Warning: Major spoilers for "Morning Glories" #19 lie ahead.
Much has been made about the connections between "Lost" and "Morning Glories," the hit comic book about a group of students trapped inside a boarding school filled with dark and deadly secrets — not the least of which is the fandom of Damon Lindelof, the "Lost" co-creator who penned a forward for the first "Glories" trade paperback. Here's something else that "Lost" and "Morning Glories" have in common: In both stories, dead is dead ... which means, sadly enough, that fan-favorite character Zoe is really and truly gone.
Writer Nick Spencer and artist Joe Eisma stunned fans of the Image Comics series by killing Zoe, one of the story's six protagonists, in the closing pages of "Morning Glories" #19 earlier this month. Zoe, who walked a delicate tightrope between tragic victim and murderous flirt throughout the series' duration, was shot through the heart as she was on the cusp of killing one of her classmates, Hunter, another of the main "Glories" characters and easily one of the most sympathetic heroes in the book.
"About two thirds of the way through the issue, you realize that it's one or the other [who's going to die]," Spencer told MTV News about the shocking issue. "But killing Hunter at that point, it would have essentially killed Zoe as a character. There would be no coming back from that — even if I flirted with the idea of [killing Hunter] for just a second."
Fans weren't the only ones who were surprised by Zoe's death. Eisma, who has illustrated every issue of "Glories" to date, was equally shocked by his co-creator's call to kill Zoe only 19 issues into the story, which is planned to last for as many as 100 issues.
"I get the most sketch requests for her [from fans], and original art for her goes like that. So my first response was, Nick, you're killing my meal ticket," he laughed. "But we heard a lot from readers that all this crazy stuff happens at the school, and nothing ever happens to the kids. It was inevitable that something like this would have to happen to somebody. As I thought about it more, I realized how good it was for the story. It shows how high the stakes are."
Spencer agreed that Zoe is not just the most popular of the six Glories, but perhaps the most fleshed-out of these characters as well. "And that's what makes it hurt, right?" he said of her death. But another reason that the twist struck such a note with readers, perhaps, was the lack of fanfare leading up to the grisly moment. Zoe didn't die in an anniversary issue. Her death was not announced in the pages of a mainstream media outlet ahead of the big reveal, as has been the case with other major comics events, most recently DC Comics' revelation that Green Lantern Alan Scott is gay.
"I don't have any interest in doing that stuff," said Spencer. "With [creator-owned comics], you control all of your own hype. We don't have to tell you anything, so we don't."
Indeed, Spencer and Eisma played this twist very close to the vest, and the results speak for themselves.
"People were very surprised and very upset, but the outrage you do get is great," Spencer said of the fan response to Zoe's death. "It shows people are passionate about the character."
"A lot of people have been crushed because Zoe was their favorite," agreed Eisma. "But the general consensus is that most people didn't see this coming. So we achieved what we set out to do. We wanted to truly shock everybody. I'm glad we were able to do that."
But just because Zoe is dead doesn't mean she's gone for good. Dead is dead, yes, but as with "Lost," "Morning Glories" is a story that dabbles in flashbacks. With numerous unresolved secrets hovering over her still-fresh corpse, Zoe's role in the ongoing "Glories" saga might not be at its end.
"We'll certainly get closure as to why she was [killing fellow students], we won't just drop those mysteries. We'll get resolution," promised Spencer. "But I can't say there are any plans to see her in the future. I wouldn't rule it out but it should be done very sparingly, otherwise you're devaluing the decision that we made."
"She's dead," he reiterated. "I understand that it's comics and people feel like if Captain America can come back, why can't Zoe? But in a story like this, it's best for [Zoe's death] to be permanent. Dead is dead."
Tell us what you think of the latest "Morning Glories" shocker in the comments section below or let me know on Twitter @roundhoward!