The Death Of Superman Review by Deffinition
The Death Of Superman for right or wrong is a landmark moment in comic book history. As one of the highest selling comic of all time It caused a spectacular boom in sales during the 90s. Many fans and non fans believed that it would be a valuable investment down the line and would bring them profit in the future. Of course with so many sold it actually became less valuable than originally thought, potentially being responsible for the almost catastrophic comic book crash that nearly destroyed the industry.
Marred by many as a publicity stunt it made publishers realise that non fans would pick up books that they thought to be special editions and rare items. We saw a slew of issue #1s many ‘events’ and for a time it looked like all of our favourite heroes were being killed or altered just to sell a comic. In my opinion the Death Of Superman is directly responsible for Knightfall and several of the character changing arcs that happened throughout the 90s.
It was a curese on the industry.
With all the controversy that surrounds it many often get away from the story itself. That’s what I am here to objectively focus on. As a first time reader of it I want to really get to the core of this book to answer ‘is it actually a good book that shouldn’t be overlooked due to it’s notoriety?’
Let’s find out!
The book opens with Doomsday crash landing on Earth. He punches his way out of his ship, a bird lands on his hand and he crushes it. From the start you know there is going to be little subtly, depth or characterisation to the work and this is later confirmed by lines like ‘I scanned the city for underworlders but they were not on the surface.’ Wow, no Shit Sherlock.
I’d heard rumours that this book was pretty much a comic for stupid people and this opening chapter confirmed it. Rather than hold it against it though I just went with it. Not every comic needs to be Sandman and of course not every comic will be. Throwing my prejudice aside was the best course of action to take and I recommend that for anyone else new to the story.
The opening chapter contains a side story that is at best superfluous, it involves Superman saving Lois from the snatches of the Underworlders in what acts as merely a distraction whilst Doomsday rampages through America. Whilst I would normally negate the book because of this, the side plot actually helps to inform the reader of Clark and Lois’ relationship and provides insight to the kind of Superman that we will be dealing with in this story.
Justice League Down
During a television interview with Superman the Justice League Battle Doomsday. Unable to take him down the TV show is interrupted and Superman leaves to battle the new foe.
It’s elements such as this that I think give the book it’s bad reputation. Time has not been kind. Whether rightly or wrongly we expect our Superheroes now to be Dark, shadowy figures, the limelight is unnecessary to them, they are not Geordie Shore cast members. Fame is not in their agenda. This contradicts that notion and puts the Superheroes out in full public view and I have to admit that it made me struggle with the book’s stature prior to the fight.
After easily defeating the Justice League, Superman and Doomsday, begin their clash. Realising that he is the only one capable of stopping the behemoth, Superman throws himself in the line of fire. This really helps to portray to the reader exactly how selfless Superman is and it’s easy to find the character endearing. Interjected throughout the fight we see regular civilians reacting to the chaos around them. This allows us to relate to the onslaught and I love how the fight takes place mainly in middle America. The vast contrast of normality with the fantastical really grounds the book and helps to create the metaphor of nuclear war. Doomsday is an unstoppable force that has the potential to destroy both the superpowers of the world along with regular everyday citizens.
We see petrol stations, suburban homes and supermarkets destroyed in the chaos. It’s clear that this book heavily influenced Man of Steel and Batman V Superman. It’s aesthetics and this connection to everyday life stands as one of the story’s strengths.
However, the story shares its own level of corniness too. After Doomsday views a commercial for Metropolis wrestling in a store window he decides to head there. Naturally because he wants a fight. Great…..
It’s a shame that the book suffers from elements such as this. Doomsday should remain motiveless, his path of destruction undecided at all times. He merely acts off instinct, crushing whatever life he sees in anger and disgust. There simply is no reason to divert course just because he saw something on TV and it’s elements like this that really hammed the book up for me.
The Death Of Superman
The strength of the combat lies in its pace. It never seems to drag. Every punch and every miss has impact to it. This feels like a real slog fest due to full page layouts and art that pits you right in the middle of the fight. Doomsday really feels like an unstoppable force and this is the most vulnerable that we have ever seen the man of steel. When the fight comes to its conclusion we are almost as exhausted as its combatants. For all of its weaknesses the core of the book is timeless. It’s evident as to why so many readers come back when the book’s climax is so startling and ground breaking.
Whilst I wish that the final fight had not ended by Doomsday and Superman punching each other, the finality of this blow still possesses an impact that is unmatched by most comics that I have read. There is not meant to be a flashy, last minute save by another character, this is brutal and unforgiving, just as the writer intended.
We watch Superman die, using his final few moments to ask if Doomsday is defeated. He dies a true hero and the mourning of those who loved him begins.
Death Of Superman has its problems. Early on it is clear that the book is a relic due to its aesthetic and dated feel. There are several cringe inducing moments that if removed would service the story’s lasting appeal. However, at it’s core the book shares many similarities to a biblical tale. This is the story of a saviour who sacrificed them self for the greater good. These timeless ideologies are what aide the book to achieving it’s legendary status.
Whilst not perfect, this graphic should still be considered a right of passage for any fans of the Blue Boy Scout. Those who wish to see a moment that changed the comic book genre much in the same way that his introduction did back in 1938. Whilst controversy has surrounded this book since it’s release it still is an enjoyable story overall and I recommend it to die hard comic and superhero fans. Who knows, you might even be able to sell it for millions one day (joke).
Leave a comment whether you agree with my ranking or not.