No Right Explanation

No Right Explanation
Why Death Is Dead

Firefilm | 13 Aug 2012 14:09
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Dan: The Death of Superman and Knightfall were two comic book events that I actually collected while they were happening. I remember buying the anthologies of Supes from a comic book shop in New York, and dragging my father to every comic book shop we could find looking for the next issue of Bats going through rehab. These were great stories to be sure, but we can all admit they ended with pretty big "reset buttons." So big, in fact, that even though I stopped collecting comics shortly after, I became a lifelong devotee of the reset button in every ongoing story I experienced afterwards.

Batman Beyond came out and I couldn't enjoy it, even though it was a great series. My biggest issue was that it showed Batman getting old, which doesn't jive with reset buttons. These two stories ruined Batman Beyond for me. Thanks.

I have to admit that this one was hard for the fellas to debate. Worst death is tough due to the intrinsic fact that death doesn't really happen to these characters. At most they suffer a temporary setback, or a reboot. Chris nabbed the first point, however, by the argument that if your main character is going to take a dirt siesta, he should get to it faster than 12 issues. Lead up is one thing, but make a story too long and people start forgetting how it started. Keep in mind, that's one issue a month. Waiting a full year for the payoff in a comic book is tough. Come on Supes, I thought you were supposed to be fast?

Kyle nabbed the next point by comparing the main villains in the respective pre-funerals. Bane prior to the Nolan films may be remembered as a brute who broke the Bat, but reading the comics showed him to be a radically intelligent villain who truly posed a threat. You could see it coming and it was frightening how Bane orchestrated the downfall of Brucy. Then there was Doomsday, a meatsack as Kyle put it, a killing machine whose back story is that he was killed a lot. And we didn't even find that out until way past the entire Death of Superman saga! If you're going to have a terrible story, start with an uninteresting villain.

Chris got the next point doing a very difficult thing; he took his previous point and expanded upon it enough to warrant another point. Simply saying Knightfall was too long was his first, but that doesn't exclude the possibility that of enjoying the ride. Chris postulated that a 12 issue buildup that wasn't exciting or engaging made the ride even worse. There are enough Batman villains so that there's no need for Z-listers to have any place, but tell that to the folks at DC.

Kyle hopped on the visual train of thought and made his mark with that argument that Superman's death didn't have a definitive image. Sure there was him punching Spiky-Butt, and Lois crying over him, and this and that. No real image that you can slap on a shirt, or one page that you can flip through to see the payoff. Batman has his back broken over Bane's knee, an image so impactful that Nolan replicated it as best he could. Sorry Supes, Batman even dies better than you.

Chris sealed the deal by complaining about the complete reset button effect on Batman. Modern Batman fans don't have to know that he had his back broken at one point to fully get his motivations. Superman keeps having his death brought in front of his face, during the crisis, and during the Lantern Wars shenanigans. Many people were surprised that we didn't use the recent "Sent back in time but called death" of Batman as his fatality, but truth is, Superman's death was so bad that he ruined the new Batman deaths. We didn't even need to be told that Batman had been sent back in time for there to be no stakes. The readers know that "Death" means "Don't worry, he'll be back." This is the world that Superman has left us.

Thanks, Superman. Now no one will die. Jerk.

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