Everyone knows that death is more or less a revolving door in comics, but that's not the way it is in real life--unless, of course, you're one of the millions of Americans celebrating Easter this weekend. A central premise of Christianity is that Jesus, having died, rose again three days later and that in doing so he opened that revolving door wide for his followers.
Albeit in a less literal way than they do in comics.
In honor of the holiday, though, we decided to take stock of comics' best resurrections. Whenever a character dies these days, the question becomes when and how they'll come back--but every so often it's done with so much style that you can hardly blame them.
What's more gloriously insane than Marvel's favorite gun-toting vigilante stalking the night as an avenging angel for God? When he stops doing it and comes back from the dead without any explanation at all.
"I caught a glimpse of heaven once," Frank Castle explains in the voice-over of his first issue back in 2000. "The Angels showed me. The idea was I'd kill for them. Clean up their mistakes on Earth. Eventually redeem myself.Tried it. Didn't like it. Told them where to stick it." The idea, then, was that as a penalty for failing to do God's most holy will, Frank is cast down to Earth to keep being The Punisher as penalty. Which pretty perfectly explains his attitude toward life, really.
9. The Flash (Barry Allen)
At the start of Final Crisis, Barry Allen--who sacrificed himself at the end of the first Crisis on Infinite Earths more than twenty years before--famously made his return to warn his fellow DC heroes about the coming conflict. His return had been hinted at for ages, but was still notable enough to be covered by all the mainstream press.
In spite of intimations that he would exist on a ticking clock, expiring at the same time the story did, fans knew that would never happen and shortly after his return, the then-current Flash (Wally West) was essentially sent back down to the minors, never to be seen again for more than a page or two, while Barry got a miniseries to reintroduce him to fans followed by a new #1.
Not long before Barry came back, his grandson, Bart Allen, had been The Flash for a while. Wally West had retired to live happily ever after with his wife and kids and, when Bart's turn as the Flash turned out to be a critical and sales disaster, the character was killed and Wally was drawn out of retirement. While this isn't a technical return from the dead, Wally's return was treated as such, and throughout the issue it was implied that the process which caused Wally and his family to be drawn back "home" from the future was implied to be an attempt to resurrect either Barry or Bart Allen; when Wally reappeared for his first on-the-page appearance in nearly a year, it was embraced by fans as a resurrection.
7. Young Justice
When Conner (Superboy) Kent died at the end of Infinite Crisis, it was widely speculated that he wouldn't return at least until litigation between DC Entertainment and the family of Jerry Siegel over the rights to the Superboy name was resolved. DC editorial even implied that this might be the case, before Final Crisis: Legion of Three Worlds was released, bringing back not only Superboy, but also Bart Allen, the Kid Flash, whose death shortly after Conner's had been a bone of contention with fans of the old Young Justice series in which they both starred.
6. Captain America (Steve Rogers)
Following the events of Civil War, Captain America #25 was teased as a status-quo shattering "event" issue. When the character surrendered himself to authorities at the end of Civil War, it seemed to fans that the new status quo would be that the lead character would be either in jail or fighting for his freedom.
Few fans expected that Captain America would be assassinated that month, and while his death was shocking his resurrection simply could not be. After all, it was widely known that Captain America would be the star of a feature film in 2011 and that there was presumably no way the character would be dead in the comics while headlining a major motion picture.
Writer Ed Brubaker rose to the challenge, turning the resurrection of a street-level avenger into a time-and-space spanning epic that used time travel, magic and Marvel Universe history in re-establishing the original Captain America after a successful couple of years in the suit for former sidekick Bucky Barnes (more on that later).
Who can forget this? Every member of the Fantastic Four has quit and/or been killed a dozen times, but when The Thing died, Mark Waid and Mike Wieringo had to go all the way to the Creator to bring him back.
The Fantastic Four Minus One literally fought their way through the afterlife, burst into God's office and demanded that He return their friend to them. Not only did it work, but the "cool" factor of this act was increased by a factor of ten when fans got to see God, and He looked like Jack Kirby, the man mostly responsible for the creation of the Fantastic Four.
4. Green Lantern (Hal Jordan)
After years of pinballing around the DC Universe--as a villain, then dead, then an antihero, then dead again, Hal Jordan had settled into his role as The Spectre quite nicely until Sinestro came along and suddenly everyone wanted him to be Green Lantern again.
Turning Hal Jordan bad was one of the most controversial decisions in the history of DC Comics, and undoing it proved almost as controversial, as the fans who had been reading Kyle Rayner's stories for ten years were equally hesitant to give up their hero. The only thing everyone seemed to agree on was that Hal didn't work as God's undead agent, The Spectre. Apparently "God's undead agent' is a frequent (and usually unpopular) second job after "superhero" goes bust.
Taking the time travel and science fiction elements of the Captain America resurrection and dialing all of it up to eleven, you get Batman's return--which was published right alongside the return of Captain America and so, regardless of fans with grudges trying to imply otherwise, the two are unrelated.
At any rate, Batman's death in Final Crisis was an uncharacteristically fantastical and broad storyline for Batman to play such a big part in. Morrison's approach to dealing with that dichotomy was to have Batman's return be even more insane and ambitious, his "death" seeing him fired back through time and returning only after living a dozen lifetimes all through time, all of which revolved around an historically-significant cave underneath what would one day become Wayne Manor.
2. Bucky Barnes
More than fifty years after his death, Bucky Barnes was considered one of only a few characters unlikely ever to come back from the dead (along with Jason Todd, who was simlarly resurrected right around the same time). When someone appeared early in Brubaker's Captain America run and began killing people with a connection to Captain America, it wasn't long before it was revealed that, like Mark Shaw before him in Marc Andreyko's Manhunter, the man who killed Captain America's onetime sidekick (Nomad) was the one who held the role before him.
Bucky gets high placement on the list not just for the sheer size of Brubaker's balls in bringing this character back, but for the way he was handled afterwards; Brubaker and Bucky exceeded everyone's wildest expectations, setting up a situation whereby the deceased Captain America was hardly missed as his long-dead sidekick stepped into the role and made for such an entertaining and high-selling book that it was hard to believe that many fans were upset to see him return.
After the Death of Superman kicked off the comics book of the '90s in a big way, and the company spent a little bit of time without their flagship hero starring in any of his books, it was time to bring back the Big Blue Boyscout. Nobody wanted to write a shabby story that dragged the success they had up to that point through the mud.
Instead, what did they do? They introduced two new characters and radical twists on a pair of older ones, all of whom appeared out of the blue claiming to be the "real" Superman. After months of fans and comics critics debating which one was the "real" Superman, it turns out that none of them was, and the original returned without any powers.
On top of what that meant for the future of the Superman titles (three of the characters have continued to be used consistently in the years since), it forever altered the Green Lantern titles, as the evil Cyborg Superman used the confusion to hide his true motivations--to destroy Coast City, which he did, driving Hal Jordan out of the Green Lantern Corps and out of his own title.