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.
Longtime readers may remember my reviews of Love & Capes, a superhero romantic comedy about a woman dealing with being the wife of Supermanesque hero The Crusader. In one issue of the IDW run one of Crusader’s colleagues dies. Why do I bring this up? Because it’s how it’s handled that’s important. While the death is off-panel (rarely do we get to actually see any of the superheroics…kind of like the kid superhero sitcoms on Disney Channel and Nickelodeon) he does so saving lives. We see the heroes morn, how they cover for his secret identity, how his family (the ones that know anyway) deal with it, all of the work the heroes go through to make sure all the usual “coming back from the dead” tropes are unlikely, especially the evil ones. There’s a sense of loss and grief that so many superhero comics fail do, and without the usual reason–shock value to prove “@#$ just got real, yo”.
Compare that to the JLA issue I reviewed yesterday, where nobody showed up at Metamorpho’s funeral because death has become meaningless even with in the DC Universe. There are no morning civilians, not even his friends. None of the superheroes show up either. Everyone seems to think that he’ll be restored eventually (and I think he was), making even the pastor wonder why they’re bothering to bury him. It’s a death without meaning (although he does try to save the other heroes trapped on the falling satellite), a funeral without loss…and this is been par for the course with so many hero deaths. It’s because everybody wants to write “Doomsday/The Death Of (X)” but nobody wants to go through the rest of it.
“Funeral For A Friend” is the second arc in the Death Of Superman storyline. It features Superman’s friends and family each having to deal with not only his loss but the loss of Clark Kent, missing and presumed dead since he was supposed to be in one of the areas Doomsday rampaged through. While we the audience knew Kal-El would return the characters did not. How they dealt with that loss is an important part of this storyline and this next section of the novelization focuses on those 11 issues of the comic. How well does Stern showcase this part of the story? We begin to find out today.
Chapter 11: Funeral For A Friend part 1
This chapter focuses on the main characters’ reactions to Superman’s death. This includes a jerk move by Westfield to claim Superman and Doomsday’s body for Cadmus, seeing them only as something to be studied. I can understand that for Doomsday, since one of the concerns is that he’s a Cadmus project, maybe another of Donovan’s leftovers. But Guardian himself, who stands with the Metropolis Special Crimes Unit (a unit setup to handle the superthreats and aid Superman), is surprised that Westfield’s problems with Superman would lead to him coming immediately, heavily armed and even shooting out one of Lex’s newsvans and arresting the reporters, to take the body. Westfield apparently shares the views of the general from Superman: The Animated Series and in later comic stories Lois’s dad that a being with that much power that they couldn’t control is a bad thing, but the way they think it is more a personal power trip, not so different from Lex Luthor himself.
It’s not that I don’t see Westfield’s point about what they can learn, and maybe if he went through proper channels instead of worrying about every second of potential decomposing he would have at least gotten to “play” with Doomsday’s remains, but considering all Superman has done for them you can also understand why the people, especially those who were close to him, would rather give him a proper burial. It’s not like Superman had a will donating his body to science or Cadmus. Doomsday was a savage monster, but Superman was a person, a human in spirit if not biology. Doomsday is going to STAR Labs, which may be a better place for his remains given what Westfield did. And apparently he overstepped his authority because the President himself is on Metropolis’ side in this and orders Westfield to stand down. At least after Supergirl uses her psychokinetic powers to force them out. I image in the comic we just saw them tossed out, but for the novelization we see it from Westfield’s side, as gets knocked out and comes to outside of the morgue. I think that works better for the novel.
There’s also time devoted to the four people who knew Clark was Superman. We don’t see much of Lois’ thoughts because she’s still in shock. Her fiance died in her arms, and she can’t tell them that. We get more of the Planet staff trying to console her that Clark may somehow still be alive, and she can’t tell them why. The reason she can’t tell them we could have had her think and that would have been a good idea. He’s dead. Who is she protecting now with his secret identity? I mean, I can come up with a reason: because you know some jerk would satisfy his or her inability to get payback on Superman by going after his parents or other loved ones. While Superman is suppose to have had a friendship with Clark, Lois, Jimmy, and Perry, it wasn’t as close as Clark had with the other three…as far as people currently know. However this is not stated.
It’s also not stated when Lana calls the Jon and Martha and doesn’t tell her fiance, Pete Ross (in the comics he’s white for you Smallville fans, and he was good friends with them but had a crush on Lana just as Lana did on Clark–because Smallville got everything about the Superman mythos as wrong as they possible could), about it. It serves (as the narrator says) a reason for her crying. We also get a nice flashback to when Clark told Lana about his powers, and how he didn’t have the same feelings for her, again a reversal from Smallville. I also imagined the moment he told her differently because the 90s edition of Who’s Who In The DC Universe they showed Lana slapping Superman and I think they even said she broke off their romance but I’d have to dig it out.
What really works for this chapter, however, is the open and close. They aren’t about the usual characters, but average citizens around the world dealing with the news. You have the store owner opening the late edition paper, people at a diner (but not Bibbo’s place), even the WLEX news announcer trying to get himself to say the words before cutting to the reporter in the field, which segue’s nicely into Westfield’s attack on the morgue. The chapter ends with more people dealing with the loss of Superman, and remembering what he did for people around the world, not just Metropolis or the United States. It’s a great way to surround the chapter, and if the whole chapter was just random people around the world reacting to Superman’s death I would have been okay with that provided the next chapter started with Westfield. So what does the next chapter start with? Drop by next week (I should be back on Mondays) to see what happens next.