeing the world, but other than those incidents and the odd Skrull impostor, he’s stayed dead for almost 30 years now. That’s doubly impressive since Marvel is required to put out a certain number of Captain Marvel comics every few years or lose the copyright to DC, who owns the original Captain Marvel from the Golden Age. In the intervening years we’ve had a number of other characters calling themselves Captain Marvel, but no one has ever really replaced the original.

Don't go out with a whimper when you can go out with a bang.

Don't go out with a whimper when you can go out with a bang.

#3: Supergirl (Crisis on Infinite Earths #7)
Most comic book events these days bill themselves as something that will CHANGE THE MARVEL/DC UNIVERSE FOREVER!!! Few deliver the goods in that regard. The first of these huge events, though, Crisis on Infinite Earths, did just that. It totally overhauled the DC Universe, rebooting continuity and killing off major iconic characters, beginning with Supergirl. And she went out with a blaze of glory.

Crisis on Infinite Earths featured the biggest of big bad guys, the Anti-Monitor. The Anti-Monitor didn’t just destroy worlds – he destroyed universes. He killed his way through much of the DC multiverse. He eventually whittled the near-infinite worlds out there down to only five universes, including the main DC Universe. Superman, being Superman flew out to face him and got casually beat down. Just as the Anti-Monitor was about to kill Superman, in came Superman’s cousin Kara Zor-El, who attacked so furiously that she forced this universe-killing abomination to retreat. Before he backed off, though, the Anti-Monitor hit Kara square on with a killing blast. So Supergirl didn’t just save one universe – she saved five before going down.

Sadly, the fact that the multiverse got combined into one universe and history rewritten at the end of Crisis on Infinite Earths meant that nobody remembered Supergirl’s sacrifice. The readers did, though, which is one of the reasons her death was so huge. Killing Mar-Vell or Jean Grey? That’s big, but your average non-comic book fan knew little about them. Killing Supergirl, and then not having her come back at the end of the storyline? That’s insane! At least, it was in the 1980s.

Death is a Speed Bump: Technically, since the universe was rebooted, the original Supergirl remains dead. But Supergirl did come back, sort of, in the late 1980s. Writers wanted to bring her back, but standing policy at DC was that Superman was the only survivor of Krypton. So a character called Matrix, who was a shape-shifting thing made of protoplasm, was created who took the identity of Supergirl. Her origin and powers changed a lot and were kind of hard to keep track of. In 2004, DC finally bit the bullet and reintroduced Kara Zor-El into continuity. But, since DC history was now operating in a post-Crisis timeline, it wasn’t a matter of bringing Supergirl back but rather of retelling her origin. So she’s back, but this version never really died.

Run, run as fast as you can.

Run, run as fast as you can.

#2: The Flash (Crisis on Infinite Earths #8)
The very next issue following Supergirl’s death upped the ante in Crisis on Infinite Earths even more by killing off the Flash. Supergirl, despite her iconic nature, was nonetheless a derivative character, being a female teenage version of Superman. The Flash, though, was one of DC’s original Silver Age superheroes, derivative only of the Golden Age Flash. Immediately prior to Crisis on Infinite Earths, Barry Allen had gone into retirement, living happily ever after with his wife Iris. The Crisis pulled him out of retirement and found him captured by the Anti-Monitor, as he was the only one capable of traveling to other dimensions through his own power. (He could vibrate through the fabric of reality or something…comics are weird sometimes.) By issue #8, Barry had escaped and found himself standing in front of the Anti-Monitor’s anti-matter cannon, which was about to destroy Earth. Barry then proceeded to do what the Flash does best: run really fast. He put his speed to the test, created a vortex that destroyed the anti-matter cannon and saved the world. However, doing so caused his body to deteriorate, shifting him through time and ultimately leaving him dead.

As with Supergirl, the Flash didn’t get better at the end of the Crisis. Unlike Supergirl, people remembered his sacrifice. While DC decided that Superman needed to be the only surviving Kryptonian and thus erased Supergirl from continuity for twenty years, Barry Allen became the icon for heroism and self-sacrifice following his death, and his legacy was carried on by his former sidekick Wally West. Poor Kara couldn’t catch a break.

Death is a Speed Bump: Barry Allen stayed dead for over twenty years. He finally returned in the very confusing storyline Final Crisis, mainly because Geoff Johns and Grant Morrison seem to like Silver Age weirdness and wanted to bring the hero from their childhoods back. It turns out that Barry didn’t die but instead became trapped in the Speed Force, some magical mumbo-jumbo dimension that grants the speedsters of DC their power. He returned to help save the world in Final Crisis, and has been back ever since. For a massive, climactic death, he really had sort of an anti-climactic return. Despite all the buildup, it basically turned out to be, “Oh hey, I’m not dead anymore.”

Oh snap!

Oh snap!

#1: Gwen Stacy (Amazing Spider-Man #121)
Gwen Stacy was conceived by Stan Lee as Peter Parker’s one true love. Her death makes the top of this list for two reasons: 1) it was totally unexpected at the time – as in, never even considered a possibility by the audience, and 2) it changed comics dramatically.

After learning Spider-Man’s secret identity, the Green Goblin kidnapped Gwen Stacy as a way of messing with Spidey’s head. He brought Gwen to the top of the Brooklyn bridge and proceeded to throw her off. But Spider-Man, being the hero he was, caught her with his webbing and yanked her back to safety.

But take a look at the scan here.

See that “Snap!” sound effect? That’s physics suddenly exerting an uncharacteristic hold over comics. That’s whiplash breaking her neck. By saving her, Spider-Man also killed her. Of course, if he hadn’t saved her, she would have died anyway. Watta tweest!

Never before in comics had someone as important as a superhero’s love interest been permanently killed off. Spider-Man proceeded to beat up the Green Goblin, but even in his fury, did not kill his foe. The Green Goblin wound up impaling himself on his glider in that battle, but I’m not about to give him a spot on this list. The moment belongs to poor Gwen.

Gwen Stacy’s death marked the end of the Silver Age of comics and the introduction of the grittier Bronze Age, where heroes sometimes failed. The fact that he caused her death had Spider-Man agonizing for years. Much later, he’d face the same exact situation with Mary Jane, when the returned Green Goblin tossed her off the Brooklyn Bridge in the same manner. Showing how much he had replayed the event in his head, Spider-Man saved MJ by shooting multiple weblines, catching every vital joint in her body and preventing MJ from suffering Gwen’s fate. Similarly, he rescued an armorless Tony Stark from a skyscraper-level fall by creating a giant web safety net rather than catching him with a single webline. Spider-Man has done a lot of research on how to properly save someone from falling to their death.

Death is a Speed Bump: Gwen has remained surprisingly dead over the last three decades. She got a cloned version of herself during the Clone Saga, which sort of left the story at one point and never returned and is therefore theoretically still out there somewhere. But poor Gwen – the real Gwen? She’s still gone, sitting around with Captain Mar-Vell, Vic Sage, and Agent 355 as folks who show that sometimes in comics – just sometimes – dead really does mean dead.

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