You only went a year before you used a gun? Well, there're marriages that were shorter.
So you've got a hero. He's a really good hero, and he has rules
(heroes often do, after all). Let's say, hypothetically, that one of those rules is that he'll never use a gun
. Maybe his parents were brutally murdered in front of him with one, spurring him into heroism in the first place.
Whatever. The guy doesn't use guns.
Then something bad happens. The stakes go up.
Maybe a villain bent on bringing about universal entropy
arrives. The hero's pushed to his absolute limit. The world, even the universe, is hanging in the balance. There's only one way to put things right. The hero picks up the weapon...
Batman's Got a Gun.
Can, and often does, overlap with Let's Get Dangerous
, Big Damn Heroes
, OOC Is Serious Business
, and/or Despair Event Horizon
. It's a kind of Godzilla Threshold
. Pretty much always results in an Oh Crap
moment for the villain. Can be a Moment of Awesome
, but it will always
be Played for Drama
. This trope isn't just a hero doing something they wouldn't normally do. It's a hero doing something they're fundamentally against (see the examples below). If they've done it before (at least in that continuity), it probably isn't this trope. This is the hero breaking their golden rule
Happens most frequently to the Retired Badass
, Knight in Shining Armor
, or Invincible Hero
, often during a What You Are in the Dark
When adding examples, please be sure to mention for the sake of clarity what the rule is that's being broken.
Named for Batman's use of a gun during Grant Morrison
's Final Crisis
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Anime And Manga
- Rurouni Kenshin uses this trope during the Kyoto arc, when Kenshin tries to rescue a baby named Iori from Chou, the Sword Hunter. Chou kidnapped the baby for forcing his parent to tell him the location of the last sword ever made by the legendary sword-smith Shakku Arai, Iori's grandfather. Kenshin manages to pull a fight even though his reversed-bladed sword is broken, but Chou eventually disarms him. When everything seems lost, Iori's father appears and gives Kenshin Shakku Arai's last sword. However, Kenshin hesitates, since using a normal sword means that he will almost certainly kill Chou, which would break his oath of never killing a man ever again. Only when Chou threatens to kill Iori on the spot, Kenshin snaps out of it and defeats Chou with a single blow. Then everyone realizes that the sword was also reverse-bladed, so Chou naturally has survived.
- Trigun: Vash uses guns all the time. However, as a master of Improbable Aiming Skills, he uses it solely for trick shots, and when in serious trouble, will at most shoot a person somewhere where they'll heal. He doesn't believe in a situation where you can't save everyone. However, at one point, he is given a true no win scenario, where the villain sets up a situation that will result in the death of his friends, unless the villain is killed (he has... issues). After much hesitation, Vash kills him. He doesn't take it well. Bear in mind that this was merely The Dragon he killed, and getting himself shot was the whole point.
- Oddly enough Vash was almost willing to kill someone much earlier in the series for killing a few dozen people. But that side of him was pretty much never seen again after.
- Miria in Claymore breaks her one rule of never killing fellow Claymores during her battle against Hysteria the Elegant, as that was the only way to end the fight before a recently Awakened Cassandra killed all her allies.
- Neon Genesis Evangelion's Shinji has always kept the same promise to himself to "never run away" from his duties for 26 episodes, and aside from a couple stunts, he always came back. He only broke down when everything else fell apart in the Movie. Come Evangelion 2.0, he was ready to smash up his personal base after one too many mistakes. Hell, he was ready to ignite The End of the World as We Know It against Zeruel when he was able to cope with it the last time he saw him. It was only thanks to Kaworu, aka. Tabris, aka. Shinji's guardian angel to stop him from a Rage Quit.
- Monster: One of the major theme of the manga is the mental and physical tribulation of Dr. Tenma as he's forced to pick up a gun to hunt and kill a monster he unknowingly saved. This trope already has a bleak atmosphere hanging around it, but it's pushed to the realm of Deconstruction in his case. In the end, he didn't kill anyone. Not even The Dragon of said monster he thought he killed. Not the monster himself, the final confrontation with whom put the life of a child at a stake.
- Fullmetal Alchemist: In his battle with Wrath near the end of the series, Scar breaks his code as an Ishvalan and uses Alchemy to reconstruct matter, thus regaining the upper hand. Up until that point, he only used his abilities to destroy things and so remained technically within the bounds of his code against it.
- In Konjiki No Gash The heroes are fighting Zeon's co-dragons in an attempt to stop Faudo, a giant demon who towers over small mountain ranges. Things are not going well they are getting defeated one by one when Umagon desperately starts raising the heat in the area with his flame spells. The villains are confused at first, since there isn't enough heat to burn the Demon's book, which would take him out of the fight, then we get the truth: Umagon isn't trying to burn the demon's book, he is trying to boil the demon's human partner alive.
