Pop Quiz: You’re a hero who is fighting your arch enemy. You two have been battling each other for hours, but you know your history goes back farther. People have died during this time due to his/her plans. You finally find a weak spot during the battle and you stop the threat. You stand over your enemy victorious, but your enemy tells you this: “you better kill me, because I’m going to get out and when I do, this whole city will pay if you don’t!” What do you do?
This scenario has been played out more and more over the years in various forms of entertainment, but I want to stick with comic book related media. The question of would you kill your enemy or would you have him arrested in the name of justice has several different answers. It’s interesting to see which comic book characters are on each side of the line. There are far too many examples of each so I just thought about some that stand out the most.
On Arrow, this has been a huge point in most of the show’s run, Oliver being a killer from Season one and trying to change this as he progresses in other seasons. In Man of Steel, Superman killing Zod in order to save civilians from being killed by Zod’s heat vision, Wonder Woman killing Maxwell Lord in the comics so Superman would return to his senses and not kill Batman while under Max’s mind control. I didn’t really have a problem with these for different reasons.
In Arrow, Oliver just returned from Hell Island (I named it that, because, well it was Hell for him) where he had to learn to kill to survive, so he was still in survival mode, plus he had a mission of carrying out his father’s mission to stop the guys in the book. He saw how bad it was in Season 2 after his friend’s death and decided that he had to adjust his methods. Superman killing Zod was to save civilians, and he possibly could have done something different, he didn’t have a lot of time to think about it at the time. Wonder Woman did it for the same reason as Superman in Man of Steel, although she may have had more time to do something else (knock him out perhaps), but that might not have worked.
Now one I didn’t agree with is Superman in the Injustice series (game and comics) even though the comic series was great. I know that was a major tragedy and I would think the same thing to do to the Joker, but he was consumed by so much rage that he didn’t see that’s what the Joker wanted. We all read and saw what happened next.
The best argument for both sides that I’ve seen so far is from the Daredevil series, where Frank Castle and Daredevil argued on the roof about justice and revenge. Each one had different viewpoints that made sense and in the end, neither one agreed.
As for me, if I was in that scenario and I had to chose…well, that would be telling.