Stew Reviews: Death of Superman

Not BAMF 1

I’m probably literally the only one, but I am a big Doomsday fan (that’s right, you take your comic reading advice from someone who has so far declared his love for Jubilee, Kyle Rayner, and now Doomsday, so… that probably says more about you than me, honestly). I mean, he’s not a Top Ten character for me, but… Top 25? I could see that.

It’s not like he has great depth or anything. He does’t have any character-driving arcs or moments where he is established as having noble intentions or goals. But he does have the Hunter/Prey story arc where one scene defined what Doomsday should always have been; Superman has a nightmare of being on his parents’ farm in Smallville and being scared of the dark basement. As he journeys into the scary basement, he, as a child comes face to face with Doomsday… and Superman—SUPERMAN!—wakes up in sweating terror.

Despite countless stories since that have turned him into a jobber, that’s what Doomsday will always be to me. A pants-crappingly nightmarish force of nature that inspires uncontrollable dream and panic in even the strongest heroes.

Not the loser who got one-shot by friggin’ Imperiex. Imperiex! Now THERE’S a character that doesn’t deserve to have any fans. If you ARE an Imperiex fan then head down to comments and… hmm… you should just keep that one to yourself.

TITLE: The Death of Superman

Writer and Artist: A lot. Let’s see… Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, Dan Jurgens, Louise Simonson, Jon Bogdanove, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice

Publisher: DC

Protagonists: Superman and the weird-ass jobber JLA of the 90’s.

Antagonists: DOOMSDAY! Yeah!
Do you still have your sealed polybagged copy of Superman #75? I do. I haven’t looked at the price in a while, but I assume it’s worth several thousands of dollars at this point! I have thus far denied temptation to sell it for my wedding or when I needed a new car. I figure by the time I retire, it will be worth enough to support me in my twilight after I piss away my savings. All of my 90’s comics in poly bags will save me!

The Death of Superman is the story that made an eruption of headlines in the very early 1990’s because DC very publicly announced that Superman was going to perish in an upcoming storyline. Instantly the speculation turned to how that would be achieved. Would Lex Luthor finally off his nemesis? Would huge swaths of Kryptonite be involved? The postulation of the story did not stop at just the plot, though, because—as I joked about above—everyone began pondering how damn much the issue where Kal-El dies would be worth. This was in the era of the collector’s market where we all realized that Gold and Silver Age book were worth a fortune, and none of those books had Superman DYING (well, some probably did, actually; Pre-Crisis was whacky, yo).

Well, it turned out that comic geeks don’t make good market speculators, and when DC ran approximately a trillion copies of Superman #75, there was no Demand market to meet the Supply, so the comic was basically worthless. And it also turned out that Supes’ killer was a theretofore unheard of brute given the name Doomsday.

Running through not only Action Comics, but also Adventures of Superman, Superman, Superman: Man of Steel, and Justice League of America, and WOW he had four books all by himself back then, huh? God bless the 1990’s, man. Anyway, it told the story of a long-imprisoned creator breaking free of his containment and running amok until confronted by the Justice League. Until that point, he seems like a relatively minor threat; he chokes out a deer and smashes a truck, but when he threatens a suburban family and neighborhood, the heroes come to end his path of terror. And this was the 90’s Justice League starring such studs as Fire, Ice, Guy Gardner, Bloodwynd (who, I guess it turns out, was Martian Manhunter running around pretending to be a new hero for whatever reason), and Booster Gold. God, what was it about the 90’s and weird versions of the big hero teams? I want to see this JLA fight the 90’s Avengers of Black Knight, Sersi, Crystal, Hercules. Vision, and Thunderstrike.

Obviously Doomsday tears right through them until Superman arrives, whereupon Booster Gold inadvertently christens the monster “Doomsday”. From there on, it is just FightSceneMania! Superman & the JLA vs Doomsday! Superman & Maxima vs Doomsday! Supergirl vs Doomsday! Doomsday takes on all comers until he is amusingly distracted by a professional wrestling commercial while brawling in, like, a Sears or something and wants to head to Metropolis for his title shot. Superman tries everything in his arsenal to deter Doomsie from getting to Metropolis, but the beast is unstoppable, leading to the final stage of their battle with Clark’s home and loved ones on the line.

That brings us to Superman #75 which is all splash pages, baby! Written and penciled by Dan Jurgens, the pacing of this issue is terrible because it is reduced to telling the whole climactic fight in 20-some panels. And it ultimately ends the way DC told us it would: with Superman dying at Doomsday’s hands (the hero simultaneously stops the beast with his dying shot, though, so the day is saved). There’s some decent emotion at the end with Lois cradling a dying Clark and the Kents seeing it all unfold on the news, and that’s it… Superman was dead.

For, like, 6 months or so. But that’s a different story!

The Death of Superman is a fun beat-up style story that doesn’t try to be anything different than what it was: a huge, dumb fight scene for several funnybook issues. I would have appreciated it if they had uniformed the creative teams so that there isn’t the constant shifting in art and dialogue, but I guess it was nice of DC to let so many creators in on a story that was going to have so many eyes on it. I enjoyed Doomsday as just a mindless monster out of nowhere with a mysterious backstory rather than Luthor killing Superman with Evil Plan #382. And, like I said, I dig Doomsday, so I have a soft spot for this arc.

Talking Point:Quick one because I am genuinely curious: DO you still have a sealed copy of Superman #75?

OVERALL:

Boy, a 7/10 feels high for this, but there’s nothing wrong with the execution here. You get to see a Superman in his show-don’t-tell form of “This S stands for Hope!”, Doomsday is interesting and would remain as such until they turned him into a transitional foe. And none of the writing or art is particularly bad. The idea behind it all was a short-term cash grab without much care, but the book is handled fine AND it ultimately gave us Kon-El and John Henry Irons, two superb additions to the DC Universe. So my personal bias is showing a bit here, but this is an acceptable comic.

7/10

 

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