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.
In our previous installment we saw the early origins of Steel, but he probably won’t be a big figure for a while yet. I’m wondering if this is the transition phase between “Funeral For A Friend” and “Reign Of The Supermen”, as we see the beginning stages of four not-Supermans that will be part of the final arc.
This isn’t the first time, and probably won’t be the last, that we see an event, even a relatively small one like this, used to create new characters. And yet this was more successful than, say Bloodlines because they were good characters that saw good use. The characters, three heroes and a villain, all did pretty well, although one of the heroes has since faded from comics, the Eradicator, while the name has gone to be used by less-good Kryptonian artifacts. (I don’t have time for more details here.) Last issue we saw the first part of that with John Iron’s decision and Westfield’s desecration/theft. Where does it go from there?
Chapter 15: Funeral For A Friend part 5
There are a couple more moments between our “Inner Circle” quartet before Jon, Martha, and Lana head for their plane back home but there isn’t much to discuss here. The main focus is Westfield’s theft of Superman’s body. First we have the search, which the majority of the chapter. Lex had alarms set up in the crypt in case someone tried to steal the body, so Supergirl goes to investigate. Meanwhile the Metropolis Police have someone watching too. Turpin is called in and he ends up joining Supergirl. It’s neat to see her use her shapeshifting powers, an advantage Matrix has over Kara. The explanation for the tunnels they use to investigate Superman’s tomb also works…if Lex was telling the truth of course. This is Lex Luthor. He’s currently lying about not being Lex Luthor at this point in the comics. Everyone seems to figure out that Cadmus is involved but the two groups don’t really trust each other. Can they work together to rescue Superman’s corpse?
And what does Westfield want with the corpse? When Guardian and the others find out about Westfield’s experiment he isn’t too happy about it. Westfield gives them some line about wanting to clone Superman like was done for Guardian, but he’s not too sure. However, the others are scientists who specialize in cloning, and are somehow convinced Dubbilex’s prior scans of Superman contains enough info that “Superman II” will be just like Superman. Given his history Guardian reluctantly lets them continue but only if the former Newsboys take over from Westfield (who still has plans to take back control). I have a few concerns here.
Let’s start with the scientific one. I don’t know a lot about Dubbilex’s history or the limits of his powers, but I don’t think he has a full “recording” (for lack of a better term) of Superman’s full mind. I won’t get into the spiritual nature of the soul here because I doubt the writers cared, but there’s more to him than Superman. There are the life experiences he had growing up, the events of his life until he came to Metropolis, the parts of his past and present that they wouldn’t have…all this is part of what makes Superman who and what he is. I have an easier time believing Ethan Zachary had the full recording of Optimus Prime’s memories on one computer disk than I do Dubbilex carrying enough of Superman’s memories and identity to properly re-create Superman’s mind. (Or at least I can explain it away, and even then Optimus thought he was a video game character without realizing he was still at least mostly sentient.) I don’t care how desperate these cloned body people are to get Superman back, this plan is doomed to fail. (And as we know today it did, leading to the clone version of Superboy later known as Conner or Kon-El.)
There are also two moral equations to consider. One is you know Westfield isn’t going to stop here. He’s a xenophobe who just want to use Kryptonian DNA to do who know what. If he could find the Fortress Of Solitude he’s misuse the Kryptonian history and science there as well. But none of these people stop to think whether or not Superman would want to be cloned, even if Dubbilex could recreate Superman’s mind completely, or what his closest friends and family (including the ones they don’t know about) would welcome a clone Superman. All they care about is “the world needs Superman”, despite how many different superheroes now existing? Heck, one of the problems Captain Marvel and the Marvel Family have always been such an odd fit in the DC Universe is that they are so close to Superman as much in power as they are in compassion. Cap is as much a “boy scout” as Superman was. And there are all those other superheroes as Superman’s level. Supergirl might step up to be a hero, and maybe Guardian can back her up now and then. Sure, we’re all happy to see Superman come back at the end of this storyline, but I can’t believe Guardian, Dubblex, and the scientists bought Westfield’s “plan”, when they should know full well he won’t stop there.
Also, there’s a Superman cult who worships him as a god. Because making Superman a god isn’t enough for DC writers. They have to make people actually worship him. In case you thought the dumb Superman decisions started at the New 52 or Bendis’ beginning run. Yeah, I’m not liking what I’ve heard thus far on that one.
So in the past two chapters we’ve seen the set-up for Steel’s origin and Superboy’s. There are two chapters left and two more “Supermen” to set-up before the next story arc. Who will be next?
Next Time: Funeral For A Friend part 6