Continuity has never been DC Comics’ strong point. Take little Damian Wayne, for example: he’s quickly become one of DC’s most popular characters in the five years since he was introduced, and in that time he’s been portrayed as a mini-Bruce (by Grant Morrison in Batman and Robin), an awkward and nervous pre-teen (Tony Daniel in Battle for the Cowl), and super, super British (Bryan Q. Miller in Batgirl…I think).
The second Captain Boomerang, Owen Mercer, wasn’t exactly a fan favourite, but he was an interesting character nonetheless. Son of the first Captain Boomerang, Digger Harkness, Mercer met Harkness only a short time before Harkness’s death and later took his father’s place amongst Flash’s collection of enemies, the Rogues. Later, Mercer switched to the side of the good guys (joining Batman’s Outsiders team) and became a surrogate big brother for Supergirl:
Mercer was introduced during the Identity Crisis miniseries, the same tie-in event that brought you such notable additions to comic book history as: Dr. Light raping Sue Dibny in the JLA sattelite; Sue Dibny’s horrific murder at the hands of a crazed Jean Loring; Firestorm dying after being stabbed with a sword and exploding; and, last but not least, Captain Boomerang murdering Jack Drake, father of the third Robin Tim Drake, and getting killed in the process.
This meant, of course, that Tim Drake was finally a real Robin (both his parents were dead), but instead of congratulating him Mercer actually tried to make amends for his father’s actions. Solid chap, no? Maybe a bit misguided, maybe a little morally grey, but still a good guy underneath it all.
Further evidence that he seemed like an okay dude:
Until Blackest Night: The Flash, that is. It’s revealed in the third issue of this three-issue Blackest Night (DC’s zombie event of 2009-2010) tie-in that Digger Harkness has become a pit-dwelling, cannibalistic member of the undead, and his son has been supplying him with fresh food:
This is probably one of the most uncharacteristic changes of heart in the history of comics, for the following reasons:
1) Mercer’s bond with his father wasn’t that strong. Realistically, they knew each other for a pretty short amount of time, and Mercer was aware of what a dirtbag the guy was (otherwise his apology to Tim Drake doesn’t make much sense).
2) From the Rogues to Suicide Squad to the Outsiders to Supergirl’s pal to the Secret Six to…child murderer? The guy went from spending several years redeeming himself before saying to hell with it and throwing a little girl into a pit to be eaten by a zombie? There’s nothing in Mercer’s previous appearances to support this development.
Then there’s this:
The Rogues, disgusted with Mercer’s actions, throw him into the pit to be eaten by the reanimated corpse of the father he’d desperately been trying to return to life. Yikes.
In 1988, the Joker beat the second Robin (Jason Todd) to death with a crow bar. A couple decades later, the fifth Robin (the aforementioned Damian Wayne) knocked the crap out of the Joker with a crow bar, in a moment where a reader could smile at the irony and the idea that what goes around comes around.
Owen Mercer’s death is the exact opposite of the above example. The one-eighty of his personality made no sense, and his demise was relentlessly brutal, especially for a character that audiences seemed to like (or at least weren’t foaming at the mouth to see get his comeuppance). A prime example of the punishment outweighing the crime.