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Darkest Comic Book Storylines

Dark comic book stories offer fans something beyond standard superhero heroics. 

Comic books may have started out as something that was meant to be sold to children alongside packs of bubblegum, but in the past few decades the audience for comics has grown-up with them. Publishers have all been tackling this demand for more mature darker content to try and feed a fan base looking for a little something more then just the standard superhero heroics in their usual comic book storylines. Writers like Alan Moore and Frank Millar have managed to elevate the medium by tackling more mature stories and themes. These deconstructions have gone a long way towards expanding the market for comic books and have given the fans some of the darkest comic book storylines of all time. We've collected a few of our personal favorites. 

A Death in the Family: Death of Jason Todd

Art via DC Comics

Batman is a comic book character who's notorious for inspiring some of the darkest comic book storylines. But for many fans this storyline went beyond the line of good taste when the Joker murdered his second Robin, Jason Todd. After Dick Grayson left Batman to work independently as Night Wing, Bruce Wayne recruited a street urchin named Jason Todd who he caught trying to steal the tires off the Batmobile. He became the second Robin, but fan's did not like his arrogant attitude. DC Comics opened up a phone poll after a cliff hanger issue where fans could choose if he'd be killed by the Joker or survive. He didn't survive it. Batman's death cast a dark shadow across the bat family that persisted for a very long time. The storyline was eventually collected in Batman: A Death in the Family where it can be read in it's entirety today. 

Old Man Logan: Wolverine Kills Everyone

Art via Marvel Comics

In the upcoming third Wolverine installment, fans will get to find out more about his infamous story played out on the silver screen. But even though the film is going to be rated R, there's no chance we'll get to see everything that went down in the Wolverine: Old Man Logan comic. This comic was marked by being one of the darkest comic book storylines ever produced by Marvel. This story sees an aged Wolverine finally at the end of his lifespan. He gives up being a super hero. He comes to the realization that he's responsible for slaughtering all of his friends and family in the X-Mansion which was due to the hypnotic spell placed upon him by the villain Mysterio. You'd think that this insanity would be enough, but the story has a scene where Wolverine literally carves his way out of the Hulk's stomach after being eaten by him. Twisted. 

Emerald Twilight: Hal Jordan Kills the entire Green Lantern Corps

Art via DC Comics

This now notorious storyline of Emerald Twilight sees Hal Jordan returning to his beloved Coast City. He finds that his city has been completely destroyed while he was away by the villain Mongul. The loss of his city drives him insane to the point where he tries to re-create the city and all of it's inhabitants using his power ring. When Hal fails at his attempt, he flies to the home planet of the Green Lantern Corps and kills all of them. He syphons their power and becomes the villain known as Parallax. It would take years before Hal Jordan managed to redeem himself in the eyes of many comic book fans. 

Ultimates 3: Scarlet Witch and Quicksilver's Incestious Relationship

Being the twin mutant siblings of Magneto, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch have always been close, they are twins. Their sibling bond has been a defining aspect of their relationship that's been seen in just about every major comic appearance they've made. But however in the Ultimate Universe of Marvel Comics their relationship took a more twisted, in the turn Game of Thrones sort of way. It was revealed in the Ultimates 3 that they were engaged in an incestuous affair. If that wasn't creepy enough, the comic takes things a step further by featuring Wolverine creepily watching them have sex from the bushes. Weirdos.

Green Lantern/Green Arrow: Speedy Becomes a Heroin Junkie

Art via DC Comics

The classic Green Lantern/Green Arrow storyline was written by Dennis O'Neil and legendary artist Neal Adams. Green Arrow and Green Lantern decide to take some time off and go on an road trip across America. But thing take a dark turn when they see that Green Arrow's sidekick Roy Harper, aka Speedy, has become addicted to heroin. This leads to a brutal confrontation where Green Arrow literally tries to beat sense into Speedy. Eventually the duo of green heroes fight the drug dealers who were responsible for the drug given to Speedy. It's only after the help of Black Canary that Speedy was able to finally kick the habit. The Speedy issue of Green Lantern/Green Arrow became one of the most iconic issues during the series's run which opened the door for many superhero comics to tackle more realistic and mature themes. 

Crossed: Everything

Art via Avatar Press

Very few comic book fans can stomach the world of Garth Ennis's comic Crossed. As a comic creator, Garth Ennis was always famed as a provocateur always looking to push boundaries. Crossed's story imagines a world of a zombie like outbreak where an infectious disease transforms people into psychotic lunatics. These zombies proceed to murder, rape, and eat the remaining uninfected population of humanity. The infected are transformed into vile torturous monsters who's only joy in the undead is seeing the misery and torment of others. Picture it like this - The Walking Dead basically on steroids. In the story no taboo is left untouched. While in the midst of all the madness, every issue made shows just how every element of common decency is forgotten. If you think you can handle the insanity, Crossed is the best comic book series for any fan craving that boundary pushing content. 

