Chapter by Chapter features me reading one chapter of the selected book at the time and reviewing it as if I were reviewing an episode of a TV show or an issue of a comic. There will be spoilers if you haven’t read to the point I have, and if you’ve read further I ask that you don’t spoil anything further into the book. Think of it as read-along book club.
Chapter one was about getting the readers who haven’t followed the comics (or at least not before the John Byrne reboot) up to speed on Superman’s origin without the usual straight-up showing the origin, as well as introducing one of the principle characters to come. It was also about showcasing why those of us who love Superman feel that way. What will happen this chapter?
Around this time Clark and Lois were dating, but I don’t recall if they were engaged. The death of Superman was a big moment in the news because of the cultural status Superman maintains. Nobody thought he’d stay dead, especially anybody who know comics, and this was still before death in comics became so cheap…when a character died it wasn’t for shock or to affect the hero but had weight and meaning to it. Yes, sometimes characters were killed off because the new writer didn’t like them, but on the whole death wasn’t cheap and undone like it is today, where even the big deaths like Barry Allen’s was undone because of nostalgia. And then proceeded to change the character’s history because today’s writers think heroism only comes from tragedy, not the aversion of tragedy inspiring someone to become a superhero. I know a lot of blame is placed on this story, but like the various attempts to emulate Watchmen the original did it right and better because writers and editors don’t take time to understand why a creator does what he or she does. Maybe they should start a website to explore that. I’m hoping it’s working for me.
Chapter 2: Doomsday part 2
It’s still more setting up, introducing characters who will be important later. In this case it’s Lex Luthor and Emil Hamilton, plus two important landmarks, New Troy (basically Metropolis and apparently on an island) and Hob’s Bay (alias “Suicide Slum“). Each will play a part in later stories.
New Troy is where the Lexcorp building is, and even if you know the post-Crisis Lex Luthor (which is hard to miss in the majority of Superman TV shows and movies since the Ruby Spears cartoon first brought it out of the comics) there is important information here. It goes into why Lex hates Superman so much (not counting foiling Lex’s schemes), how his Kryptonite ring was slowly poisoning him, his supposed death, and the arrival of his son, Lex Luthor II (although it would be revealed it’s actually Lex in a cloned body, but that’s a tale for another day), who was “hidden away” to protect him from Lex’s enemies and now runs Lexcorp and seems to not share daddy’s hatred of Superman. It’s complicated so it’s a good thing it was smoothed out here enough for new readers.
Then there’s Emil Hamilton. If you only know him from Superman: The Animated Series as Superman’s friend at STAR Labs who eventually betrays him to Project Cadimus and creates Supergirl’s clone by taking DNA while saving her life–well, it’s a long story but that’s only the cartoon. In the comics he’s a formerly mad scientist (now he’s just a semi-mad scientist) who Superman helped reform. And yet he’s working on a laser cannon just because he can. I can just imagine this scenario happening someday.
But he does have another purpose for being here, to set up one more addition to Superman’s history. While the yellow sun wasn’t part of his power origin when he was first created (like most of his powers), the addition had already been part of Superman lore for a very long time. (Originally it was blamed on Earth’s lighter gravity how he could jump high and his skin couldn’t be penetrated with anything weaker than a bursting shell.) Here Stern (or maybe this showed up in the comics being adapted in this chapter) is going into the made-up science of how Superman’s powers work post-Crisis, that he absorbs solar energy but he can exhaust his reserves over time, like a rather busy day of rescues he once had. This sets up the fact that when Superman later fights Doomsday that he does have physical limits.
So this chapter is still introducing the post-Crisis take on Superman, but it’s not just showing off what they came up with. This is an honest attempt to give the readers everything they need to know about Superman lore at this time. It’s not only to show what Superman is capable of and his limits but what important characters to the rest of our tale are currently at as they take their places for the story to come. Speaking of place, Superman has to rush to meet Lois and we’ll see that next time.
Next Time: Doomsday chapter 3