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.
Death in comic books, especially superhero comics, is a joke. Is there a character you like? Well he or she better be really popular or not fall into the hands of a writer who needs a “shock death” in their story and has no opinion or outright hates your character. Then all you can hope for is someone who does like the character coming around and reversing that death somehow because continuity gets in the way of their writing. Death holds no weight, no meaning. Forget having your hero go down fighting or having that death serve a greater purpose. “Stuff got real in the epic tale that will make me famous” is reason enough.
When Supergirl died pre-Crisis it meant something. While I disagree with the reasoning (since they just rebooted the Superman arm of the DCU anyway right after…and gave us the bad Alan Moore Superman story…she died trying to save the multiverse from a great evil. When Superman died, he went down fighting a monster in every sense of the word, a reversal of everything Superman stood for. He died protecting the city he loved and the friends he fought alongside. It was a battle to end all battles if ending battles didn’t also mean the end of crimefighting stories. It may have been a gimmick to sell comics, but it was one thought out and with purpose.
Tonight we get to the chapter where Superman died. This is the battle with Doomsday that we thought would be the last until they kept bringing him back and diluting him as a threat. And while we all knew they weren’t going to drop their flagship character for long, the way the story and the aftermath were handled was worthy of such an epic storyline. But how well was it translated in this novelization?
Chapter 10: Doomsday finale
You know, I think the prose did it better. I can’t confirm the lead-in mind you. Stern does a great job making you see the fight leading up to Superman #75, the issue where Doomsday fell and Superman died. But I have read that issue and minus the quotes from Lois’ later story or trying to artistically showcase Superman and Doomsday’s fight and the various reactions–which don’t get me wrong, was well done for the format–he had to actually show what was happening and having the characters watching give reactions. I think you got a better showing of what they were thinking, which is one of the strengths of a prose story. And because Stern was describing what happened in the comics he was able to better describe what was going on, almost like a reporter. It’s definitely to the book’s advantage.
And we do see how the characters react. From Lex’s manipulation of the narrative and Supergirl (remember this version is the shapeshifting creation of an alternate universe, not-evil Lex Luthor…which means poor Matrix had daddy issues if you think about it.) to the reactions of Lois, Jimmy, Cat, and the Kents, there’s some strong emotions there raging from disbelief to Superman being beaten to worrying about him. And when he dies even the usually very tough Dan Turpin sheds a tear. We see friends trying to help in the battle despite not having superpowers, like Emil and Bibbo trying to set up a laser. Everything in this scene not only screams Superman but showcases how he has impacted the world so much that the Special Crimes Unit and even ordinary citizens were doing all they could to help him. This includes the paramedics trying desperately to revive him.
If I had any complaint it’s that I think the aftermath, where people were trying to revive him, Lois and Jimmy were torn between their jobs and helping their friend, Supergirl dealing with her inability to help since Doomsday did a number on her as well…that should have been a separate chapter. #75 ends with Lois cradling Superman in her arms and I think had this chapter ended there it would have been stronger for it. However, I do like how it ended, with Jimmy and Perry noting that it would do who knows what to Lois to lose both Superman and Clark Kent, which they assume might be lost thanks to the area he was supposed to be in (to cover being on Cat’s show at the high school) was hard hit and they don’t know what happened to anybody. It makes a good cover since people might still want revenge on Lois or the Kents if they knew Superman was really Clark Kent and they may take it any way they could.
And so ends the first section of this book, called “Doomsday” here but usually referred to as Death Of Superman. But this book isn’t done yet. Next week begins the second story arc of the trilogy as the world mourns their fallen protector and the villains no doubt see an opportunity.
Next time: Funeral For A Friend part 1