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.
So far we’re just introducing the post-Crisis versions of the important characters to this story. I forgot to mention that the Kryptonian artifact called the Eradicator was also mentioned in one of the flashbacks, which will also be important during “Reign Of The Supermen”, the final storyline of this arc and the third section of this novelization. I think this is the last of the set-up chapters before Doomsday finally escapes his metal box.
When DC decided to reboot Superman after Crisis On Infinite Earths led to a big change in the DC Universe they wanted to get rid of all Kryptonians except for Kal-El. Supergirl was replaced with a shapeshifting protoplasmic being and there is no way I can explain that in this article. This video …will help. I think. There were a number of changes that had to be explained to casual readers because comics be crazy yo! And they were big ones. Try to follow along with this chapter and you may see what I mean.
Chapter 4: Doomsday part 4
We get a brief moment with “the Creature” for the first time in awhile, as he finally starts breaking through his prison. He’s not breaking out this chapter.
The next scene involves the Guardian, a golden age character and oh good gravy do future writers play havoc with this backstory. I’ll spare you and focus on the important parts to this story. Guardian was created by Jack Kirby & Joe Simon, and this is the Star-Spangled Comics tale from the 1940s. Or at least part of it is. The hero adopted four street urchins who became his sidekicks and later worked to create Project Cadmus. If you only know that name from Justice League Unlimited or Young Justice the TV show things are different in the source material. It’s a lab dedicated to uncovering the secrets of DNA, the government does partially fund it, and cloning is involved. In fact Jim Harper, the Guardian, is in a cloned body. For whatever reason DC wanted the character here and that’s the solution, having Guardian’s “Newsboy Legion” grow up and become smart guys (business for some, science for others) who started the project in a mountain near Metropolis. I told you comics be crazy.
Speaking of clones, Lex Luthor II is secretly a cloned Lex Luthor who pretends to be his own son. This is exhibit C. The readers of the book are shown this through a nightmare involving Dabney Donovan, an evil scientist who worked for Cadmus at one point and will also be a factor in this story. He was responsible for cloning Lex’s new body, getting rid of both the male pattern baldness and the damaged hand. In this continuity Lex Luthor was changed from mad scientist seeking to prove his intellect to the corrupt businessman most of you probably know him as. Back then however this would have been different, as Lex had shown up in everything from serials to movies to Saturday morning cartoons as a criminal scientist. In an earlier chapter we learned of that change but now he’s pretending to be his own son to shake off past deeds…so he can make new ones. Also, he’s dating Supergirl now.
As I mentioned, this version of Supergirl was a shapeshifter from another dimension, a pocket dimension since the Multiverse as we know being destroyed in Crisis was connected to why Supergirl isn’t Kal-El’s cousin Kara anymore. Folks might know her from her own movie. (She wouldn’t show up outside of comics again until Superman: The Animated Series, well after this book, and showed up again in Smallville and now her own series., all of which uses the classic “Superman’s Kryptonian cousin” concept.) Having to explain her story, that she was an artificial lifeform created by a good Lex Luthor before the dimension was basically wiped out by their General Zod, is rather important to events that follow. And she is now lovers with the alternate universe version of her creator. Daddy issues will the least weird thing she will experience long after this story. We’ll get to those comics eventually in “Yesterday’s” Comic reviews. Her section also goes over her altered powers. In addition to shapeshifting she can levitate and use psychokinetic powers, “energy shields”, and cloaking abilities beyond the shapeshifting. It’s a necessary alteration of her powers since this Supergirl isn’t from Krypton and I think they’re rather cool powers. And it’s still better than her previously alternate counterpart Power Girl got, but that’s a story for another time. Supergirl and Guardian’s alterations are wacky enough.
I kind of feel sorry for fans of other Superman works who didn’t follow the comics, because I’m betting a few readers found all of this rather strange. While this is a topic worth exploring in the future, the long-running continuities and multiple writers have led to rather unusual ideas and trying to explain them all, and the important continuity, to new readers is not an easy task. I still support continuity but man do some ideas make it hard. At least the writing thus far did a good job explaining the important details but you have to wonder what people thought of it all, especially if they hadn’t followed the comics and didn’t know about the Crisis reboot. It must have been very confusing. We have one more set-up chapter to go before the main event. Hang tight folks.
Next time: Doomsday ch. 5