Say what you will about 2017, bad or good, but one thing’s for sure: however upsetting it may have been in the real world, it was infinitely worse in the comics universe. Put another way, the Grim Reaper visited many characters both on the comics page, the cinema, and the small screen.
While it’s true that previous years have been even more unsparing towards the superhero and supervillain kind (hello, 2016), 2017 knocked off everyone from Agent Phil Coulson to Black Widow.
There are the famous deaths of the year, like Wolverine’s in Logan (along with Professor X and Caliban), and The Warriors Three in Thor: Ragnarok. While this list incorporates some of the biggest deaths of the year, but it focuses more on the lesser knowns, like the loss of Omni-Man in Robert Kirkman’s Invincible, or the off-screen (but equally tragic )death of Nighthawk.
Did you know William Stryker got killed off in an X-Men comic this year? True story. What about Nightmaster, the party-rocking, guitar-shredding superhero? He won’t be around in 2018, thanks to the evil wiles of the Batman Who Laughs.
This is but a sampling of the chaos that ensued in the last twelve months. For the complete list, read on for the 15 Biggest Superhero Deaths of 2017 You Missed.
15 Hercules (Wonder Woman #31)
In many ways, Wonder Woman #31 served as a fresh start to the newest chapter of Diana Prince’s comics journey. Without wasting much time, the narrative delves right into the action and knocks off a key character in the first few pages.
Under attack by Grail, the progeny of Darkseid himself, Hercules quickly finds his demigod powers to be sorely lacking. Grail pummels him into submission, and though the famed son of Zeus doesn't go down without a fight, he ultimately succumbs to the less than holy Grail.
While it’s tough luck for the he-man from Mount Olympus, Hercules’ death proved to be a winning day for Diana, who quickly inherited the demigod’s estate. If nothing else, Wonder Woman #31 highlights the importance of having a will, even if you’re a superhero.
14 Hack (Suicide Squad #13)
While everybody seemed to love him in the movie, the Boomerang of the comics can be one vicious dude. Case in point: Suicide Squad #13, which sees the rabble-rouser break the fighting code of ethics and stab an innocent in the back.
Boomerang’s victim? Hack, the aptly-named computer wiz who was so busy infiltrating mainframes and buzzing in and out of cyberspace that she never considered herself in true physical danger.
After investigating some scandals and mysteries, Hack found herself back in the (relatively) safe and reliable facilities of Belle Reve.
Hack charges Harcourt as an enemy of the state, but out of nowhere, Boomerang emerges to plunge a dagger in Hack’s back, revealing himself as the real double agent. While many anticipated Hack would reemerge in later comics, this death appears to be final.
13 Bloodstorm (X-Men Blue #13)
When daringly imagined and executed, comic book art can concoct as devastating an image as anything the mind can muster.
Take Bloodstorm’s death in X-Men: Blue, Vol. 1, #13. In just one image, we get the full range of violence and suffering that befell the fanged mutant, Ororo Munroe. There’s the red eyes, the arched back, the protruding spear, and of course, the morbidly maroon blood splatter that accompanies it.
What on earth happened to such a capable hero?
Fighting alongside Cyclops, Prestige and Kitty Pride, Bloodstorm took on the monstrous Mojo and his defending sentinels. While Cyclops looked to distract the villain’s guards, Mojo locked onto Bloodstorm and unleashed a spear that would claim her life. Since this fateful event, she has not been seen or heard in any shape or form.
12 Nightmaster (Dark Nights: Metal #3)
Unlike Wolverine and Professor X’s widely-heralded deaths, the demise of Nightmaster barely made the obituaries. Since 1969, Jim Rook (aka Nightmaster) has carried the mantle of most unique superhero, the rock and rolling singer who traveled through magical dimensions and fought with a legendary sword.
Though he fell silent for a few decades, Nightmaster made a resurgence throughout the DC Rebirth, led by Greg Capullo and Scott Snyder. The dastardly comic duo is famous for authoring the most sadistic and depraved depictions of the Joker, and after getting their hands on Nightmaster, they put him into their twisted universe.
As the Dark Knights flood his beloved Oblivion Bar, the Batman Who Laughs emerges, snatches the musician’s sword, and plunges it through the innocent hero's head.
Nightmaster’s watch has ended.
