Back Issue #48 May 2011 (magazine review).

Upon examining the early ‘Back Issue’ cover, one might notice that, if Captain Marvel were to stand up, he would appear to be as tall as Thanos, even accounting for perspective. However, as I recall, he wasn’t that tall. This is a minor quibble, but I just wanted to demonstrate that I’m paying attention.

This particular issue is known as the ‘Dead Heroes Issue,’ though some characters featured within may have been resurrected since or, like Deadman, remained active even after death. Editor Mike Eury aptly notes that comic book death has become a revolving door, and no one stays dead forever anymore – with a few exceptions, such as Captain Marvel and a couple of others.

I only read Neal Adams’ run on ‘Deadman’ last year, so I had a solid starting point for reading writer John Wells’ article about him. I was unaware of the extent to which the people who granted him his second life had been explored. Given the numerous superheroes Boston Brand has inhabited, including Batman and Aquaman, one might think that some of the JLA would have offered him support. Admittedly, Deadman has had a tumultuous existence, and I concur that Kirby’s take on him was rather dismal. Surely, after all these years, there must have been moments when he enjoyed temporarily inhabiting someone else’s body.

May Parker needs no introduction. A resilient character, she has managed to evade death many times, despite numerous heart attacks. Writer Dan Johnson highlights her significance to her nephew, whose name escapes me at the moment.

The issue also features a fascinating interview with artist/writer Jim Starlin. However, I can’t help but wonder if interviewer Shaun Clancy was aware of the timelines of comic book company histories or provided sufficient context for the reader. Starlin’s artwork displayed here reminds me that he often depicted characters with longer torsos than even Curt Swan, though he eventually toned this down. In addition to Captain Mar-Vell’s demise, Starlin was responsible for the deaths of New Gods and Jason Todd at various points. I agree with his view that Robin’s costume is far too bright for stealth, unlike his mentor’s attire.

I started to consider whether ‘Back Issue’ should have a resurrection-themed issue, particularly when looking at the life of Elektra Natchios. After reading the article by writer Adam Besenyodi, one might wonder if Frank Miller intended to give her a short life, not anticipating her fan appeal. That said, a white-clad assassin does stand out.

Writer Brett Weiss discusses one character who stayed dead for an extended period: Barry Allen, aka the Flash. In many ways, Allen was an ordinary superhero – married and fairly normal outside of his costume. It’s not surprising that DC Comics thought they could kill him off and replace him with his nephew. Allen’s death was somewhat overshadowed by Supergirl’s demise in ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’, as were the deaths of many other characters. Personally, I always believed that getting rid of Helena Wayne was a mistake, as she was far more intriguing than her successor, the Huntress.

The issue then revisits Jason Todd, with writer Chris Franklin examining his two distinct histories. Gerry Conway created the first version, which mirrored Dick Grayson’s circus background. Following the ‘Crisis on Infinite Earths’, Doug Moench reimagined Todd’s origin with a more delinquent past, and this version was ultimately killed off in Batman #426’s story, ‘A Death in the Family’, due to a fan vote. However, his death didn’t last forever. A common issue with any superhero having a sidekick is that it prevents them from aging indefinitely or adds several years to their life as the sidekick matures. Comic book years have always been difficult to compare with our reality’s timeline.

This particular ‘Back Issue’ should not be underestimated, as it encourages readers to contemplate comic book deaths more deeply. It would be worthwhile to revisit this theme in the future, exploring the various ways characters have been resurrected. The cyclical nature of death and rebirth in comics can be viewed as a narrative tool that keeps stories fresh and engaging. However, it is essential to strike a balance between utilizing this device and maintaining the emotional impact of a character’s death.

In addition to the characters already mentioned, there are countless others who have experienced the revolving door of comic book death, such as Jean Grey, Superman, and Wolverine. These resurrections have often been met with mixed reactions from fans, as they can sometimes undermine the significance of a character’s original demise. Nevertheless, they also provide opportunities for writers and artists to explore new storylines and character arcs.

Ultimately, the ‘Dead Heroes Issue’ of ‘Back Issue’ serves as a compelling reminder of the complex relationship between life, death, and rebirth in comic book storytelling. It invites readers to reflect on the various ways these concepts have been employed and challenges them to consider the impact of this narrative technique on the broader comic book universe. In the future, it would be interesting to examine not only the resurrections of beloved characters but also the ways in which these events have shaped the industry and influenced the development of new stories and characters.

GF Willmetts

April 2023

(pub: TwoMorrows Publishing. 82 page illustrated magazine. Price: $10.95 (US). ISSN: 1932-6904. Direct from them, you can get it for digtially $ 4.95 (US))

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