Saturday, July 7, 2018

Nobody Stays Dead in Comics!

Nobody stays dead in comic-books. I had to remind myself of this little comic-book truism at the end of Avenger’s: Infinity War when Thanos snaps his fingers and instantly kills off half the population of the MCU including Doctor Strange, Black Panther, Spider-man, and nearly all the Guardians of the Galaxy. Since most, if not all, of these characters have pending sequels, I think it’s safe to say “nobody stays dead in comic-book movies,” either.

The death of a major title character makes for great drama and increased sales, but so rarely remains permanent that frequent resurrections have become a cliché in comic-books. For instance, Captain America #25, which depicted the death of Captain America, made real-world headlines and skyrocketed sales, but Steve Rogers returned just two years later in Captain America: Reborn. The list of comic-book characters who’ve come back from the dead include Cap’s side-kick Bucky Barnes, Batman, Robin, Green Arrow, Green Lantern, The Flash, Spider-man, Thor, and Jean Grey—just to name a few. Heck, I’ve lost count of all the times Nick Fury has died and come back to life.

The most notable comic-book resurrection, at least in my mind, was the death and return of Superman—an epic story spanning more than 36 issues. Doomsday, a brutal behemoth bent on bloodlust, pummeled the Man of Steel to death in Superman #75, one of the best-selling single issues of all time. In the aftermath, the entire world mourned Superman’s death and a panoply of heroes paid their respects. The fallen hero is buried in a tomb in Metropolis’ Centennial Park.

Then, in a story titled Life After Death, Superman’s adoptive father, Johnathan Kent suffers a massive heart attack and has a near-death experience where he encounter’s the soul of his son, Superman. In the afterlife, a hoard of demons attempts to deceive Superman and drag into the depths of hell. But with the help of his father, Superman fights back, defeating both the demons and death itself. Together the two return to life. Suddenly, Jonathan regains consciousness on the hospital operating table. His wife and the attending physicians try to calm him down, but he manages to tell Martha, “I brought him back… I brought Clark back to us, Ma.” Lois doubts Pa Kent’s story, but she checks it out anyway. When she and police Inspector Henderson go to Centennial Park to inspect Superman's tomb, they find it open and empty. “He’s gone!” Lois cries. “Not really,” Inspector Henderson replies. “I’d say from the look of things, he’s back! Superman’s back!”[1]

These comic-book tales of death and resurrection ought to resonate with Christians. While superhero resurrections occur quite frequently, real-world resurrection remain quite unheard of… with one notable exception: Jesus Christ!

After his death on the cross, Jesus’ followers buried him in a tomb in a nearby garden. The following Sunday, Jesus rose from the grave. Luke tells the story this way:

But very early on Sunday morning the women went to the tomb, taking the spices they had prepared. They found that the stone had been rolled away from the entrance. So they went in, but they didn’t find the body of the Lord Jesus. As they stood there puzzled, two men suddenly appeared to them, clothed in dazzling robes. The women were terrified and bowed with their faces to the ground. Then the men asked, “Why are you looking among the dead for someone who is alive? He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead!” (Luke 24:1-5 NLT)

Over the next forty days, Jesus appeared to his followers many times and proved to them beyond any doubt that he was alive before finally returning to his rightful place in heaven. While Jesus probably never punched out any demons, like Superman, Jesus defeated death. Not only that, but Christ’s resurrection paved the way for our own resurrection from the dead!

The Bible says, “But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead. He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died… everyone who belongs to Christ will be given new life… all who belong to Christ will be raised when he comes back” (1 Corinthians 15:20-23 NLT). For those who put their faith in Jesus and the power of his resurrection, death is not the end. The grave doesn’t have the final word. There is life after death! Jesus put it bluntly, saying, “I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying” (John 11:25 NLT). He followed up this claim with a profound question, “Do you believe this…?” How will you answer that question?

When a beloved comic-book character dies, a veteran fan can comfort new readers by reminding them, “Nobody stays dead in comic-books.” The same is true for believers. Nobody stays dead in Christ.

[1] DC Comics. Adventures of Superman (1987) #500.