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.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: today’s superhero comic writers have no idea how to use death in their stories. They find a character nobody uses, kill him or her off for the shock of “stuff is really hitting the fan now”, and move on without a second thought. This story arc trilogy however did it right, even if it did add to the list of characters who don’t know how to stay dead, which admittedly is something else modern comic writers (and editors) can’t seem to stop themselves from doing.
When Superman died, it wasn’t just some shock death out of nowhere. He went down in an epic battle to save the city he loved and the innocent being he swore to protect as well as his fellow heroes. After his death people didn’t move on. There was a funeral. His supporting cast were shown grieving the loss of someone close to them or taking advantage of his passing. There was emotion, there was weight. Dang it Superman’s death meant something. Compare that to, say, the time they killed Firestorm with a surprise sword to the chest. Death became such a joke that Grant Morrison lampshaded it early in his JLA run. I wouldn’t see death handled with any kind of caring as a writer again until Love & Capes, a romantic sitcom comic that happens to involve superheroes, killed off Windstar.
Now we reach the third and final arc in this storyline, and it did something else events fail to do: create characters that actually last. One villain is still one of Superman’s enemies. One hero is still one of his best allies. One was wiped out because writers and editors had a “better idea” but he’s still beloved. One hero didn’t stand the test of time but did do some good while he was around, so they didn’t completely bypass the problem. Still, three out of four isn’t bad. And it all starts here, the final section of this book.
Chapter 19: Reign Of The Supermen part 1
We do get a bit more of Steel’s origin and Superboy’s but the thrust of this story are our last two Supermen. At least it seems like two since two of them were sighted at the same time, one destroying the plaque dedicated to Superman’s passing and the other killing a rapist. You know, the usual go-to bad guy to beat up or kill. Honestly, even I wonder how he got into her apartment. At least in the novelization nobody knows how he got in and he’s not revealed as someone else in the building or anything. Anyway, this Superman, also referred to as The Kryptonian, which is what we’ll be going with for now, is the one who has the biggest impact on Clark’s family and the only one we see the origin of.
The Kryptonian starts out “life” as “The Energy Man”, an energy being of sorts created by the robots at the Fortress, calling him master and whatnot. I do have a spoilery comment so if you are following with the novelization or even the comics (the story has been collected as trade collections for each arc) I won’t go over it now. There’s some possibility that this is tied with Jonathan’s afterlife rescue mission but as I’ll go over in the spoiler side I have my doubts. However, this chapter does try to sell The Kryptonian as THE Superman…except he’s rather off.
First of all, Superman doesn’t kill. Actually, that should be all the proof you need. (Insert Man Of Steel joke here.) He tries to tell Lois later that he’s changed but unless the bots screwed up his resurrection this shouldn’t be possible. Also, he’s got some altered powers (now he’s shooting energy from his hands or something) and is basically possessing his own body, which brings me back to the safety procedures the Liberty League back over at Love & Capes came up with. He knows about Clark Kent but also tells Lois that part of his life is gone and he’s just Superman. As I’ve noted in the past Superman needs that Clark side, his humanity. The Kryptonian is just an “Energy Man” wearing Superman’s body. But I’ll come back to him in a moment.
There’s also this other one, the one that actually has heat vision and doesn’t need a visor to protect his eyes from the sun. He just destroys the plaque in front of a family who came to Metropolis to see the site of the battle between Superman and Doomsday. All we know about his is that he appears to have the usual “S” curl and needs a shave. Is he the energy being? That one I’m not spoiling yet.
AVOID THIS PARAGRAPH TO AVOID SPOILERS
The Kryptonian is not Superman either. Obviously neither of them are but these two are the only ones of the quartet of Supermen who will claim to be Superman resurrected. It is however the Eradicator, a Kryptonian artifact that once took over the Fortress if I recall the summary of his origins correctly. Is it possible that the Eradicator program was somewhere in the computers and either the robots accidentally used him to bring their master back or purposely did based on programming left over? The Eradicator tried to remake Earth into another Krypton, so seeing what he’ll do being Superman but not a proper Superman might be interesting. And odds are it will work better than “Superior Spider-Man”, that time Doctor Octopus took over Peter Parker’s body.
AVOID THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH TO AVOID SPOILERS
As for Steel and Superboy John Henry sees a gang member using a Toastmaster and that just gives him new incentive to complete his armor while Westfield has to wait two more weeks for Superboy to be even mildly useful, but one of the Newsclones has been spying and goes to tell the others. What mischief will come of this? It’s a good start. We have two “Supermen” who are merely inspired by Superman (Steel in deeds, Superboy by design, and also Bibbo running around in a Superman…costume is a strong word…helping others to show we can be like “Sooperman”, but he wasn’t marketed as one of the Supermen) and two who form the mystery of whether one of them is Superman reborn? (Not to be confused with Superman Reborn or Rebirth Superman. The DC Universe is confusing.) We know the Kryptonian is made from the Energy Man and Superman’s body and at least has his memories, but this other guy appears to have all his powers.
What will come of all this? Can Lex handle four Supermen (five if you count Bibbo)? Will Supergirl or Lois solve this mystery? Perhaps the answers will come next week.
Next Time: Reign Of The Supermen part 2
I also want to dedicate this chapter to my Uncle Tony, and his immediate family that you should say a prayer (or whatever you do) for. We all miss you, Uncle. Say hi to Mom and your parents for us!