After two months of Peter Tomasi’s “Final Days of Superman” story, we have at last reached the end. Can the combined might of Batman, Wonder Woman, Supergirl, and two Clarks defeat the delusional Superflare? And is this really the end for the New 52’s Superman? Superman #52 is an action-packed, slightly oversized answer to those very questions.
A flare for the dramatic (no, I could not help myself)
The scuffle brewing at the end of last week’s Superman/Wonder Woman #29 comes to a head, both physically and mentally, as Superman and Superflare trade blows and no-you’re-not-I-am‘s. Supergirl, Batman, and Wonder Woman pitch in, but the fight rages on. As Clark takes the conflict high above the Earth to protect its inhabitants, help comes from an unexpected (it was totally expected) place. When the dust settles, will the already-weakened Superman have any life left?
What ever happened to the man of yesterday?
My favorite parts of this arc were in its first few installments, when Tomasi’s focus was on Clark’s character and how his closest friends began processing his impending death. If you’ve been reading my reviews, this isn’t anything new. After finally making peace with a shift in that focus, I find myself struggling again with mixed messages.
The past three or four issues have been all about the pursuit of and confrontation with Superflare, and a large chunk of this issue is devoted to the same. So when everything comes to a head and Superman at last succumbs to his condition, I feel a bit disconnected, and a bit rushed toward the emotional conclusion. It doesn’t help that Diana rushes toward acceptance; that when Clark first spoke with her about his fate back in Superman/Wonder Woman #28, she seemed stubbornly devoted to finding some way to fix the situation, but here she gently shepherds him on to his end. It’s not that I can’t buy her getting to that place, even in the time elapsed, but it’s tough not seeing how she gets there.
Lois takes a similar leap. I’ve read almost everything in the New 52 that has Superman in it, but I can’t recall any of those stories providing any substantive relational moments between Lois and Clark that justify how broken she is at the end of this. The interactions that come to mind for me all assume a deep relationship without ever actually putting it on display. Tomasi’s treatment of Lois here depends heavily on a relationship that the New 52 failed to establish. It’s like DC wrote Pete a bad check, and now we get to watch it bounce. I still liked seeing her at her computer, writing his story as he requested, but that’s probably the best part of her inclusion.
At least it looks good
Mikel Janin returns to Superman to close things out, and his work impresses as usual. Detailed, dynamic fight spreads and relentless action are a welcome counter to the bland back-and-forth spewing from Clark and not-Clark during the final showdown. And when things slow down, Janin’s closer, less-frenetic shots and thoughtful character posturing convey as much emotion as his facial expressions. He’s also got Classic Clark looking pretty handsome with the beard and black suit.
- For all of its warts, this arc has had some excellent Batman moments. Like this one:
- Steel shows up for Superman’s farewell, but where was he for the rest of this arc?
- Metropolis Firefighter Lee Lambert shows up in one of the “the world reacts to the loss of Superman” panels, but I think this was another bad check on DC’s part. Lee was introduced in Greg Pak’s Action Comics #41, and barely had enough time to establish herself in her limited appearance. Most people probably won’t even recognize her in this book.
- Classic Clark helping out near the end was excellent, and good setup for the upcoming Superman series starting with next week’s Superman Rebirth #1 one-shot. This panel was also a great tease for July’s new Justice League:
- You want to see how it all ends for this version of Superman.
- You want to see the heroic return of the previous version of Superman, who is now the current version of Superman, which is not confusing in the least.
- You want to see Batman fly the Batplane into a Superfake created by a bolt of sentient energy infused with a mutated copy of Superman’s genome. Also not confusing.
This arc began with a bang, but ends with a whimper. It’s never sunk so low that I didn’t enjoy reading it, but I feel like Tomasi failed to keep the promise and live up to the potential of last month’s Superman #51. This final installment attempts to wrap things up, but while it makes a good try of bringing things back down to more intimate, character-driven moments, it ends up feeling like a setup for the new status quo. This Superman had to die so that DC’s Superman going forward could be with Lois; and for that to happen, a Superman with an attachment to Wonder Woman would need to be removed. I really wish there was a better reason.