BRANDY: We all know that death in fiction is one of the most poignant ways to hit you right in your emotion chip, and when it's done well it can be incredibly powerful- I'm a bona-fide Whedon apologist, even though I know he'll kill off my favorite characters, and shows like The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones keep people tuned in, even if it's just to sob while they rage-watch- but comics...well, they can overdo the death angle. And when you've gone through decades of telling stories about the same people, sometimes you get pretty creative with the way those deaths happen. And sometimes...well, you end up with some really, I-Can't-Belive-I-Paid-For-This-Stupid issue dumb ways to die. Both Marvel and DC are terribly guilty of it, but who is worse?
I'm saying Marvel. Marvel straight-up has some of the stupidest death scenes. For instance,
The Blob Eats The Wasp, Ant-Man Retaliates By Literally Biting The Blob's Head Off
BRANDY: One of the most accurate ways I've heard Jeph Loeb and David Finch's run on ultimatum is "A Snuff Film, But With Superheroes". Literally almost everyone dies horribly. It's like if Joss Whedon and Garth Ennis wrote a comic and then George R.R. Martin and Eli Roth did final revisions on the script. Probably the worst scene in the entire comic, though, is when the Blob decides to invoke the five-second rule with The Wasp's corpse, remarking that it "tastes like chicken". In anger, Hank Pym retaliates by doing a very un-superhero-y thing (but possibly a very typical Hank Pym thing, dude is batshit nuts), goes giant, and ACTUALLY CHOMPS OFF THE BLOB'S HEAD LIKE HE WAS A BLOODY CANDY BAR. The panels are all kinds of gross.
I'm starting strong, Steve. The gauntlet has been thrown. Does DC have anything more gory or unnecessary?
STEVE: Man, you sure are. DC is happy to provide you with something gory and unnecessary though...
Ted Kord is Shot at Point Blank Range
STEVE: Beloved silver age hero Blue Beetle was one of those guys always kicking around the DCU who was super beloved among a small section of fans. Imagine how those fans felt when they picked up the mega-sized one-shot titled Countdown to Infinite Crisis and got to the final page only to see this...
That's right, the harmless and mostly beloved Blue Beetle gets a death suitable for a Punisher foe, getting shot in the head by Maxwell Lord at point blank range. I get that this was the era of DC trying desperately to get anything to stick against the wall, but this bloody end for such a noteworthy character was uncalled for. It's nowhere near the dumbest or worst death of the era, but it was emblematic of DC's futile attempts to get edgy for the new millennium. This has all been retconned twice over since then, but it still leaves a sour taste in my mouth. What do you think, Brandy? Got any boneheaded Marvel deaths that just don't make any sense for me?
BRANDY: Heck yes I do. Here's a gory, senseless one for you:
Doctor Strange Is Choked To Death By His Own Cape Until His Freaking Head Explodes
BRANDY: I could pretty much write this entire article just using examples from Ultimatum. Mind you, in the Ultimate Universe, we don't have cool Benedict Cumberbatch Dr. Strange, it's his weasel-y, kind of weiner-y son Stephen Strange jr., who isn't half the man his father was when it comes to magic. During Ultimatum, Dormammu uses Doctor Strange's own cape to make a very graphic PSA about why superheroes shouldn't wear capes by magically making his own cape squeeze his neck until it pops like a big, magical pimple. Yikes.
What else have you got for me, Steve?
STEVE: Here's a doozy...
Superboy straight up punches Pantha's head off
STEVE: Okay, so it's Pantha, who never really did much of anything, but it's the principle of the matter. In yet another attempt to drive its characters down the darkest road possible, Pantha joins up with a bunch of other superhero teams to take down Superboy Prime during Infinite Crisis. Just outside of Keystone City, Pantha makes the cardinal mistake of calling Superboy a "stupid kid" and as a reward, she gets her fucking head punched off...
STEVE: Don't believe him when he says he didn't mean to, because moments later, he kills Baby Wildebeest too. I get it, Pantha and Baby Wildebeest aren't anyone's favorite characters, but dude's gotta punch her head into oblivion like he's Rambo? This wouldn't seem out of place in the Snyder-verse, but in the pages of a DC signature event, it just reeks of overdoing it to make a point.
