Are Batman, Wonder Woman, Superman, and Justice League really dead? Yes … and no

Wonder Woman, Batman, Superman, Aquaman, John Stewart-Green Lantern, and the other members of the Justice League are dead. 

They were killed by Pariah’s Dark Army in April 26’s Justice League #75 in a story titled ‘Death of the Justice League.’

So that’s that, right?

Right..?

Let’s be upfront, we’ll take DC’s word for it that in the pages of Dark Crisis, the major monthly event series Justice League #75 leads into, the DCU heroes of Earth-Prime will believe that the iconic superheroes including the ‘Trinity’ of Batman, Wonder Woman, and Superman died in space at the hands of Pariah.

Justice League #75

variant cover to Justice League #75 (Image credit: DC)

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Heck, we now have seen it with our own eyes

Despite the indisputable visual evidence we believe some reading between the lines is still in order. Let’s just say besides the obvious (which we’ll get to) DC has used some interesting language in the build-up to April 26’s events.

In January, DC initially revealed Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern (John Stewart), Martian Manhunter, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, Green Arrow, Black Canary, and Zatanna would go off on a mission at the edge of the Multiverse and nine would die at the hands of the Dark Army, leaving only one survivor to warn Earth of impending danger. 

We know who that is now but we’ll let you cross over to the spoiler story in case you haven’t read yet or heard.

But DC’s language initially describing the event particularly caught our attention..

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Dark Crisis #1 art (Image credit: DC)

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“… the heroes left behind must come together to combat this great evil and save the lost Justice League…”

“Save”?

“Lost”?

That doesn’t quite sound like “dead” to us. And the announcement is filled with similar wording that seems to indicate the Justice League might not be as “dead” as the ‘Death of the Justice League’ implies. 

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Dark Crisis #1 art (Image credit: DC)

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But that’s beside the point, because even if they’re dead rather than lost, the answer to the question “will they really ‘die,’ as in anything resembling the real-life die, the answer is, of course, of course not

As we say, these are some of the most iconic fictional characters in the world, or in other words, some of the most valuable intellectual property in the world. 

Case closed. 

Our initial hypothesis was that DC would still have some storytelling and marketing fun for a while with the possibilities that come with having to ‘replace’ all those heroes, including in the pages of all their solo titles.

After all, the ‘Death of the Justice League’ pays homage to the ‘Death of Superman (opens in new tab)‘ on that landmark event’s 30th anniversary, and DC is aligning the “30 years in the making” Dark Crisis closer to ‘Death of Superman’ than it is any previous Crisis event, it was fair to expect a dynamic to play out similar to when Superman was ‘replaced’ by four other heroes in his various titles.

Justice League #75

Justice League #75 variant cover (Image credit: DC)

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But it hasn’t quite played out that way. As we’ve previously detailed, in May and June the dead Justice Leaguers all appear alive and well in their respective ongoing titles (with the so-far exception of The Flash) and some new limited series.

DC has also since revealed Aquamen will catch up to the events of Dark Crisis in July, revealing the start of a storyline in which Arthur’s family, friends, and fellow Aquaman Jackson Hyde mourn his death. 

But July also features new creative teams taking over Batman and Detective Comics starting story arcs starring Bruce Wayne that’ll publish concurrently with the majority of Dark Crisis’s seven-issue run. 

So it now seems their ‘deaths’ will be limited to a mix of tie-in specials and series, and some ongoing titles reflecting the events/timelines and some that won’t … at least not for a while.

So whether they are dead or “lost,” Clark Kent, Diana of Themyscira, billionaire Bruce Wayne, and the rest might just be “saved” and/or resurrected by the series’ end and perhaps even return in the final pages of Dark Crisis having never really been absent from their own titles. 

Regular comic book readers can be cynical about the frequent use of ultimately faux “death” in comic books for marketing purposes, and not without some warrant. But the simple reason why characters die and return so regularly at both Marvel Comics and DC is that frankly, it works. 

This ain’t rocket science. 

Well, sometimes rocket science plays a big part in superhero comic books, but you take our meaning.

Comic book sales by nature are a war of attrition. Very few readers or collectors are staying for one-off stories anymore. Status-quo ‘changing’ story arcs and events are the sales drivers in 2022 and have been for decades. 

Justice League #75

Justice League #75 cover (Image credit: DC)

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So there is little to no doubt April’s Justice League #75 and then Dark Crisis will drum up huge sales numbers. 

But that’s only half the equation.

From a creative side, the event will also allow writer Joshua Williamson to tell a story that highlights the defining “legacy” aspect of the DCU and about how the DC world would react to losing its most iconic superheroes in one fell swoop. 

“Justice League #75 allows us to showcase why the Justice League are comics’ greatest heroes as we show the aftermath of the loss against their biggest threat ever and its impact on the DCU,” Williamson said when the event was announced.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with that, even if the Justice League will only be dead in a very particular timeline and/or context.

So check this space in August when we might just be talking about the inevitable ‘Return of the Justice League.’ And who knows, maybe DC’s slowplaying the monthly solo titles catching up to Dark Crisis is part of its plan to play off of readers’ expectations and to catch them by surprise. Maybe Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman will be ‘dead’ for longer than we anticipate. 

But they will be back someday, rest assured. 

But until whenever that is, enjoy the ride. It’ll be over before you know it.

Check out more Newsarama coverage of the ‘Death of the Justice League’

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