Thinking about the end of Fear Itself, I end up wondering about the role of superhero death these days. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that there’s another death in #7 – The solicit has talked about “another hero falling” or something similar, right? – but, like the death of Bucky in #3, it’s entirely unconvincing; you end up thinking “Wait, is that it?” and “They’ll be back in a few months” simultaneously, and that seems to be a problem. Actually, the problem for Marvel is the same one that DC had, as underlined by Blackest Night: All of their major characters had “died” and come back from the dead.
In the last few years, we’ve seen Thor die during Ragnarok, only to come back thanks to JMS, Captain America die and come back thanks to timey-wimey craziness, and Iron Man die and get rebooted during World’s Most Wanted/Stark Disassembled. Hawkeye has died, Mockingbird has died, Wolverine has died (more than once?), the Human Torch has died and is awaiting a rebirth in Fantastic Four #600… Death has become so entirely devalued that it, weirdly, seems to devalue the stories that it appears in – I’ve been seeing reactions to the end of FI that are along the lines of “Yawn, another death? They couldn’t think of anything else to do?” – which seems… both heartening (The readers want something more from their comics!) and depressing (Using death as part of your story is judged lazy and cliche, which feels like it’s removing a lot of options in terms of dramatic tension).
The obvious solution is to do what Blackest Night tried to – Draw a line under the various resurrections and say “Yeah, that’s not going to happen again anytime soon,” while also pulling back on the number of deaths in your stories. Give death a chance to regain some of its dramatic power, and stop using it as a cheap way of forcing an emotional reaction to whatever tale you’re telling at that particular moment. But, even doing that, we’ll all still remember that a truly ridiculous number of characters have beaten the Grim Reaper. Is there any way that comic book death can ever be redeemed again?