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A Brief History of the Avengers Dying in the Comics

Who is going to die in Avengers: Infinity War? Probably everyone. Or nobody. At least Captain America. The Avengers have a proud tradition of dying horrifically…and usually being resurrected a few issues later. While we have our own theories as to who is likeliest to die in Infinity War, today we’re looking back at a brief history of every time the Avengers have died in the comics.

First of all, a quick point of order: to preserve my sanity, this is going to cover the core Avengers from the 2012 film because they are the ones who are likeliest to bite it in Infinity War given their rapidly expiring contracts. So that’s Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, Black Widow, Hawkeye, and the Hulk.

Second, let’s get two major comic events out of the way:

1) In 1991’s Infinity Gauntlet series, Thanos basically kills every single Avenger in increasingly horrific ways

2) In 1996’s Onslaught Saga, nearly every Avenger on this list–except for Black Widow–dies during the fight against Onslaught, the malevolent psionic baby formed from the consciousnesses of Professor X and Magneto.

In both cases, everyone was brought back to life and the status quos were effectively restored…because comics.

Iron Man

Tony Stark may be called the Invincible Iron Man, but he has shuffled off this mortal coil once or twice before. In 1995’s Avengers: The Crossing storyline, Tony Stark was revealed to have been working for Kang the Conqueror the whole time, and begin murdering people left and right. The Avengers had to travel through time to enlist a 19-year-old Tony Stark to help defeat his older self. Ultimately, Old Tony sacrificed his life to defeat Kang so that his younger self and his friends could live.

Teen Tony, a.k.a. Iron Boy, didn’t fare much better. While battling one of the worst things to come out of the ‘90s, Onslaught, Teen Tony sacrificed himself by spearing Doctor Doom and flying the two of them through a portal, presumably dying alongside countless other heroes. Or at least that’s what we thought. As it turns out Franklin Richards, boy genius, created a pocket dimension where the heroes secretly survived. In doing so Franklin resurrected adult Tony from The Crossing and he merged with Teen Tony when they returned to the main Earth-616 continuity.

It’s not Tony’s first time or last time pulling a fast one on the audience, either. In a 1992 storyline, Tony suffered nerve damage during a battle with the Masters of Silence, a group of high-tech samurai assassins, and seemingly died on the operating table after defeating them. Or so his BFF James Rhodes thought. In reality, Tony put himself into suspended animation until he could get better. The worst part? He didn’t even tell War Machine, who was so pissed at Tony that he ended their friendship and left to join the West Coast Avengers. Also, at the end of Civil War II, it turned out that despite suffering wounds that should have killed him, Tony had experimented on his body enough over the years to make him more machine than man, allowing him to survive his grievous wounds. While he was effectively “dead,” he lived on as an alcoholic A.I. in Riri Williams’ (Ironheart’s) armor. Yes, you heard that right — an alcoholic A.I. Even in the afterlife, Tony’s a huge dick.

Captain America

Few people in the Marvel Universe have died more than Captain America. First Cap seemingly died at the end of World War II, but it turns out that he was just chillin’–literally–at the bottom of the ocean, preserved in ice thanks to the Super Soldier Serum in his veins. In 1969’s Captain America #111, Steve seemingly died after being shot by HYDRA agents, but it turned out he faked his death to trick people into thinking that Steve Rogers wasn’t Captain America after all. In 1978, though, Cap died for real when battling the cosmically powered Michael Korvac murdered not only Steve Rogers, but all of the Avengers AND the Guardians of the Galaxy too. They were, of course, resurrected immediately after…because of course they were.

Cap next bit the dust in 1985’s Secret Wars storyline during a battle with Doctor Doom in which the not-so-good Doctor uses the Beyonder’s cosmic powers to disintegrate Steve Rogers. But the Beyonder, who had possessed the body of Ulysses Klaw, managed to bring Steve back…only for him to get disintegrated again…and brought back again. Thankfully that last time stuck because otherwise, it’s a pretty horrifying time loop.

Cap died again during the events of Punisher/Captain America: Blood and Glory. In this story, Punisher gets mind controlled and winds up shooting Cap. By all accounts, Cap is very dead. They even have a funeral for him. He’s dead, right? WRONG! Cap faked his death so that he and Punisher could get the drop on the bad guys. The Punisher also revealed he’s into some seriously weird stuff involving his balls. To each their own, I guess.

Cap died again a few years later in 1995’s Captain America #443 when he learns that his heart will stop because the super soldier serum in his body is finally wearing off. Once again, Cap has a heartfelt funeral where then-President Bill Clinton carried his coffin…but as it turns out, he had been saved at the last second by a Good Samaritan who actually turned out to be the Worst Samaritan of them all, the Red Skull, who cloned Steve’s body and is now living in it like some sort of beef condo.

