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If there is one thing that comics have plenty of is lots and lots of characters (obvious fact). Love or hate these characters the intended audience will quite often have some sort of emotional response towards them. For example a lot of people love Batman because he’s powerless and yet still kicks butt. Many people dislike the Sentry, thinking he is overpowered and a shallow character.
With what can sometimes literally be thousands of loved or hated characters there is something that is always bound to happen to some of them, the inevitability that is death. Though there is another event that is exclusively common in the world of comics and that is the absence of “perma-death”, or on a more widely acknowledged term: revival. So are all deaths and revivals meaningful and able to make some kind of impact? Are revivals always needed?
The death of a character can mark a huge event in the history of a comic’s universe and can change many things. For example, the death of DC’s character Barry Allen. His death marked the world needing another Flash. The death of Superman meant the world was without it’s strongest defender. The death of Marvel’s hero Captain America meant that America took a large blow to the patriotic symbol of freedom and justice.
It can be said that the death of Barry Allen was meaningful as it marked a point where DC was without the Flash and a new one was needed for audiences to follow and relate to (as well as a hero to fill in the shoes and do battle with evil). This is where the death of one can be said to give life to another – Wally West – although a developed character within his own right he had not taken the mantle of the Flash. Not only was Barry Allen’s death significant on this level but it was important in a grander scale in that he saved multiple realities from destruction. Aside from all these facts that the death of Barry Allen brought it is still a widely known and popular story amongst many DC fans today
This cannot be said about all characters though. A recent death that took place in the history of Marvel was that of the Sentry. Siege was an event where the heroes were taking a stand against Norman Osborn’s iron grip on America. In the last issue of Siege when the Sentry is completely over-taken by the Void, he is defeated and killed by Thor. Where some may argue this was significant in the way marking the end of Osborn’s reign and the start of the Heroic Age, but out of the death of the Sentry himself not a lot seems to have come out of it. There has been no real story progression for people that were involved in his life and now his death seems to almost be forgotten amongst the characters of Marvel (possibly overlooked by some fans). A moment lost in the decades of history of Marvel… until is foretold return.
A character in comics, although dies always seems to find a way back. Sometimes this is because of a reset button done my a comic company, but many times there are other reasons. Take into account Hal Jordan. He sacrificed himself to defeat the Sun-Eater and to reignite the sun yet he was revived after ten years in “Green Lantern Rebirth” written by Geoff Johns.
It can be said that the revival of Hal Jordan was a largely meaningful and significant event. The rebirth of Hal Jordan not only meant a beloved character came back into comics to fighting bad guys where others may have failed, but allowed a lead-in to the two large Green Lantern events “Sinestro Corps War” and “Blackest Night”. So arguing that his revival was meaningful to allow these events to happen and that without him things could possibly have changed in major ways.
A character who has been revived and has not come across as being a meaningful event would be that of Aunt May. She is a supporting character in the fact that Peter Parker needs her strength at times to keep pushing through, he needs her comfort and support. Yet other than that and emotional ties with some people, it does not come across that too much will suffer if she had not kept coming back. With her permanently being dead it could mean a permanent and important piece of emotional past for Peter Parker and he could continue to progress. Apart from the death of his uncle and Gwen Stacey.
Whether the death/disappearance or the return/revival of a hero is meaningful in the way there is true progression or if it is only written as a story for the sake of being a story will forever be argued. As long as there are characters dying there will always be ones coming back from the great beyond, but very few will die and be erased from time completely and it will always depend on how well it is written.