11 Jack Flag (Captain America: Steve Rogers #10)
2017 was a tough year for Captain America’s reputation. Even after the “Hail Hydra!” shock settled in, and his detractors began to soften, Cap went on to commit a number of atrocities that kept him firmly in the villainous camp.
Take the defenestration of Jack Flag, for example, that saw the kindly hero and member of the Guardians of the Galaxy plummet a good 15,000 feet to his death. This anticlimactic event came after Jack’s successful capture of Baron Zemo, the evil Nazi scientist that used to cause Captain America countless headaches.
Though it was revealed that Jack survived the fall, he remained in a coma and survived yet another attempted murder from Captain America. Jack’s final cause of death? His family, who decided to pull the plug on him in the hospital.
10 Fantomex (Astonishing X-Men #6)
While he’s likely out of future X-Men movies, Charles Xavier is still kicking it in the comics. In Astonishing X-Men #6, Professor X recruits his top fighters to circle the wagons against the Shadow King. Mystique, Rogue, Old Man Logan and Fantomex team up to save their beloved teacher and restore him to full capacity.
You see, at this point in the comics, Professor X exists in spiritual form only. He needs a body to return to his usual strength. After Fantomex whips the Shadow King into submission, he offers up his corporeal frame as a vessel for Professor X.
While the rebirth brings Charles back to his usual self, it wipes Fantomex from existence, leaving only his body behind. Given Fantomex’s willingness to make the trade, however, it seems we shouldn't pity him for his sacrifice.
9 Patriot (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)
2017 was the year that saw good old Jeffrey Mace, the Patriot, get written out of Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. It's a shame, considering the long history Mace enjoyed on the comics page. As the third Captain America, Mace hoisted the Vibranium shield for the better part of a decade.
It’s no wonder that Marvel saw a place for him on the small screen, casting Jason O’Mara to step in his shoes. While this Patriot was less pro-America than he first pretended, Mace moved from full-blown turncoat to hero in just a span of a few short episodes.
In his final show, Patriot sacrificed himself through his virtual reality program, the Framework. While displaying his incredible talents, Patriot bought enough time to save his comrades before vanishing in the depths of the digital domain.
8 Red Skull (Secret Empire #10)
Given the number of significant deaths in Secret Empire, it’s hard to know where to start. This list contains more than a few, so we’ll start with the least liked character of them all: Red Skull.
Once again, we find Captain America in his new signature pose: arms up, belly out, face down. It’s the defenestration pose, the same one he exhibited after tossing Jack Flag out of the back of a plane.
This time, his victim is Mr. Red noggin himself. In a bizarre turn of events, Cap goes out of his way to exact perfect revenge on Skull. While acknowledging the former Nazi’s manipulation, Cap goes full-Hydra and essentially claims that the organization is better now than ever, thanks to his own efforts.
Cap claims, “All that suffering and sacrifice, it made me stronger…so let me show you how much stronger.” He then hurls Skull to his death out of a high-rise window.
7 Rick Jones (Secret Empire #1)
This is one of the most upsetting deaths of the year. Given the vertical progression of the comic, the image above doesn’t fully capture the shock and violence of Rick Jones’ demise.
A longtime hero, Jones started his career way back in 1962. He saw many iterations over the years, but in 2017, he would see his last. After getting flagged for using his smartphone to destabilize the Hydra computer network, Jones threatened to return Captain America to his true allegiance: with the Avengers and the United States. Unfortunately, Rick Jones’ efforts fell short and ultimately drove him to death via firing squad.
His last words? “Avengers assemble!”
However gut-wrenching this end may have been, the comics panel says it all: “We all believed the same, awful life. That this was the worst things could get.” It’s Secret Empire, after all, a freight train of tragedy.
6 Omni-Man (Invincible #141)
While driving The Walking Dead into a seemingly infinite number of issues, Robert Kirkman managed to take Invincible on an equally exciting journey. This bloody, intergalactic saga can only end in ultra-violence, and this eventuality has been telegraphed with the surprising death of Nolan (aka Omni-Man).
The very foundation of Invincible was built on Nolan. His superpowers, his potential, and his benevolence were the anchors of the story for over 14 years, but in 2017, a changing of the guard was set into motion.
