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.
Last time we began our look at the period of mourning of Superman’s death. We saw that the main focus was on the usual characters who were close to Superman but time was also given to the rest of the world. That was what set this temporary comics death apart from so many that followed after it: the aftermath. People did mourn, people did react both positively and negatively to the hero’s death as well as people figuring out what they could possibly gain. Westfield wanted to mine Superman and Doomsday like a science experiment because he had no love for Superman and only saw the potential benefit to “real humans”. Lex (as Jimmy noted) used the opportunity to boost his popularity by deciding to build a monument to him, with nobody knowing this isn’t Lex Jr. and this is less about business benefits than personal revenge. We saw Lois in shock having lost someone even closer to her and not being able to tell anyone. This wasn’t just another shock death. This death mattered to people.
Think about the death of a really popular celebrity or political figure. Probably the most recent example was musician Prince but you can also look at Michael Jackson (controversial as he was near the end) or Ronald Reagan as a former President or former Princess Diana Spencer. We sought a reason for their death, with only Reagan dying of natural causes, whether that was his advanced age (he was 93) or his Alzheimer’s. People mourned these deaths in masses (unless you were bothered by Reagan’s politics or Jackson’s actions but celebrating their deaths does still make you an @#$hole by the way). There were huge showing for fans or whatever the equivalent is for politicians and royalty. Funerals were televised and visited live, both with huge numbers, and showings were held for non-family.
You could make the case that Jackson and Prince were treated like a new form of royalty (Jackson was known as “The King Of Pop” and…well, it’s right there in Prince’s stage name, isn’t it?). The same claim could be made in-universe for Superman, only he was known for all the lives he saved, no matter how inconsequential it may seem to others, and trying to do good without forcing others to follow his way but to “lead” by example without being our leader. The last chapter did a good job with this and hopefully this chapter continues that.
Chapter 12: Funeral For A Friend part 2
This one was a shorter chapter than other so far in this book but not too short. It’s kind of like four short stories. First there’s Lex, having to hide the fact that he isn’t his son but himself in a cloned younger body. So when he starts beating on Doomsday’s body with a chair Turpin and the doctor aren’t aware the anger is for the revenge he didn’t get to have, Lex believing he alone had the right to kill Superman. That plays to Lex’s character; defeating Superman would prove his is the superior intellect, something even pre-Crisis Lex had as a mad scientist out to prove his genius and any incarnation finding it impossible to believe this alien powerhouse came with wits to match his. I don’t feel sorry for him in the least but if you thought the Superman monument was his paying respect you don’t know Lex Luthor of any continuity.
Lois visits Clark’s apartment where she finally gets to break down and cry. True story: when my mother died it took days before it finally hit me, as I was cleaning out all of her shows and scheduled recordings. I think it speaks to me and my connection to media that this is when it finally hit me she was gone. That’s when I finally cried. We also get our first confirmation that Lois thinks Superman’s old enemies will still seek revenge on him through his loved ones just out of spite, and Superman certainly had a few enemies that might do just that.
But Metropolis is still defended. Supergirl stops a jewelry heist, realizing she has some big feet to fill but surprising the escaping thieves that she’s still able to stop them despite having different powers from Superman. (Remember, this is the “Matrix” Supergirl, with shapeshifting and psionic powers.) We also see one of the cops hoping she takes care, he and his partner noting when she leaves that they see that superheroes are vulnerable even if they can take more of a beating. I reject the notion that superheroes are gods or replacements for gods. They’re people (human and otherwise) with, as the old line goes, “powers and abilities far beyond those of mortal men”, either through training, technology, alien origins, or other forms of so-called “superscience”. It seems foolish to treat them as anything more, as if not being “gods” takes away their power or makes them any less amazing.
I think Bibbo agrees with me. In the last scene of the book he actually starts speaking the Rosary and asking God why he lived but someone like Superman died. I could go into spiritual beliefs here but this is about storytelling, not the Bible and I’m not sure how many of my target audience would care. But this does speak to what I just said. Here arguably the greatest of “supergods” just died and now Bibbo is calling out to a higher authority for answers, noting that this is not something he usually does. I don’t know a lot about Bibbo so I don’t know what his religious upbringing was (although saying the Rosary means he had to have some Catholic teaching in his youth), so I don’t know how out of character this is or isn’t but the Christian in me kind of likes this moment. We hear so much about Superman as Jesus if not outright God and here Bibbo is going to the actual God. Whether that makes sense in the DC Universe and how it approaches Heaven and Hell as well as it’s own cosmic lore is up to you. DC has tended towards the scientific while Marvel’s cosmic lore is more of the supernatural even though both exists in both realties, with even how they approach magic differing.
This was a shorter chapter but a rather good one. Next week the fallout continues as Metropolis continues to adjust to their new normal. Speaking from experience that isn’t always easy.