- Nanashi in Sword Of The Stranger has his sword bound with a rope, and he has vowed not to draw it. You know where this is going - as he draws his sword at the climax, shit gets real.
- The Trope Namer: Batman breaking out a gun as his "once in a lifetime exception" to try and kill Darkseid during Final Crisis.
- There are numerous counter-examples (his 30s/40s version (now out of continuity) used a gun frequently, and there are isolated stories here and there where he uses one as a threat or a tool), but as far as the spirit of the trope goes, Final Crisis is the only current in-continuity example of Batman using a gun with intent to harm/kill and going through with it, and even the current page image from Batman: Year 2 had him not go through with it in the end thanks to circumstances outside of his control. In the previous Crisis, when Alexander Luthor Junior nearly killed Nightwing, that was the last straw for Batman. He grabbed a nearby gun and was fully prepared to kill Alexander for everything he had done up to that point until Wonder Woman convinced him to back down.
- In the story-arc, Hush. Believing the Joker had killed his childhood friend Tommy Elliot, Batman finally decided it was worth killing the Joker. Jim Gordon has other ideas however, telling Batman that killing him would make him no better than the villains he fights, threatening to arrest him if he did so.
- In Death Of The Family, it is used to demonstrate just how desperate the situation is, Batman pulls a gun on Gordon to try coerce him to move to a secure location. Barbara puts a gun to a Joker goon's head (and might have pulled the trigger) before he begs for mercy. She also points one at the Joker himself, ready to shoot him in the spine as Revenge. The only reason she doesn't is because the Joker's men have her mother.
- Daredevil attempted this after Bullseye killed Elektra, but Bullseye survived.
- In a later storyline, Daredevil takes the same gun (a silver-colored revolver) and almost uses it to kill himself after Bullseye murders Karen Page.
- Daredevil finally killed Bullseye after the latter blew up a housing project killing everyone inside. Daredevil was also a bit demonically possessed at the time.
- Dick Grayson broke his no-killing rule after he believed The Joker had murdered Tim Drake.
- Pretty common in general among the Gotham heroes, as it happened with Catwoman against Black Mask.
- Two-Face had a villainous one a long time ago, choosing to ignore his coin to spare Batman's life.
- Superman generally never uses his heat vision against living beings. Except against Mongul in For The Man Who Has Everything. Burn, indeed.
- He finds himself forced to execute Kryptonians of a "pocket universe" after they have killed almost everybody in their universe. This experience eventually causes him a breakdown.
- In Superman At Earth's End, a power-less Superman uses guns without blinking. (Just another reason why it's been said that said comic is "Superman In Name Only")
- Upon returning from the dead, Superman found himself mostly depowered. In his assault on Engine City to stop Cyborg Superman and Mongul, he dual wields guns to mow down its defenses. John Henry Irons notes, however, that he's only shooting to destroy robots or disable armored, living enemies, which he can pick out when his X-ray vision starts coming back.
- An aversion in the final issue of Richard Dragon's series. He's sworn off killing, and SPECIFICALLY sworn off using the deadly Leopard Blow, but resolves to kill one final time (specifically, to kill his love interest/arch enemy Lady Shiva) to save the life of a young boy. During the climactic battle with Shiva, he has her set up for the blow, and attempts to deliver it, but is tackled away by her ninjas and killed shortly thereafter.
- Captain America, who, being The Cape, embodies values like Thou Shalt Not Kill has found himself forced to kill his enemies sometimes:
- He had to decapitate Baron Blood because it was the only way to stop a vampire. Cap was crying when doing it.
- To save innocent lives, he killed an ULTIMATUM agent. The memory still haunted him when he faced ULTIMATUM again.
- In the 1980s there was a story that found him shieldless and witnessing terrorists seconds away from opening fire on innocent civilians. Without a weapon and knowing he could not make it to them in time, Cap grabbed a discarded machine gun and opened fire.
- When Cap and Bucky Barnes first appeared, they used guns all the time since it was a different time. When he was brought into the Silver Age, they gave him a Retcon, explaining that he never used a gun or lethal force, even during the war. More interpretations explain that Cap used guns during World War II but has since avoided using lethal force. As Cap sees it, he's no longer acting as a soldier, so using lethal force isn't appropriate.
- In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, on the other hand, Cap doesn't blink at using guns against humans and aliens alike when duty calls for it, both during WWII and in the present day, since while he is absolutely still a soldier in the present day he is still taking orders from a military command structure, not acting of his own volition as a independent agent.
