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.
The closer I get to the end of a book the harder it is for me to come up with a good intro. I usually say everything I want beyond a spoiler-less wrap-up (because people reading the home page may not have read the book yet–if they want spoilers they can read the article) of what’s happened thus far. We’ve already talked about how this storyline approached death better than most superhero comics out there, including other DC character deaths. And I’ve discussed the four Supermen–The Kryptonian (or the “visored Superman”, as the novelization refers to him), the Cyborg Superman, Superboy, and Man Of Steel. I’m not sure where else to go.
This book has 29 chapters and we’re on 22, so this book is almost over. If Superman’s coming back (that’s not a spoiler of course) he better hurry his superbutt up, because he’s running out of time. And it won’t happen this issue so what’s Metropolis going to be put through next?
Chapter 22: Reign Of The Supermen part 4
Reading this chapter reminded me how this part of the arc went. Each Superman “claimed” a different comic title (I’m going to assume Man Of Steel had his namesake title.) That means each writer had his or her own character to play with apart from the others. I’m guessing Stern had The Kryptonian based on his stronger presence here but I admittedly didn’t look that up and it could just be that Stern saw him as the better red herring for the real Superman. More on him in a moment, but my point is this chapter is mostly highlights of stories the various Superman have been involved in and I’d wager (geez, you’d think I actually made it to Mohegan Sun for TerrifiCon for all the betting in this paragraph) they’re just truncated versions of full stories. Frankly I want to see the ones where both Supergirl and Man Of Steel told Superboy off for his grandstanding. It’s kind of important for his character arc. However I do believe this was the best way to get these stories out in the book, including the ones important to the overall story, without piling more chapters on and making the book too long. It risks getting boring since Stern is combining all three storylines into one novelization.
Meanwhile Cyborg Superman just happens to save the President during a meeting about the Supermen with the mayor of Metropolis. Yeah, Lois and Perry (one of the two truncation framing devices) aren’t buying it either, and Lois agrees with me that the only one actually acting like Superman is the only one not claiming to be Superman. There’s also an interview they watch with Bibbo where he also shows himself more like Superman than the other Supermen. In another scene Bibbo tells two arguing patrons that none of them are Superman either. He’s also forced to call his dog Krypto instead of Krypton because the guy making the dog tag is a cheap jerk.
Speaking of character moments Maggie Sawyer is given a promotion by Inspector Henderson, himself just promoted to police commissioner. In addition to the promotion (she was a captain) the chapter is meant to inform the reader that she’s a lesbian. On the one hand it does matter at all in the story what her sexual orientation is, and it isn’t the source of Henderson’s prior problems with her, nor that she’s a woman. She was a captain giving orders to higher ups because she was part of the anti-supervillain Special Crimes Unit. On the other it doesn’t necessarily hurt the story either and the scene itself is there to establish her new rank that she’ll be referred to for the rest of the novel, a rank she earned as head of the SCU and earning the respect of her peers. Congrats on the promotion!
But the chapter starts off with The Kryptonian needing the Regeneration Matrix to restore himself after each of his missions, which itself is interesting. He also sees the stories of the other Supermen and gets annoyed. Of the four he’s the only one who actually thinks he’s the reincarnated Kal-El, so a confrontation should be coming soon. Hopefully we’ll see those encounters in full. Also shortened is an encounter between the Kryptonian and Guy Gardner that makes him question the more extreme approach he’s been taking. When you get praise from Guy for being rough on baddies, it’s good to rethink your MO. However he may have a bigger problem coming up. The chapter ends with Mongul’s arrival to get revenge on Superman (word apparently hasn’t escaped Earth that he’s dead) and turn Earth into a replacement WarWorld, his mobile base of operations in enslaving races for his games and slavery before Superman stopped his plans.
Overall this chapter did exactly what it needed to do, give a shorter version of adventures that made for a good comic but would have made the novel too long yet couldn’t be cut due to being important to the narrative. So it’s a good chapter.