One More Day: Aunt May Gets Shot 

Art via Marvel

After the events of the Civil War, Marvel wanted to reset Spider-Man's continuity by showing his natural talent of bravery. In the beginning Aunt May is shot. With a desperate attempt to save her, Spider-Man is forced to make a deal with Mephisto, the Marvel universe equivalent to the devil, in order to save her. With this deal, Mephisto forces him to sacrifice his marriage with Mary Jane as compensation for his help. The entirety of the story arc was mainly created in order to have Peter Parker a bachelor again. This pissed off many fans of Spider-Man and remains one of the most dark and controversial Spider-Man storylines ever produced. Spider-Man: One More Day was, to many fans, the least liked Spider-Man stories ever created. To this day, it remains a controversial touchstone for everyone's favorite wall crawler.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2: Mr. Hyde Rapes the Invisible Man...to Death

Art via DC Comics

Alan Moore is one of the most critically acclaimed comic book creators working in the industry. He has written some of the most brilliant, savage and darkest comic book storylines ever. One of his stand out comics is The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Vol. 2. The comic starts off with the character Mr. Hyde who learns of the Invisible Man's betrayal of the league. Hyde as a result of his betrayal, proceeds to rape him to death as punishment. In an extra morbid detail that only Alan Moore's mind could ever conceive, Mr. Hyde lays covered in the Invisible Man blood their brutal encounter. Of course we don't actually see any his murder thanks to his invisibility, but Moore manages to paint the brutal picture with just his writing alone. This scene alone marks it's top spot for one of the most shocking scenes ever written for an anti-hero.

The Killing Joke: The Joker Drives Commissioner Gordon Insane 

Art via DC Comics

This comic storyline is easily one of the most influential Batman storylines ever written, as well as what is considered to be the definitive Joker origin story. Batman: The Killing Joke has been seen as one of the defining stories that has characterized Batman's relationship with the Joker. Also written by Alan Moore, this story sees the Joker seeking to prove that anyone can be driven insane by just one bad day. He goes out to prove his thesis by capturing Commissioner Gordon, stripping him naked then forcing him into a tunnel of madness as he's forced to see nude photos of his daughter who's been shot and paralyzed by the Joker. In many respects, this story served as the foundational basis of the super successful Dark Knight movie, and is one of the darkest comic book storylines that has gone on to influence hundreds of other Batman stories that have followed. 

Demon in a Bottle: Iron Man Becomes an Alcoholic

The huge success of the Iron Man films has helped the character skyrocket in popularity. One of the reasons why people have praised the casting of Robert Downey Jr. was because of the baggage he brought with him in terms of his long history of substance abuse. While this storyline was never brought up directly in the movies, Robert Downey's performance brought the subtext of Iron Man's alcohol addiction. This story featured a nine-issue-arc where Tony Stark succumbs to his alcoholism and starts drinking heavily. This causes him to accidentally kill a foreign dignitary. It almost costs him control of Stark Industries. The drama from this storyline managed to elevate the emotional depth of Iron Man's character, making it one of the darkest comic book storylines ever seen in an Iron Man comic. Iron Man: Demon in a Bottle has become a definitive touchstone of the character's history. 

Black Hole: Body Horror STDs 

Art via Pantheon Books

Charles Burns' graphic novel serves is easily one of the darkest comic book storylines ever written. His seminal graphic novel is a masterpiece of body horror. In Black Hole there is a new STD that mutates and horribly deforms it's victims, turning them into grotesque aberrations. Burns uses the mutations to serve as a metaphor for adolescence, sexual awakening, and the inevitable transition to adulthood. Think of it as a much more mature and grotesque version of X-Men. It's the winner of numerous comic book industry awards and best examples of the incredible story telling seen in dark comic books. 

Uzumaki: Spiral Curse 

Art via Viz Media 

Junji Ito is one of the masters of horror in the realm of manga. His approach to creating abstract monsters and supernatural curses is second to none. Few artists are able to tap into the primal fears that all humans share quite as well as Junji Ito. In Uzumaki a terrible spiral curse begins to afflict a small village in Japan. It begins manifesting itself in a number of strange ways. Each one preying upon a different type of body horror or phobia until the entire thing culminates in a lovecraftian spectacle that could only come form the mind of Junji Ito. The material in Uzumaki is one of the darkest comic book storylines and cannot be missed by any fan looking for something to take them over the edge. 

Uber: The Horror's of Superhuman Warfare

Art via Avatar Press

Uber is an alternative history of World War II where just before the fall of Berlin, the Nazis unveil their ultimate super weapon. The weapon is enhanced tank men with super strength, bullet proof skin, and a destructive halo eye beam that can literally warp reality itself and tear through flesh and steel. This new breed of soldier isn't enough to win Germany the war, but it does allow them a second wind that prolongs World War II. The allies get their hands on Germany's enhanced human technology and what ensues is an arm's race as the two super powers compete to build up their arsenal of enhanced humans. Uber is easily the most nihilistic and darkest comic book storylines ever to hit print. It takes the super powered heroism of traditional comics like Captain America and provides a grim blood soaked alternate history vision of World War II that we only wish we could watch on the History Channel. 

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