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The Reread Reviews — The Death of Superman

by  in Comic News Comment

Kicking off four week of rereading and discussing the death and return of Superman, we begin with the story that rocked the world. But — is it any good? Spoilers, of course (though, I suspect most people know how this one ends…)

The Nostalgia November archive can be found here


The Death of Superman was a seven-part story that spanned five titles in October and November of 1992, meaning I was nine at the time. I don’t really know if it affected me in a big way. I followed “The Reign of the Supermen” much closer, intrigued by that idea… the death itself… I was nine and I already knew that it wouldn’t last, that it wasn’t that big a deal. Want to be a cynic early in life? Read comics or watch wrestling — and I did both. I think the only part of the story I actually read was the finale in Superman #75 since that was the only part that my dad bought. He later bought the trade collecting the whole story and, when I read it, I wasn’t impressed. It’s not a good story, really just seven issues of the Justice League and Superman trying to take on Doomsday, a random character that debuts in the first part out of nowhere. If there’s anything about the story that makes it obvious that the idea of killing Superman came first and the story came second, it’s the involvement of Doomsday, a walking plot device if there ever was one.

In Superman: The Man of Steel #18, he breaks free from his little metal pod in a scene that many may remember from Kill Bill, Vol. 2 and has a great visual look with his green body suit, red goggles/lenses, and various tubes/cables, including one that keeps his right arm tied behind his back. I actually think the initial look of Doomsday is better than his full boned-spikes look. The arm being kept behind his back is a nice little gag since it sets up how monstrous and powerful he is from the get-go. He takes out the Justice League with one arm tied behind his back! Granted, the Justice League here is Booster Gold, Blue Beetle, Guy Gardner, Fire, Ice, Maxima, and Bloodwynd, but still. However, there’s no character to Doomsday: he’s just a big monster that wants to destroy everything. He’s meant to be a force of nature, something beyond what Superman has encountered — but it’s almost the equivalent of Superman dying via tsunami, saving people from a natural disaster… there’s a sense of nobility there, but it doesn’t necessarily lend itself to as much emotional impact as it could have.

The idea of Superman encountering something that is his physical equal/superior without the mental faculties there is interesting since that’s the opposite of his normal slew of enemies… but it’s also boring. It’s seven issues of fight scenes, none of which are particularly inventive. Doomsday is built up so much that you have to question how Superman ever defeats him… or why didn’t he just toss him into space? Or, Doomsday is powerful enough to send Superman flying from a punch, but said punch doesn’t take off the Blue Beetle’s head (literally)? Nit-picking, I know, but…

When it comes to this trilogy, The Death of Superman is, by far, the weakest part. It’s a plot point, a transition from Point A to Point B. The storytelling is almost on autopilot until we get to Superman #75 where Dan Jurgens tells the entire issue in splash pages, a technique meant to give the issue a greater importance and sense of scope. However, it turns the issue into a brief series of pictures that don’t flow well, reminding more of trading cards that intend to tell a story than an actual comic story. There’s never a true sense of where the characters are or what’s going on since it’s just a series of static images with no context.

Sorry, not much to say here. Others may remember this being a big event, but it’s always just been another story to me. Characters die all of the time, it was inevitable that they’d get to Superman eventually. Next week, we’ll get into the real story as we look at what happens after Superman died.