- Subverted during an arc of X-Men: Professor X, of all people, is packing heat. But it's only to use as a last resort on himself to prevent any evil force from "hijacking" his brain (arguably one of the greatest weapons in the Marvel Universe). When faced with such a threat... he does not go through with it, giving the entity a chance to leave his mind before he fires. Things go downhill from there...
- Spider Man in the Back in Black arc nearly fits this trope. After Aunt May is shot by a hitman Peter flips out and dons his black costume. He goes around the town beating people to hospital until he finally meets the main villain, Kingpin. If Kingpin had a fair chance against Spidey during the 1970s and 1980s, we don't see it here, its Curb Stomp all along. In the end Kingpin is left bleeding and broken with a promise, if/when May dies, Kingpin will follow. There is a What If... story where MJ takes the bullet and dies. In that story Pete goes on full rampage and in the end punches Kingpin through the heart. Try to remember, this is from friendly neighborhood Spider-Man.
- Peter had inadvertently killed in the past: the second Red Skull who had killed his parents (he redirected a missile which ended up killing him), ducking out of the way of Norman Osborn's spiked glider which pierced his heart (although he got better), he backhanded a Badass Normal terrorist and killed her when in battle against Wolverine (he thought it was Wolvie in a berserker rage), killed Morlun in an evolving nigh-animalistic state during The Other story arc, and, of course, accidentally snapping Gwen Stacy's neck in an attempt to save her.
- Rom Spaceknight usually follows Thou Shalt Not Kill, but made an exception for Hybrid when he realized his Neutralizer couldn't banish a human-Wraith hybrid to Limbo and that Hybrid was too evil and dangerous to be allowed to live.
- In Starman, Jack Knight kills exactly twice: the first was Kyle, the son of the Mist, while the second was Medphyll, a Green Lantern-turned-traitor. Both weighed heavily on his mind, especially the first one, and he eventually meets them in the afterlife and makes peace with them thanks to his brother David.
- Adrian Veidt/Ozymandias in Watchmen spent his crimefighting career as a friendly, idealistic and well-liked superhero who refused to kill and cooperated with the authorities. Then he became convinced that only he could save the world, and embarked on a horrific campaign that culminated in the mass murder of three million New Yorkers.
- In Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, protagonist Jimmy the Saint spends the last twenty minutes or so of the movie doing all the things he spent the whole movie trying to avoid doing.
- In Wizards, Actual Pacifist wizard Avatar confronts his evil brother Blackwolf, and rather than engage him in a Wizard Duel, simply pulls out a gun and shoots him dead.
- In The Rundown, the Rock's character refuses to pick up a gun the entire movie, maintaining that "bad things happen" when he does. When he gets into a tight spot in the end, he does end up using guns — and it's awesome.
- In Unforgiven, William Munny avoids drinking because his wife "cured" him of such vices before she died. When Little Bill kills Ned, Munny finishes the Kid's bottle of whiskey and goes on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge.
- The Dark Knight Saga:
- In The Dark Knight, The Joker tells Batman that "tonight [he's] going to break [his] one rule". Batman's reply is "I'm considering it." He doesn't. Then, at the end, Batman tackles Harvey Dent, who falls of a ledge and dies. Depending on your interpretation, The Joker was either completely wrong (if it was an accident) or just one day off (if it wasn't), or Batman simply miscalculated the strength that was sufficient to subdue Dent in the heat of the moment (again, if it was an accident).
- During the final confrontation in The Dark Knight Rises, Batman seems completely willing to kill Bane, and isn't simply considering it, as he repeats his opponent's earlier threat to make him suffer a horrible death in a ironic way.
- The series itself inverts this in his character backstory. His first method of dealing with injustice in this series was going to be to shoot his parents' murderer, Joe Chill (fortunately for Bruce, the mob got to Chill first). It's his shame over this incident in reflection that causes him to adopt his normal rule about not using them.
- In The Omega Man it is actually one of the villains who suddenly picks up a gun he has secretly been carrying in order to use it against the protagonist. This is despite being a member of a cult of mutated technophobes who refuses to use complex devises on ideological grounds and who wants both technology and the protagonist destroyed.
- Minor example. Obi-Wan hates using blasters, finding them uncivilized and crude. But when it's the only weapon available, he grabs one to kill General Grievous. Afterward, he throws it away and remarks "so uncivilized."
- Any time a Harry Potter protagonist uses an Unforgivable Curse: Professor McGonagall with the Imperius Curse, and Harry himself using the Imperius and specially the Cruciatus Curse.
