10 Best DC Comics That Don’t Have A Happy Ending

DC has been putting out some of the greatest comics of all time for decades. From its Golden Age origins to the simplistic superhero stories of the Silver Age to the epics of the modern-day, DC has put story first and it’s paid off. A big part of all of this is narrative complexity which has often meant eschewing the traditional happy ending.

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While there are plenty of DC comics that leave fans happy as they close the books and put them down, others have done the opposite, ending on a downer that serves to set up things for the future or works for the story.

10 The Sandman: The Kindly Ones Brought Morpheus’s Tale To An Inevitable Conclusion

The Sandman The Kindly Ones

The Sandman is one of the crown jewels of DC Comics, and writer Neil Gaiman wasn’t afraid of giving the story an unhappy ending. This was completely on display in “The Kindly Ones.” Gaiman and artist Matt Hempel paid off plots that had been building since the beginning of the book, as Morpheus’ actions bring the Fates down on him and the Dreaming in their most dreadful form- the Kindly Ones.

Beloved characters lose their lives as everything Morpheus does to halt their rampage is futile. All that’s left is Morpheus’s contingency plan to keep things going after his inevitable death. It’s a book that doesn’t skimp on the pain to give readers a raw reading experience.

9 Batman (Vol. 3) #50 Gave Readers A Big Bait And Switch

Tom King’s Batman run played up the relationship between the Dark Knight and Catwoman. Eventually, a wedding was announced and DC set it up in a big way, putting out miniseries to capitalize on it. Then Batman (Vol. 3) #50with art by Mikel Janin, happened and Catwoman, fearing their marriage would hurt Bruce as a crimefighter, left him at the altar.

The comic had been selling Catwoman as Batman’s only chance at happiness, and the way this issue took that away was brilliant. Some were angry at the bait and switch, but it worked very well, sending King’s run into new directions.

8 JSA: Black Reign Sees The Team Fail Completely

black king

JSA: Black Reign, by writer Geoff Johns and artists Rags Morales and Don Kramer, pit the Justice Society against Black Adam, Atom Smasher, Nemesis, Brainwave II, Northwind, and Alex Montez wielding Eclipso’s black diamond after Black Adam reook his homeland of Kahndaq from a violently repressive regime . Trying to stop an international incident, the team goes in and fails at every turn.

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None of them die, and Adam’s forces suffer some losses, but the Justice Society is unable to beat him, can’t get Atom Smasher to come back to the team, and has to pull out of Kahndaq with their tails between their legs. It’s rare to see such a powerful team fail so thoroughly.

7 The First DCeased Ends On A Hopeful Downer

Dceased Batman Nightwing Batgirl Anti-Life

DCeased is one of the best zombie superhero epics of all time. Written by Tom Taylor with art by Trevor Hairsine, it sees the Earth infected by a zombie virus created from a combination of the Anti-Life Equation and Cyborg’s technology. The biggest heroes succumb to the virus, leaving a ragtag band to try to save the day, something they’re unable to do.

They abandon Earth with survivors, moving on to a new homeworld. It’s arguable whether this is a happy ending but looking at the facts- the biggest heroes dead or infected, Earth abandoned to a zombie horde, and an uncertain future- it’s plain to see this one ends on a downer.

6 Teen Titans: The Judas Contract Ends With The Death Of A Manipulated Child

judas contract

Teen Titans: The Judas Contract is one of the all-time greats. Written by Marv Wolfman with art by George Perez, it pits the team against Deathstroke and the traitor Terra. The story ends with Terra, in a rage over the Titans winning, trying to kill the whole team, but instead ending her own life. The team still buries her as a Titan, mourning the friend they lost.

It’s made all the worse as one realizes just how badly Deathstroke manipulated her. He took a damaged child and used that to attack his foes from him, a despicable act. Terra betrayed the only people who ever loved her and died trying to kill them. The whole thing is heartbreaking.

5 Final Night Ends With Redemption Through Death

finalnight, by writer Karl Kesel and artist Stuart Immonen, revolved around a Sun-Eater destroying the sun and the heroes’ desperate attempts to reignite it before all life on Earth ends. In the end, Hal Jordan uses the power of Parallax to save the day, bringing the sun back and dying in the process, saving the day in a rather melancholy fashion.

Hal hadn’t exactly been the most heroic person back then, so this redemption was a rather big deal for him. His death from him was also inevitable, as redeeming a mass murderer can be a bit tricky. It was a bittersweet ending that paid dividends for the future of the DC Universe.

4 The Flash: Zoom Dropped A Lot Of Tragedy Into Wally West’s Life

The FlashZoom Death

Wally West is widely considered the best Flash and stories like The Flash: Zoom prove why. Written by Geoff Johns with art by Scott Kolins, it pits the Flash against Zoom, a temporarily powered old friend of Wally’s named Hunter Zolomon. Wally’s able to finally find the power to keep up with Zoom but before the battle ends, Zoom strikes a blow against the West family, killing his twin children in utero.

Wally’s public identity allowed Zoom to know who to attack, so he asked Hal Jordan to use his power as the Specter to erase his identity from the minds of the world. The whole story was as sad as they come and set Wally and Linda West in a new direction.

3 Animal Man #19 Has Buddy Baker Come Home To A Grisly Sight

Animal Man 19 cover

Grant Morrison is one of DC’s best writers and their Animal Man run was an early example of why. Buddy Baker’s adventures saw him championing animal rights, destroying African dictators, learning more about his powers from him, and trying to find out about the nature of his reality from him, taking him away from his family for long periods of time.

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Animal Man #19, written by Morrison with art by Chas Truog, has Animal Man come home from a vision quest that’s helped him to begin to understand the nature of his existence to his family brutally murdered. It was a shocking moment that propelled Morrison’s story toward its conclusion.

two The Sandman #75 Revealed The Tragedy At The Heart Of Morpheus

The Sandman 75 Cropped

The Sandman has many moments that make it one of the best of all time with its last issue keeping that trend alive. The Sandman #75, by writer Neil Gaiman and artist Charles Vess, was titled “The Tempest” and deals with the end of the deal between William Shakespeare and Morpheus, as Shakespeare writes his last play for the lord of the Dreaming.

Afterward, Morpheus brings Shakespeare into the Dreaming where the two have a discussion about their relationship, one which sees Morpheus reveal why he wanted Will to write for him- because he’s the Prince of Stories but he has no stories of his own, and how he sees himself in the characters of The Tempest. It’s a sad statement about a being so enmeshed in his duty he does n’t even feel his existence he is worth anything else and a fitting capstone for the character.

1 All-Star Superman Ends On A Bittersweet Note

all star superman is considered the greatest Superman comic of all time. Written by Grant Morrison with art by Frank Quitely, the story dealt with a dying Superman trying to get his affairs from him in order and ended with him battling Lex Luthor and Solaris the Tyrant Sun with the fate of the world at stake.

He succeeded in saving the day but had to abandon Earth to save the sun. The ending is the definition of bittersweet. He may have lived but had to leave behind the people he loved to save the day, sacrificing his life so the world can survive. It’s the perfect statement on who Superman is as a character.

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