Omni-Man was revealed to be a selfish double agent who intended to dominate planet Earth. After his reputation took a hit, however, Omni-Man started coming around. By the time he had enjoyed nearly total redemption, Omni-Man had died, leaving Invincible at the end of the road with the hero that started it all.
5 Martin Stein (Legends of Tomorrow)
Alas, the Patriot wasn’t the only small-screen superhero to bite the dust in 2017. Martin Stein also bade farewell to Legends of Tomorrow, though his goodbye seems less predicated by the show’s narrative arc and more by business demands.
A full month before his on-screen death on the show, the Hollywood trades reported that Victor Garber would be ending the gig so he could hop back on Broadway for a revival of Hello, Dolly!
It’s one thing to anticipate the death of a character, and it’s another to experience it in real time. During the major crossover event of Crisis on Earth X, Martin Stein offers the greatest sacrifice of all, giving up his mortal body to create an inter-dimensional portal that will save his friends from the encroaching Third Reich.
This final act of heroism cost Martin Stein his life, and upgraded him from doctor to full-blown superhero.
4 William Stryker (Weapon X, Vol. 3)
Whether as a mature man or a young businessman, William Stryker has made his presence known in most of the X-Men and Wolverine movies. Though he is a fixture of that universe, he has never experienced the kind of horrific death depictedin Weapon X, Vol. 3, where he is the least reformed Reverend the world has ever known.
While partnering with Bastion and a cabal of Anti-Mutant fighters (including Bolivar Trask and Steven Lang), Stryker pursues the X-Men with intent to kill.
Though he succeeds in shutting down the mutants’ ability to teleport, he loses control over the battle and watches as Wolverine orders Angel to take on his mutant identity as Archangel. He obliges and proceeds to kill William Stryker by cutting him clean in half.
3 Phil Coulson (Deadpool #31)
When the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes to mind, most people picture Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man. Rightly so, but it’s Clark Gregg’s Phil Coulson who has a nearly ubiquitous presence in all things Marvel (Cinematic Universe or otherwise).
Whether on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or in a slew of comics, Agent Coulson doesn’t just show up, he shows up as Clark Gregg.
Deadpool #31 takes place before the total collapse of Secret Empire. In the run-up to that showdown, Captain America slyly drives Deadpool to kill Phil Coulson. It’s a purely Machiavellian play that somehow works, as we see Wade Wilson hunt Coulson and unload a silenced bullet right into his sternum.
And just like that, Phil Coulson was dead as a doornail.
2 Nighthawk (Occupy Avengers #8)
If you haven’t heard of Nighthawk, you’re not alone. Just think of him as a sort of Dark Knight-lite character in the wide Marvel universe. There are a lot of similarities between Batman and Nighthawk: they were both born wealthy, they are driven to uphold justice, and they both prefer to carry out their crime-fighting as individuals, rather than groups.
The individual behind the Nighthawk get-up has had many names, from Kyle Richmond to Raymond Kyle, but due to the character’s lack of popularity, the Nighthawk publication has had great difficulty avoiding cancellation. In 2017, Nighthawk reappeared in the form of Tilda Johnson, who bore the superhero’s owlish mantle and vigilante passion.
Unfortunately, Tilda’s career only begins because Raymond Kyle was killed by Hydra lackeys while wearing civilian clothes in an after-hours fight. While we don’t get to see his demise on the comics page, Tilda makes it clear that we won’t be seeing Raymond Kyle again.
1 Black Widow (Secret Empire #7)
However morbid this list may be, it’s only fitting that we end with the most significant superhero death of the year. Poor Natasha Romanova capped off her difficult life with a gruesome death unbefitting such a hero.
After working with Tony Stark to install the Superhero Registration act (the main story of Civil War), she spearheaded a mission to liberate the USA from Hydra’s heinous New Order. Enter Secret Empire #7, which sees Miles Morales and Steve Rogers duke it out in a vicious fight.
Though they think they fight in solitude, Black Widow oversees the proceedings via the crosshairs of her sniper rifle. Though she failed to take out Cap from afar, she entered the arena only to find herself down for the count in an instant.
Captain America then took his shield and slammed it into Black Widow’s neck, shattering her spine and killing her immediately.
What other superhero (and supervillain) deaths slipped under the radar this year? Let us know in the comments!