No successful story is complete without an equally successful and satisfying conclusion. The stories told in the comic book medium – from Marvel, DC, or any other company – are episodic in nature, so few comics have a definite ending in mind when they begin to be published. There are exceptions, but comics are indeed a medium animated by an eternal second act.
That a comic book series or storyline leaves the reader with a sense of finality is one of the best marks of its quality. By the continuous nature of comic book storytelling, the reader always wants more, but it’s hugely satisfying when the reader can breathe and know the story is over.
This article contains spoilers for several stories.
10/10 The Dark Phoenix Saga Ends With A Heartbreaking Sacrifice
Uncanny X-Men (Vol 1) #138 by Chris Claremont and John Byrne
“The Dark Phoenix Saga” remains a defining moment in X-Men history more than 40 years after its original publication and remains one of Marvel’s greatest stories of the 80s. powers of the Phoenix and slowly becoming a menacing force with the potential for universal destruction is one of the best sci-fi stories ever told in a comic book.
With so many epic confrontations and such huge stakes, it’s almost unbelievable that the story’s climax could live up to its build. After surviving a final onslaught of the X-Men, led by her lover Cyclops, Jean sacrifices herself. As Uatu the Watcher recounts, “Jean Gray could have lived to be a god. But it was more important to her that she died human.”
9/10 Watchmen ends with a satisfying free ending
Watchmen #12 by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons
The final issue of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ seminal novel watchmen ends with a long ending. When Rorschach decides to tell the press the truth about the new world utopia built on Ozymandias’ lie to keep the world’s nuclear powers at bay, Doctor Manhattan steps in and annihilates Rorschach. In the end, Ozymandias himself doesn’t know if he did the right thing.
Rorschach had sent detailed notes to the press about what he and Nite Owl had discovered about Ozymandias, which the book leaves ambiguous as to whether it will be known to the public. Despite so many unanswered questions, there is satisfying comfort in Doctor Manhattan’s final words to Ozymandias before departing for a new plane of existence: “Nothing ever ends.“
8/10 Ultimate Universe’s Peter Parker makes the ultimate sacrifice
The Death of Spider-Man by Brian Michael Bendis and Mark Bagley
Under the explosive action peculiar to the art form of comics, the first volume of Ultimate Spider-Man was the most fundamental Spider-Man and Peter Parker story ever told. Spidey’s story is about an ordinary boy with extraordinary abilities navigating a complicated world. Nowhere is this more evident than in Peter’s finale in the Ultimate Universe, The Death of Spider-Man.
The one-shot begins with Captain America allowing Peter to train with the Ultimates. It ends with the final showdown between Spider-Man and the Green Goblin. Spidey manages to defeat the Goblin but sustains fatal injuries. Peter dies happy, knowing he saved MJ and May, and finally made up for the death of his beloved Uncle Ben.
7/10 Marvel’s Biggest Cosmic Ops Ends On A Quiet Farm
The Infinity Gauntlet #6 by Jim Starlin, George Perez and Ron Lim
The Infinity Gauntlet was a landmark miniseries for Marvel Comics in the 90s. An epic with the universe at stake, writer Jim Starlin placed the Infinity Gauntlet on Thanos’ fist, granting him godlike powers to take over the entire Marvel Universe. After the battle, which sees Thanos wipe out half the universe, Adam Warlock undoes the gauntlet.
Starlin ends her story, however, not with a bang, but with quiet reflection. After the battle, Warlock visits Thanos on an isolated planet where the Titan has come to life as a farmer, no longer seeking universal power. Of course, Thanos’ hunger is never truly satisfied, but for the purposes of The Infinity GauntletThanos left behind the aspirations of universal conquest.
6/10 Y: The Last Man ends with ruminations on life and aging
Y: The Last Man #60 By Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra
Y: The Last Man was Brian K. Vaughn and Pia Guerra’s epic about a world where Yorick Brown is the last man on Earth. The series covers the gradual unraveling of events leading to a near mass extinction event on the planet, leading to the inheritance of the earth by woman. In the comic’s final issue, Vaughn jumps forward 60 years, where Yorick reflects on his friendships, loves and losses, and life in general.
