This Week In Comics

They sort of killed Batman last year. This week, they sort of brought him back.

Batman was never actually dead, even though in last year's Final Crisis, Superman thought he had a Batman corpse in his arms. I don't recall publisher DC Comics even pretending Batman was dead. Who would believe that Bruce Wayne got killed? Nah, he got thrown into the past and is "now" on his way back, as chronicled in this week's Batman: The Return of Bruce Wayne.

I've already lamented the excessive use of death (and by extension faked death) as a super-hero storytelling narrative crutch. More often than not, deaths and resurrections of heroes and villains are unimaginative ways of signalling that This Story Is Important. I've also established that I'm a sucker for anything Grant Morrison writes, so these Batman tales get a pass from me. But what I'm struck by, thinking about these types of stories in a video game context, is how The Return of Bruce Wayne has no obvious analogue in video games.

Death stories and resurrection stories may be cliché in comics. In video games, the former is not that common and the latter just about doesn't exist. I reflexively understand why this is: Games contain thousands of player and enemy deaths; thousands of player resurrections. Our heroes die in our games all the time. No big deal. They come back and try again. It would be weird if they didn't!

Sure, death of characters in video games has been meaningful at times, but such impactful death usually involves the supporting cast of a Final Fantasy, Mass Effect or Far Cry 2. Those people on the side can avoid death for most of an interactive adventure and then die just when such death means the most. No free lives or restarts for them. But even those characters don't get resurrection stories.

What's the last Shocking-Return-From-The-Grave that you experienced in a video game?

What is video game's Return of Bruce Wayne? Its return of Captain America? Its return of Barry Allen Flash or Green Lantern Hal Jordan? Its nth return of the Joker or Magneto or some other nemesis who seemed dead but who got better?

For better or worse, I don't think games have had these stunning revivals. I can vaguely recall noticing a resurrection in a Metal Gear or a Tomb Raider, but the memories don't stick and I now wonder: Is this a narrative beat from which games would benefit? If they could, first, deaths of characters would have to be more meaningful. No, make that the second priority... First, lives of game characters would have to be more meaningful. Then death. Then resurrection.

Come on, video games, do the fake-out death story a couple of times before you do it enough that I start complaining about it. And, no, that recent game from Bioware doesn't count.

*** If you are looking for video game comics in shops this week, your options are

Dante's Inferno #6 (of 6) . Wildstorm Entertainment summary:

Dante has reached the end of his journey. But does he arrive a conquering hero to save the soul of his beloved Beatrice? Or a damned, corrupted shadow of himself, changed forever by his ordeal in the Inferno?

Free Realms #9 (of 12). Wildstorm Entertainment summary:

A map found in the bottom of a crypt has led Dane and Maya deep inside a series of caverns filled with chugawug outlaws and deadly traps. Then, just when it looks like their luck is about to turn, Maya flies into danger and it's up to Dane and a monstrous friend to get her out.

What do you think is worth getting at comic shops this week?


Comments

    I never got into comics and here is why. Back when I was in year 2 and the SEGA master system was the latest gaming system all the kids either got into comics or Mortal Kombat, and I loved mortal kombat. We even had this stupid game where we would each be a character from the game, I got stuck with Johnny Cage’s mirror match, not even the original Johnny Cage!

    I'm actually trying to catch up on all the Walking Dead series. Think I'm up to around 25...ish. But yeah, quite good. Just got introduced to the Governor, which is interesting to say the least.

    With respect to death and resurrection you might like to look up 'Daytripper' by Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon, released by Vertigo.

    Death and resurrection featured pretty prominently in Planescape: Torment....

    I think the reason is that game series don't generally last long enough (without getting rebooted due to publisher abuse) for a death/resurrection story arc to have any meaning. I mean, if you kill a main character off in one game and then bring them back in the next one, it won't really shock anyone, but if you went 2 or 3 games, THEN brought them back, that would be a much bigger surprise.

    There needs to be enough happening in between the death and return that your focus shifts to other things (so their return catches you off guard) for it to work.

    (also, in regards to character death in RPGs, it usually feels far too forced to really work because the player usually has about a million healing/resurrection spells/items in their inventory...)

      Didn't feel forced in Planescape - there were parts of the game where the only way that you could move forward was by dying and it was not always something that was made obvious. Plus unless you had a specific convo with a specific character near the beginning of the game you missed out on getting the resurrect party member spell. Made my first time through slightly more difficult.....

    Greatest fake-out death i can remember in a video game has to be Chrono getting vaporized by Lavos halfway through Chrono Trigger...

    Oh, uh, spoiler alert?

      I think the no-spoiler moratorium for Chrono Trigger has well and truly passed by now.

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