When I did my list of the best deaths in comics, I inadvertently compiled a fairly standard list of the best stories in comics. That wasn’t my intention and it kind of frustrated me. Even my two alternates–Kraven and Terra–died in classic books. Why was that? Death is dramatic and stories where there are serious consequences last for readers.
So when I sat down to look at my list of best resurrections, I aimed to go for stories less talked about, though two were filmed. It helps that I’m taking Captain America and Superman off the table, two of the better known rebirths. These are stories where the initial death generally wasn’t that hot. But wow what came next.
Honorable mention: Bruce Wayne (Knightsend). Bruce Wayne didn’t technically die and wasn’t believed dead so he’s off the list. But I can’t keep him off completely because Knightfall is one of the great sagas in comics that deserves its due. The Batman writers were annoyed that the character was treated as a joke so this story gave them the edgy, antihero Batman fans craved. Then the book proceeded to decimate the trope. When the one true Batman returned to the role, he deserved it.
5. Stephanie Brown (Robin). One of the lesser known resurrections but one of the most brilliant fixes of all time. Brown was first killed in the atrocious War Games. Then it was revealed her true killer was Batman’s trusted mentor Dr. Leslie Thompkins who wanted to teach a lesson. These were two horrible, astonishingly sexist moves that defined everything wrong with how comics treat female characters. The only way to fix it? Reveal none of it really happened and Brown’s death was faked, then make her a major character (until the New 52.) A saving throw that worked.
4. Norman Osborn (Clone Saga). OK, this was a resurrection that happened out of desperation. Marvel needed a grand villain for the Clone Saga and it undid a great villain death. Putting that aside, this makes the list for how utterly incredible the stories after have been. Return of the Goblin was stellar. Dan Slott has used Norman Osborn brilliantly throughout his run on Amazong Spider-Man. Thunderbolts made him a threat without the Goblin costume. Then there was the glory of Dark Reign which I’ll hit on in the next year. We needed Norman Osborn alive.
3. Bucky Barnes (Winter Soldier). Gotta admire the boldness of this one. Bucky’s death, a retcon nested in a few retcons, gave Captain America the loss all silver age Marvel heroes seemed to need. He was untouchable in death, a few bad fakeouts aside, until Ed Brubaker cracked it. The revelation Bucky hadn’t died but was instead a man out of time like his partner, added so much to Cap’s mythos and gave us a great character in the process.
2. Jason Todd (Hush/Under the Red Hood). Jason Todd’s death stunk, an aggressively nasty one perpetrated by writers who’d come to hate the character. His resurrection was another thing all together. If his death was supposed to serve as Batman’s ultimate failure then his resurrection compounded that with Jason violently rejecting the teachings of his mentor. Jason Todd became the ultimate prodigal son. I didn’t like the fakeout rebirth in Hush but his actual one gave power to him climbing out of the grave with the reveal that was indeed him. I also could’ve done without the mechanism of his resurrection, a punch to the wall of reality, but the film version (by the comic’s writer Judd Winick) gives a better one. Now the very best.
1 Hal Jordan (Green Lantern: Rebirth). Why? Pretty simple. Before Hal Jordan returned as Green Lantern, the property was a loose one. Despite proving himself repeatedly, nobody respected Kyle Rayner. Fellow Lanterns Guy Gardner and John Stewart were used here and there, each even having their own book for a time, but weren’t getting their due. (Yes, John was on the tv show. But not much used in canon.) Green Lantern: Rebirth exploded the mythology of the Green Lantern universe. So many brilliant ideas were added that have become central. Hal Jordan was redeemed in a way that honestly made a lot of sense as his turning evil hadn’t made any sense. The best part? The book expanded to a second book, a team book, with all of the GLs getting increased focus. Hal didn’t come back to erase the others. He lifted them up. One of the best franchises in comics started here.