It’s 1992, and Superman is dead.
I covered some of what made 90’s comics so distinguishable in the Dark Multiverse Knightfall one-shot, but maybe I should have saved some of that commentary. The Death of Superman was THE 90’s comic, when a character’s mortality was not only still unexpected, but still INCREDIBLY marketable. The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen was a gigantic crossover saga, detailing the demise of the world’s greatest hero and those who sought to replace him in his absence. Everyone had a reaction to the Man of Steel’s fate, both in-universe and out of it.
It’s 1992, Superman is dead, and his death makes for the best-selling issue of the year. Six Million Copies sold.
How good is that comic, though? Would you consider it a great piece of fiction on its own, or would you think of it as a shock tactic to sell issues? This was the debate on everyone’s minds when the original issue came out, and a similar debate is on my mind with this issue, written by Jeff Loveness and penciled by Brad Walker. The issue doesn’t try to be more than it needs to be, and for the most part, I think that’s a good thing.
Once again, we start and finish a Tale of the Dark Multiverse with a small monologue from Tempus Fuginaut, a celestial being who seems to be searching the Dark Multiverse for heroes to assist in an approaching Crisis event. I mentioned this in my last review for this series, but I don’t hate the idea of giving the issues a level of connective tissue. I can’t help but be a little disappointed though; when the series was announced, it seemed to be launching a line of “What If?” stories in the DC cosmos, which I am always a huge fan of. While these issues do fit that bill, it’s recently come to my attention that this is a limited series; after the Judas Contract issue, the series appears to end, and will be published together in a collective trade. This gives off the impression that these stories were less intended to be “What If?” tales, and more successors to the “Evil Batman” one-shots we saw in Dark Nights: Metal. This Death of Superman chapter definitely reads like an origin story for a grimdark Lois Lane; I can’t help but wonder if the characters in these stories will ever appear again, and if this will impact my opinion on these books when I come back to them.
As an origin story for an evil Lois, it works well enough! Instead of seeing the journey of Superman’s replacements in Reign of the Supermen, we see Lois take on super-powers gifted to her in the aftermath of her partner’s death. Like most “evil Supermen” stories, we see a character driven by grief turning against the world – but making the character Lois interests me a little more than another “Evil Clark” story.
I enjoy the perspective Lois has when imbued with Clark’s otherworldly powers; a journalist is often exposed to very grizzly and all-too-common sides of the world, and it’d be in Lois’ nature to find those dark places, powers or no. Obviously I don’t think the mainline Lois would become what this Lois becomes, but we’re not going into this comic for 1:1 characterization; otherwise we wouldn’t be such fans of The Batman Who Laughs. As such, it makes for a well-done, if surface-level, exploration of how a grieving Lois might take on the world with the powers of a god.
All that said, it’s a bit of a shame to see so little of the four “Supermen” that made Reign of the Supermen so interesting. The Eradicator and Cyborg Superman have minor roles, and Superboy and Steel are mainly relegated to cameos. The onus is on Lois to carry the issue; while she does say some interesting things about both Clark and the world, it’s not anything we haven’t heard before. To hear it from Lois is intriguing though, and there is a nice contrast between how she feels about Clark’s politics and how she feels about Clark. I think Loveness goes a little overboard with the narration boxes and dramatic pauses, but it doesn’t feel too unnatural within the flow of the issue. What I do like about Loveness’ writing here is that he knows this is a spectacle piece, and he allows for plenty of space on every page – both in his writing and how he has spread out his panels – for the artwork and its action to shine.
Brad Walker illustrated the Arkham Knight arc of Detective Comics recently, and while I enjoyed his art in that book, I honestly feel its quality has skyrocketed in this comic. The artwork MAKES this issue; it’s not something I could appreciate first in my review copy, but seeing it in high-definition made for some moments that genuinely wowed me. His pencils and John Kalisz’s colours work together phenomenally to create both wonderful renditions of classic 90’s costumes, and excellent setpieces when they’re appropriate. Everything works perfectly, from the impact you feel with every punch and explosion, to the wonderful red glow that follows the super-powered Lois wherever she flies.
Honestly, this spread kind of speaks for itself:
Honestly, can I really complain too much that a “What If” story about a 90’s comic follows tropes related to the 90’s? It’s an action-packed issue full of everything that made the original book so popular: flashy colours and explosions mixed in with destruction, death, and characters losing themselves to a grim world. That’s actually why I can’t showcase much of the art. So much of it is amazing, but because of the nature of the book, much of it is also a spoiler; Lois does a lot in this tale, and not much of it is pretty. If you want a good example of Walker’s art speaking for itself, check out this minor spoiler under the tag.
(While I’m here, I’d like to point out how wonderfully Walker depicts Lois’ face in this issue. You really get the sense that the character is dead inside, and her actions in the issue are an attempt to salvage what remains of justice in the world.)
Look, I’ve talked about the 90’s a lot in the past few reviews, and I’ve given off the impression that I didn’t think it was the best in hindsight. But the 90’s made comics that were popular for a reason, and their merit goes beyond just the spectacle of Superman dying; issues such as this commit to the premise and go wild with it, and the reader can see that energy spring from the pages. Rereading it has made me appreciate the action that much more because of it; and while it’s not a mind-blowing read, it’s certainly an entertaining one.
- The 90’s are your jam. God, so many people die in this issue.
- You’re wondering if any of these Dark Multiverse characters are gonna be relevant later (as am I!)
- You like exciting and explosive comics where anything can happen – it IS a “What If” story, after all.
- Expository Narration doesn’t bother you, as long as it justifies a fun comic.
I have to say, I started this review thinking the book was only good – and to some extent, I stand by that. I feel there’s a bell curve for quality of fiction, and while most comics don’t reach that high end, a lot do fall close. When I had a chance to see the art in a higher quality, it sold me on the fact that the book isn’t trying to be anything but more of what you might expect from The Death of Superman – and I appreciate books with clear goals such as that. Check it out if you want a treat on the eyes!
Disclaimer: DC Comics provided Batman News with a copy of this comic for the purpose of this review.