- In The Dresden Files, Harry has been offered incredible power, often at terrible prices, throughout the series. He's always refused, though at the same time has always been tempted by that power. Offers range from the addictive draw of pure Black Magic, the eternal knowledge and power of a Fallen Angel, the possible godlike power of the Darkhallow, and the standing offer by Mab, Queen of the Winter Court, to become her Knight. Harry steadfastly resists all of these offers, as he knows that succumbing to these temptations will destroy him as a person. Then the bad guys kidnap his daughter, and Harry accepts Mab's offer to become her Knight.
- Earlier on, he threatens to pull everything listed above to his advantage if Mavra the Black Court Vampiress ever does harm to his friends again (especially Murphy). The threat is so effective that Mavra hasn't been seen or heard from since.
- In many Discworld novels, Sam Vimes thinks about how he's afraid of what he might become if he started acting outside the law, and hopes he never finds something awful enough to make him cross the line. In Snuff, he finally finds it.
- Faith from Mirrors Edge applies to this based on her personal politics and ignoring player cruelty potential; considering her parents were shot for protesting, her sister is a cop and the player is generously awarded for not so much as shooting anyone, you know Faith is pissed when she's pointing a gun at an officer (though she seems to have remarkably few qualms about punting said cops off the roofs of buildings).
- Played with in Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, with Snake's rule not to use CQC (added to the series in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater, a prequel, so presumably Snake knew it since before Metal Gear), because of Big Boss' betrayal of FOXHOUND. He uses it because his first response to someone using it on him is to respond in kind. While Liquid, Ocelot, Gray Fox and Solidus might have known it, they all either had their own highly effective fighting styles, or were just never never in a situation where they would use it.
- Played brilliantly straight in Devil May Cry 3. Dante and Virgil are the twin sons of the Legendary Dark Knight Sparda. Dante chose to fight the demons while Virgil joined them. Dante uses his pistols, Ebony and Ivory, and his sword, Rebellion; Virgil believes guns are dishonorable, choosing to use only his katana, Yamato. However, when push comes to shove, Virgil ends up taking one of Dante's guns and the pair shoot Arkham simultaneously, finishing him off.
- Sort of in Mass Effect 2, in the Overlord DLC. Paragon!Shepard isn't completely averse to violence, but tends to keep it as a last resort. Later in the mission, there is a paragon interrupt to pistol whip a Well-Intentioned Extremist because of his Moral Event Horizon, not in self-defence. And it's awesome.
- In Batman: Vengeance, Batman is forced to use Mr. Freeze's cryo-gun after defeating the madman, whose helmet had started to show cracks. After encasing Freeze in a block of ice, the Dark Knight rather irritably throws the gun to one side.
- Bob and George: This trope becomes a major plot point. George, at the very end, finally uses his arm cannon on Bob. He was shooting to kill, but the cannon didn't fire. It's revealed that the entire comic was meant to bring George to the point where he was willing to use deadly force to stop an enemy—even if said enemy was his own brother.
- In the Web Serial Novel Worm, the main character so far only kills once, using a gun to kill Coil and prevent his takeover of the city.
- Batman Beyond is kicked off when an aged, ailing Batman suffers a heart attack at the worst possible moment — right in the middle of a crime bust — and is forced to grab a gun to defend himself. This Moment of Weakness convinces him that it's time to hang up the cowl, setting the stage for Terry to take it up years later.
- The Justice League Unlimited episode "Dead Reckoning" has Dead Man possess Batman and kill Devil Ray with a nearby gun in order to save Wonder Woman. Batman is visibly disgusted with it.
- Deadman doesn't react too well either.
- Another episode has an Alternate History version of Batman grab a gun from a fellow resistance fighter. Of course, his parents weren't killed by a lone gunman right in front of him, but killed by Vandal Savage's soldiers storming Wayne Manor.
- Batman The Brave And The Bold plays with this in the Grand Finale. Bat-Mite, trying to get the show cancelled, alters the show dramatically with many jump the shark mainstays, while Ambush Bug tries desperately to prove to a disbelieving Batman that it's not right for him to have a wife, a sickeningly cute daughter, and obvious toy tie-in gear. He finally gets Batman's attention when Bat-Mite makes him use guns, which Bug points out is completely Out of Character for Batman, and this makes the turning point of the episode where Batman starts fighting back as well.
- In the Adventure Time episode "Simon & Marcy" a young Marceline makes Simon promise to stop using the crown that gives him ice powers but makes him more deformed and insane the longer he wears it. He tries his best to keep his promise, but when they find themselves in a dead end ambushed by mutants, he's forced to use it again to protect her.