In 2007, Steve died horrifically in the aftermath of Civil War, shot in the back by Crossbones after taking a bullet meant for someone else, and finished off by a mind-controlled Sharon Carter where he was definitely, 100 percent totally dead forever. Which is what I would say if comics weren’t full of the reddest herrings known to mankind. Cap was seemingly dead for a year or so, but in actuality, he was frozen in space and time thanks to whatever weird gun Sharon Carter used.

Thor

How do you kill a god? The answer, it would seem, is very carefully. Or just be insanely powerful, like Thanos or the beings behind Ragnarok. It isn’t just a hilarious buddy comedy; it’s also an apocalyptic event that killed Thor during the events of Avengers: Disassembled. Ragnarok, which means Twilight of the Gods, comes at long last for Thor and the rest of the Asgardians. While Thor allows himself and his people to be killed, he does so after destroying gods known as Those Who Sit Above in Shadow, who gained power from ritually murdering and recreating the Asgardians. In truth, Thor didn’t die; rather, he was just chillin’ in a void of non-existence where he remained until his former human alter ego, Donald Blake, touched Mjolnir back on Earth and summoned him once more.

During the Fear Itself arc, Thor died in his father’s arms after defeating his uncle, who took the form of a massive dragon, in single combat. Of course, Thor wouldn’t stay dead for very long. Though all memory of him was erased, Loki and Silver Surfer managed to help rescue him from limbo and bring Thor back to the land of the living where he lost 200lbs of muscle and now hosts Because Science.

Black Widow

Usually Natasha Romanov, a.k.a. Black Widow, is the one dealing out death with her elite assassin skills, but even the best of the best in the Marvel Universe can slip up and buy the farm. In Black Widow’s case, she was poisoned by agents of the evil ninja clan the Hand in Daredevil #187, but thankfully she got better thanks to Stone, a member of a group called the Chaste.

During the events of Secret Wars, Earth-616 was about to be destroyed as another reality collided with it. Black Widow was tasked with piloting a ship carrying a handpicked group beyond the barriers of reality so that they could essentially resurrect the human race. Unfortunately, that ship was shot down while trying to escape, exploding with Natasha and countless others still aboard. Thankfully, Natasha returned to the land of the living when Black Panther used the Infinity Gauntlet to bring the Marvel Universe back to its status quo.

Last and definitely least, during Secret Empire, everyone’s favorite storyline, Captain America broke her neck with his shield, killing Black Widow. And she very likely was dead…until those silly scientists and tricksy torturers at the Red Room got their hands on her and brought Natasha back to life. Which just goes to show that anything is possible if you have ties to a shadowy organization with access to unspeakable technology and limitless resources.

Hawkeye

The purplest archer in all the land has learned the hard way that he is a mere mortal fighting in situations where he is often wildly out of his depth. Like that time in 2004’s Avengers: Disassembled story arc, Hawkeye’s quiver full of explosive arrows catches on fire during a battle with the Kree. In his final moments, he commandeers a Kree jetpack, turning himself into a human cruise missile and blowing up both himself as well as a massive Kree battleship in the process. This tragedy was later undone when Scarlet Witch willed him back into existence during the House of M storyline. Although, death would come once more for Hawkeye during that storyline when he shot Scarlet Witch with an arrow, and she in turn erased him from existence in the blink of an eye. Maybe the Avengers should be less concerned with Thanos, and more concerned with Wanda Maximoff…

The Hulk

Despite his crippling anger management issues, Bruce Banner’s big green alter ego seems damn near indestructible. Yet no one is immortal in the Marvel Universe–even characters who are seemingly immortal. Hulk has died many, many times in “What If?” stories and weird future tales, but most recently, he was murdered in cold blood by someone he trusted dearly: Hawkeye. When the precognitive Inhuman Ulysses Cain had a premonition that Bruce Banner was going to transform into the Hulk and kill everyone, Hawkeye took preemptive action and show Banner with an arrow, killing him instantly. Thanos also killed Hulk in a more recent non-Infinity War context. In the Thanos ongoing series, a futuristic version of Thanos stabbed a massive sword through both a de-hulked Bruce Banner and the Silver Surfer, leaving Bruce a lifeless heap on the ground and the Silver Surfer with a porthole in his chest.

Unlike his counterpart in the MCU, Hulk killed himself at one point, but not how you’re thinking. After traveling to the future, Hulk faced off with an evil version of himself named Maestro, who promptly broke Hulk’s neck in their first battle…and then had Hulk nursed back to health for some reason. Eventually, though, our Bruce Banner prevailed by sending Maestro back in time to the precise moment the gamma bomb that created him detonated, obliterating Maestro, and leaving Bruce Banner with yet another thing to be anxious about.

And that is a brief history of the Avengers dying again and again and again in the comics. Which Avenger’s comic book death mean the most to you? What would you add to this list? Let me know in the comments below.

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Dan Casey is the senior editor of Nerdist and the author of books about Star Wars and the Avengers. Follow him on Twitter (@DanCasey).

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