Death has proven to be an endlessly revolving door in comics, for characters popular and unpopular alike. While the pain of loss spurs on many to fight the good fight, often times it’s the heroes themselves who rarely have to worry whether or not they’ll see the return of a fallen comrade. Look no further than Final Crisis #2 during J’Onn J’Onzz’s funeral, when Superman says “We pray for a speedy resurrection.”
This is not to say that death has lost all meaning in the world of DC. For many on this list, their demises – be it a sacrifice or when cut down in the line of duty – have inspired others into action, resulting in a wealth of powerful stories. Nevertheless, the fact remains that after several years, most popular character can’t stay away too long. Let’s look at the top five biggest DC resurrections!
1. HAL JORDAN
Hal Jordan has an interesting history. Once the universe’s greatest Green Lantern, he went mad and became the villain Parallax, attempting to remake all of history into a thing of his own will. He eventually sacrificed himself to reignite the sun in the DC event The Final Night, and became the host of The Spectre. During Green Lantern: Rebirth, it was discovered that Parallax was an alien parasite that attached itself to Hal’s consciousness and warped his mind. Once discovered, Parallax tried affixing itself to Ganthet, the last remaining Guardian of the Universe. However, Ganthet used his energy to return Hal’s fleeting soul to his body (buried on the moon,) returning the classic Green Lantern back to the land of the living. Hal came just in time to stop both Parallax and a recently returned Sinestro from destroying the planet.
2. BARRY ALLEN
The Silver Age Flash sacrificed his life to save the Multiverse in the cross-dimensional mega-epic Crisis on Infinite Earths. Arguably DC’s most noble sacrifice, Barry Allen was rightfully honored as the best of the Justice League, and succeeded by his nephew and teen partner, Wally West, who became the Flash in his stead and held the mantle for the next twenty years.
In Final Crisis #2, Barry returns from the edge of the Speed Force, racing after the bullet fired to strike down Orion of the New Gods. It’s explained that when Barry died, his speedster energy became one with the Speed Force (the cosmic entity that connects all speedsters and gives them their abilities) becoming the bolt of lightning that gifted him super speed in the first place. This unearthed the chances of him returning to life as a possibility, and during Darkseid’s rule over Earth it came to pass. When the Anti-Life Equation took dominion over all life on Earth, Barry and Wally aided the heroes in bringing the New God down, restoring humanity and staying in Central City for good.
3. JASON TODD
One of DC’s most infamous characters, the second Robin famously met his violent end at the hands (and crowbar) of the Joker. For fifteen years, Jason’s death served as a reminder of the risk of crime fighting. His haunted costume was memorialized in the Batcave, and served as an ominous specter for Tim Drake, the third Robin.
In 2005, a masked vigilante took to the streets of Gotham, donning the Red Hood moniker previously employed by the Joker. This was revealed to be an older Jason Todd, returned to life and revenging himself on Gotham’s criminals in an attempt to show Batman that his nonlethal ways of crime fighting weren’t good enough to battle evil. In Batman Annual #25, we learn that the effects of Superboy-Prime punching the walls of his dimension rippled a seismic effect on DC’s history, altering the outcome and reviving Jason in his coffin. He makes his way out of his grave and is eventually found by Talia, daughter of Ra’s Al Ghul. Talia used one of her father’s remaining Lazarus Pits to return Jason’s mind to his resurrected but badly damaged body, restoring his mental faculties. Once made whole again, Jason became the Red Hood, not taking well the news that not only had Batman replaced him with a new Robin, but that the Joker was still alive even after Jason’s murder.
4. OLIVER QUEEN
Like The Flash, Oliver Queen – Green Arrow – sacrificed his life to save millions, saving Metropolis from eco-terrorists. He was succeeded by his son, Connor Hawke, and was honored a fallen hero for years. In 2004, Oliver mysteriously returned from the dead with the previous decade of his life wiped from his memories. With the help of Batman and those closest to him (his former lover Black Canary and his former partner Roy Harper/Arsenal,) Oliver learned that before Hal Jordan sacrificed his own life, he used the remaining abilities as Parallax to resurrect Oliver’s body. However, like Hal Jordan’s own resurrection, the man’s soul was in the afterlife. On the ground, Oliver was a man out of time, with his soonest memories set around what was equivalent to DC’s history in the 1970s, as opposed to the life he led in the 80s and 90s. Soon his soul returned to his body, and Green Arrow was renewed with a fresh sense of justice, just as firm and socially minded as before.
5. DAMIAN WAYNE
‘Lest anyone believe that Jason was the only Robin who’d previously died, the fifth and current Boy Wonder – and son of Batman and Talia – met his end while battling a super-enhanced, genetically engineered clone of himself while trying to stop his mother’s evil schemes. This casualty not only affected Bruce Wayne, but Dick Grayson – with whom Damian first worked with as the Dynamic Duo when Bruce was thought to have been dead. While Batman mourned the loss of his son burying him on the grounds of Wayne Manor, Ra’s Al Ghul stole the corpse and sought to reanimate his grandson into a willing servant of the Demon’s Head, as revenge for Batman turning Damian against him. As The Dark Knight battled Ra’s for his son’s coffin, it was suddenly stolen by Glorious Godfrey and Kalibak the Cruel – servants of Darkseid. Despite protest from the Justice League, Batman and the Bat-Family traveled to Apokolips and, using the power of the Chaos Shard originally stolen from Darkseid, brought Damian back to life. This had unintended consequences, as the boy was now gifted with superpowers akin to Superman. Arrogant as ever, Damian eagerly attacked crime with the zeal of a ten-year-old with superpowers trained by the world’s greatest detective and assassins. Ultimately the powers proved to be temporary, but Batman was just as pleased that his son was back to normal, and once again fighting by his side.
Honorable mention: It's arguably the most famous of all DC resurrections, but one of the least surprising for regular comics readers. Regardless, here's to the Return of Superman" --