With the release of Fantastic Four #587 (in stores Tuesday), one of the members of Marvel Comics' First Family will perish in the concluding issue of the storyline titled "Three." I'm pretty sure that Reed Richards has already died before and returned and whoever bites it this time (my bet is on The Human Torch) will probably be back within a year or so but I say this with no sense of cynicism.
Yes, death in comics has been utilized as an attention-grabbing stunt since the famous Death of Superman storyline back in 1992 (an event that Marvel is recalling with FF #587 by shipping the issue in sealed plastic bags with a "3" logo on it, in the same way that Superman #75 originally came packaged in black bags with a blood-red Superman "S") but I say: "what's wrong with grabbing some attention?"
The most common complaint about these high-profile, heavily-hyped deaths is that they never prove to be permanent. Superman eventually returned; Batman recently died and has just come back. The same goes for Captain America. A more dedicated follower of the X-Men franchise could tell you how many times Jean Grey aka Phoenix has been killed and resurrected but I'm guessing the number on that must be creeping towards the double-digits. With all these death-defying comebacks, the gripe is that because these characters don't stay dead that the death is meaningless - that, essentially, the reader has been ripped off. I say that's bullshit. I think that attitude mostly comes from the investor mentality - fans who jump to buy these "death" issues because of the imagined value they think these issues will have only to have the character's return thwart that.
Personally, I enjoy these storylines. The normal rules of mortality don't apply to superheroes and that's part of their appeal. Even the street-level hero Frank Castle aka The Punisher recently died (torn to pieces by Wolverine's sociopathic son Daken) only to be resurrected as a Frankenstein-esque monster (in a truly gonzo arc dubbed, naturally, "Franken-Castle") before becoming whole again.
That's the kind of story that's uniquely suited to the anything-goes world of comics. So why not take advantage of that? Punisher writer Rick Remender really ran with that unlikely plotline and it was a great read from start to finish, taking Frank Castle on a truly wild journey.
FF writer Jonathan Hickman has been weaving a complex run on the book so far and based on that I feel safe in saying that "Three" and its resulting fallout won't be an act of hackery. In comics, it's just the name of the game that a character's death will only be the halfway point of the story.
Even the recently deceased Brother Voodoo won't be gone for good.
Well, actually...that's one death that might stick for awhile.
Sorry, Brother. R.I.P.