A recent post brought up something that has long been an important: whether or not superheroes should kill their enemies. Since DC’s company-spanning reboot, their superheroes have gotten more sexual, and their fights have become a lot more violent. But I’d pose this question to the Justice League: Is killing someone Justice?
Almost since his creation, Batman has absolutely refused to kill. (Let’s ignore the fact that he used to carry a gun.) The only time Superman killed someone was Doomsday, and that was a fight to the death for them both. [Doomsday got better, too.] Wonder Woman, on the other hand, is a warrior first– she makes no compunction at all about killing when it’s called for.
There are such things as extenuating circumstances, though. In WW’s case, the man with his head in her hands just told her that the only way to stop him mind-controlling Superman was to kill him. She didn’t hesitate.
I’m not going to lie– I don’t find all violence distasteful. It can be engrossing, and even satisfying to see the bad guy get what he deserves– when he deserves it.
Sherlock Holmes fought James Moriarty to the death– but that was because Arthur Conan Doyle felt it would make Holmes look ineffective if the villain got off scot-free or paid a lesser price.
DC wants this rebooted 52 to seem different. I understand why. But this decision to make their heroes more cavalier about killing sends a distinct message to readers. That that’s not a big deal. That that’s okay.
Go read Kingdom Come, by Mark Waid and Alex Ross. At its heart, it’s a story about heroes who have quit because the public prefers heroes that take that final measure over heroes who won’t, and the disastrous fallout of that choice. It’s one hell of a story.
Is this just a phase for the newly assembled Justice League? I have no idea. I’ll have to read the comics to find out. (Clever, that.) But it does not bode well for their gallery of rogues. The Legion of Doom may have a few empty chairs before long.
Still. All this leads to a question that I’d love to hear from you on:
Has DC forgotten that heroes are supposed to be role models?