Doomsday, the one-time and would-be killer of The Man of Steel, has made recent appearances in various Superman-related titles, but the first true multi-title crossover featuring the New 52 incarnation of the character originates here in “Superman: Doomed” #1. Illustrated by Ken Lashley and written by current triumvirate of Superman writers Scott Lobdell, Greg Pak and Charles Soule, this one-shot is the first of a four-part story that continues in this month’s other Super-titles. As an introduction, the storyline kicks off with several guest stars, a body count in the thousands, and the near-extinction of an entire species; many of the components often found in crossovers such as this.
The guest stars are plenty visible, but the rest of it is largely told rather than shown; readers know the death toll because Superman himself said so, after apparently counting all the bodies. Save for an impressive double page spread by Lashley showing an admittedly menacing and monstrous-looking Doomsday laying waste to all around him, and a few panels showing the aftermath, the deaths of thousands is an off-screen, and therefore emotionless, occurrence. None of the victims are ever seen as anything other than already charred skeletons; it kicks off the story, sure, but there’s no real impact to give it any meaning. Oh, and Doomsday also managed to whack one million wildebeest amongst all that, or so Cyborg says.
That’s pretty much the way of the entire issue. Even Superman himself seems unmoved, as his concern in the wake of this tragedy isn’t regarding the lives taken by Doomsday, but instead the sanctity of the monster’s own life. Sure, Superman’s the hero, and has to question the necessity of taking a life, but it’s a misplaced debate in the aftermath of such a tragic event, and actually makes the character seem kind of heartless, at least initially. This leads to a pointless philosophical discussion between Clark and Perry White, who ultimately doesn’t tell Clark anything he didn’t already know, or feel.
The issue doesn’t evoke much in the way of excitement, either, despite containing all the ingredients to do so. The cast features plenty of big hitters, and a villain who can go claw to toe with all of them collectively. There’s no such epic battle, though; instead, a couple of brief one-on-one skirmishes accomplish nothing, except to shorten the duration of Superman’s own eventual showdown with the creature, which actually has a fair level of intensity but is just too short to generate any significant kind of thrill. There’s this tentative, non-committal feel throughout; all of the fixings are there, but none of the writers bother to cook up much with them.
Even the intensity that is present is flawed, as Superman manages to relatively easily dispatch this incarnation of Doomsday, at least temporarily, an incarnation that’s shown to be more powerful and a far bigger threat than the original one who “killed” him. Hey, rematches often beget upsets, but this discrepancy isn’t the only logic problem; Superman boasts that he can find Doomsday anywhere in the world less than a minute after he reappears, so he must have been indisposed when The Big D reappeared at the beginning of the story and burned thousands of people to death.
The problems with the issue are many, but its strengths are notable, as well. Lashley gives the story a far more dynamic and exciting look than the script delivers; the aforementioned double page spread that serves as the issue’s introduction to Doomsday is superb, and the new Doomsday genuinely does look the part of a far deadlier creature than his predecessor. Lashley’s splash that introduces Superman himself to the story is likewise excellent, and is a perfect iconic image of The New 52 version of the Man of Steel. A corresponding image for Wonder Woman is no less outstanding.
The writers also put forward an interesting connection between the two iterations of Doomsday, preserving the concept of the pre-New 52 original that rolls nicely into this new one. Although the execution is shaky, Lobdell, Pak and Soule manage to construct a concept that’s somewhat fresh and nothing at all like the “Death of Superman” arc that first featured the character. Continuity freaks might have a little trouble reconciling the notion of the original arc being preserved, yet this story features the first meeting of Lois and Lana in the New 52.
“Superman: Doomed” #1 has its moments and it’s really nice to look at, but is only essential for those who have committed to the remainder of the storyline and is too unsound to be enjoyed otherwise.