BRANDY: Holy fuck, I never read Superboy, but dear god am I glad I missed that one. Here's one for you, switching gears to films for a second:
Senator Kelly Grotesquely Bloats Before Turning Into Water Because Bryan Goddamn Singer, That's Why
BRANDY: The success of Bryan Singer's X-films was arguably the catalyst for the superhero blockbuster craze of today, and for good reason—X-Men and X2 were fantastic pieces of cinema. (We don't talk about The Last Stand. I'm still angry about how they manhandled Jean's story in The Last Stand). However, they definitely had some pretty unnecessary grotesque moments, none worse than the fate of Senator Kelly. Granted, Senator Kelly was a xenophobic bag of dicks who wanted all mutants wiped out, but nobody deserves his fate—he was kidnapped by Mystique and taken to Magneto, who decided the best medicine for anti-mutant bigotry was to force him to walk in a mutant's shoes and gave him mutant powers.
BRANDY: The process was a success, if you define success by "turning Kelly into a giant, grotesque jellyfish-like blob of gak who dies horribly as he melts into water". I have seen that film a bunch of times, and I still have to fight not to throw up in my mouth a little during that last scene. I mean, the CGI doesn't hold up particularly well, but ugh- bloated vein-y bodies aren't my idea of fun.
STEVE: I remember having that Senator Kelly action figure that came with Jean Grey. I'm willing to bet I still do somewhere. Since we're venturing into the cinematic universe, let's go with this dumb as a doornail recent on-screen death...
Superman goes all "Kali Ma Shakti De" on Batman
STEVE: When we all fantasized about Batman and Superman finally facing off on the big screen, I doubt that many of us were hoping that Superman was going rip Batman's heart out like Mola Ram, yet that's what Zack Snyder gave us. Yeah, I know, it was a nightmare—or a Knightmare, sorry purists—but it was still the most upsetting thing in a film filled with upsetting moments. Check it out for yourself, starting at the 3:37 mark below...
STEVE: Yeah, I never needed to see that happen. Zack Snyder's so FUCKING EXTREME though that he thinks shit like this is cool. It's not cool, Zack. Batman's been killed a bunch in the comics, but never so savagely and at the hands of someone who's ostensibly a hero.
BRANDY: Speaking of brutal murder at the hands of ostensible heroes, this column wouldn't be complete without a Punisher entry.
Punisher has Some Fun Feeding Animals At The Zoo, And Also Disembowels People
BRANDY: Okay, technically, these are two separate incidents, but I'm lumping them together because there are a zillion possible Punisher entries in this article, because holy shit does he like to kill things, and also, they were both written by Garth Ennis, A.K.A. He Of The Almost Cartoonishly Violent Fantasy World. First off, the zoo. Frank Castle originally heads to the zoo after he's injured to evade some monsters. While he's there, in true Punisher fashion, he figures, hey, might as well take some of these guys out, because he's surrounded by living, breathing, pooping death machines and that's sort of what the Punisher does. He does so by running into a zoo and eliminating his pursuers one by one. He dips his first unlucky pursuer into a piranha tank, and the piranhas are all, "hey, free mobster meat" and literally pick his bones clean. He feeds one to a snake, Voldemort style. Then, to take out the final foes, including the mob boss, Ma Gnucci, Frank jumps into a bear pit and PUNCHES A POLAR BEAR IN THE FUCKING FACE to get it to rage out. The next is constricted by a large snake. And finally, with only one enforcer and the mob boss herself left, Frank Castle jumps into a bear pit and punches a polar bear in the face, then sics the angry bears on the remaining baddies.
BRANDY: Also, in Punisher MAX, Frank finds himself some leaders of a sex slave ring, and proceeds to very brutally disembowel them before setting them on fucking FIRE. Because sometimes, there isn't a bear handy.
Got anything remotely as brutal as the Punisher in the DCU, Steve?
STEVE: Not remotely, but one that really stands out as being what I would classify overkill...
Midnighter Jackhammer Dildos a Dude to Death
STEVE: Easily dismissed as the "Gay Batman," Midnighter brought some tolerance to the pages of DC Comics. Not a lot, but like I always say, progress is progress...
Until it stops being progress and becomes a grotesque punchline. One villain that Midnighter and his partner/partner Apollo battle in The Authority was a Captain America knock-off named The Commander. This brutal villain ends up sexually assaulting Apollo—already bad enough—but when Apollo finally captures The Commander, he leaves him for Midnighter to finish off... with a jackhammer dildo...
STEVE: I get that this dude deserves justice, but it would have been a much more effective panel if Midnighter had just been standing there without a weapon. Not only does he have a weapon, though, he's brandishing an overtly sexualized jackhammer and we all know what he's gonna do with it. Thankfully they didn't show it, but it added another unnecessary level of sexual violence to an already exhausted set of cliches.
What else have you got Brandy?
BRANDY: ...You know what, Steve, I have several more examples, but I'm just going to leave this article at "dildo jackhammer". I fold, sir. You win. And may God have mercy on your soul.
STEVE: Remember kids, jackhammer dildo will win you any battle!