There was plenty of tragedy in the decade between 2010 and 2019, both fictional and in the real world, and a fair portion of it took the form of one of the most unique events in all of literature - comic book death. No other medium looks at the afterlife through quite the same lens as comic books, and each on-page demise comes with its own set of rules and expectations that only make sense to dedicated readers well-versed in the trope.
Even the saddest comic book deaths are almost certain to be overturned in time, resulting in a strangely temporary vibe each and every time a prominent hero perishes. The list of characters who have actually stayed gone in comics is short, and fatalities are now seen as something altogether different from the end of one’s story - and more like a shocking moment that serves to set the table for future stories in the decades to come.
Rick Grimes Meets His End In His Own BedPhoto: Image Comics
The Walking Dead comic series lasted nearly two decades, running from 2003 until 2019. But even this mighty titan of comics printed its last issue in 2019 with TWD #193, just one issue after it said goodbye to protagonist Rick Grimes.
TWD #191 features a scorned and unpopular character, Sebastian Milton, taking revenge against Grimes for overthrowing his mother. Milton bursts into Rick’s room in the middle of the night full of indecision, but ultimately fires at the living legend several times before fleeing. Grimes’s actual demise comes in the next issue, where he rises again as a zombie and must be put down by his own son, Carl.
- Photo: DC Comics
At first, Alfred Pennyworth’s grisly end in 2019’s Batman #77 is so horrific that most assume it to be a fake-out - but Bruce Wayne’s loyal butler really does perish, quite literally, at the hands of Bane. After taking control of Gotham City and threatening to slay Pennyworth if any members of the Bat Family come back to town, Bane follows through on his grim threat - and he does so right in front of Damian Wayne, Batman’s young son, to boot.
As it turns out, Alfred’s passing is somewhat self-inflicted: He sent the Dark Knight a signal that he had escaped Bane’s custody, when in reality he just wanted to ensure that Batman could take back Gotham City without worrying about his oldest friend. This bold sacrifice does allow Wayne to ultimately defeat Bane, but it also leaves him without perhaps the most important person in his life.
- Photo: Marvel Comics
The 2014 Marvel Comics series Death of Wolverine made no adamantium-laced bones about the events that would unfold within it, and indeed, the plot concludes with the demise of the long-lived mutant known as Logan. Caught without his trademark healing factor, Wolverine decides to sacrifice himself to prevent a handful of innocent individuals from being subjected to the same experiments that created him - and ends up encased in liquid adamantium for his trouble.
Logan remained out of commission for several real-world years, finally returning to life in 2018 when an evil organization resurrected him for their own nefarious purposes. These days, he’s back with the X-Men on their new island nation of Krakoa, where he and all of Marvel’s merry mutants appear to have put the very concept of mortality behind them for good.
- Photo: Marvel Comics
The events of 2016’s Civil War II promised to shake up the Marvel Universe as much as the first Civil War - and while they may not have accomplished that goal, the series certainly provided fans with a number of emotional demises. The first comes early in the storyline, as War Machine and a group of Avengers respond to a clairvoyant report that Thanos will arrive on Earth imminently and attempt to cut him off at the jump.
The heroes on the scene are quickly overwhelmed by the Mad Titan, with some horrific results. She-Hulk ends up in a coma, but that’s nothing compared to James Rhodes, who has one of Thanos’s enormous fists punched clean through his torso. A few years later, Tony Stark does resurrect Rhodey as a mostly artificial being - though whether this truly counts as a return to life for War Machine remains up for debate.