Committed to an asylum in France, Yorick has a conversation with his younger self, assuring him that old age may not be fun, but the journey to get there is worth all the hardships it entails. It’s a poetic note for a largely poetic series, and Yorick’s words of comfort to himself speak volumes about a satisfied reader.
5/10 Flashpoint gives Batman something akin to closure
Flashpoint #5 by Geoff Johns and Andy Kubert
Breaking point remains one of the most controversial comedic events of all time. An inciting incident for the New 52, it chronicles an alternate universe created by Flash’s attempt to change history by preventing the murder of his mother. In the end, Barry Allen rushes to restore the universe. When he arrives in the “restored” New 52 universe, he tells the story of his ordeal to Batman.
In the Breaking point timeline, Barry interacted with Thomas Wayne, who became this universe’s Batman. At the only moment that fans believe redeemed the large and heavy event, Bruce Wayne is able to read a letter from his father. It’s a great ending for the old DCU and a heartwarming kickoff for the New 52.
4/10 The Dark Knight Returns Gives Batman A Good Life
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns #4 by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley
Frank Miller’s DC Comics Redefining Epic, Batman: Return of the Dark Knight tells the story of an aging Batman coming out of retirement. Knowing that he pushes his limits fighting old foes, new foes, and taking on Superman, Batman repeatedly assures that “it would be a good deathIn the end, after faking his death, Bruce Wayne decides to continue his war on crime in the shadows.
Batman has a new group of followers, including a trusted right-hand man in the new Robin, Carrie Kelley. As he reviews plans for the Batcave and reflects on his long war on crime, Bruce delivers a poetic final note. Bruce decides that this new adventure”will be a good life. good enough.”
3/10 The preacher solves all his problems
Preacher #66 by Garth Ennis and Steve Dillon
No comic book directed by Garth Ennis could have anything other than an epic conclusion. This is certainly the case with the latest issue of Preacher. In the conclusion of the “Alamo” story arc, Jessie Custer, Tulip, and the vampire Cassidy had their last stand in their quest to return an absent God to Heaven and restore some semblance of balance to a chaotic world by angels without direction, ambitious demons and holy murderers.
Given the violent nature of comics, Preacher offers a refreshing and surprising ending, as all of our heroes survive their epic, biblical ordeal. After a long pilgrimage that has taken them from one end of America to the other, the good guys win, the bad guys lose and our heroes literally fly off into the sunset.
2/10 Sandman’s ending is Shakespearean in its simplicity
Sandman #75 by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess
by Neil Gaiman Sand seller is the quintessential DC Vertigo comic. It didn’t follow a traditional narrative for a comic book, and even for the “edgier” material released by the imprint, it wasn’t overly dark or violent. The overall story of Dream, an immortal entity and one of the Endless, was esoteric and thought provoking. Its scope pontificated on matters of morals and philosophy while its scope was grounded in the elegant and the simplistic.
The latest issue of Sand seller, “The Tempest”, sees Morpheus – one of Dream’s incarnations – extract a debt from William Shakespeare: the writing of the titular play. As “The Tempest” was Shakespeare’s last play, it is fitting that Sand seller would close with his creation. Another story of big ideas, magic and humble aspirations.
1/10 All-Star Superman is the perfect ending for the Man of Steel
All-Star Superman #12 by Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely
In a 12-issue love letter to DC’s Silver Age, writer Grant Morrison and artist Frank Quitely’s Superman All Star is the perfect Man of Steel adventure. The final issue of the comic is also the perfect ending for the man of tomorrow. In a final act of heroism, Superman soars into the sun and seemingly perishes saving the world.
As the world mourns the loss of Superman, Superman All Star ends with the Last Son of Krypton at the heart of Earth’s yellow star, keeping the damaged sun going. It’s a reminder that even after his final flight, Superman will continue to fight the endless battle.
NEXT: 10 Secrets That Ruined Everything For Superman