Here’s yet another instance of me really hating how many spoilers are given away by trade paperback covers.
Okay, okay, I know I can’t really complain, since this storyline was originally published over twenty years ago, and it’s not exactly a well-guarded secret that Superman dies at some point during his decades-long run. And yes, I’m aware that this event was highly publicized back in the day, so it wasn’t really a shocker to anyone, but still. Do they have to give away so much?
The trade opens with very little preamble. The reader is greeted with a repetition of the phrase, “Doomsday is coming” as we watch him slowly and methodically pound his way out of the earth. We know nothing about this character and know nothing about where he came from. He simply appears on earth and begins smashing anything in his path.
Pretty freaky looking guy.
I’ve heard bits and pieces about this character, primarily in connection to the new “Batman Vs. Superman” movie, but I knew essentially nothing about him outside of that. Somehow, despite the various pieces of information I’d gleaned before beginning “the shelf”, I hadn’t come across Doomsday and didn’t really know what to expect (other than the obvious aforementioned spoiler).
Suffice it to say, Doomsday lives up to his name. He takes out literally everything in his path without batting an eye. The entire JLA goes up against him and fails miserably, without causing so much as a dent in Doomsday’s hide. Even the almighty Superman can’t do any damage to him.
Most of this trade is comprised of numerous fight scenes between Supes and Doomsday. Despite the lengthy battles, they never feel drawn out or boring. Superman’s one tough cookie (probably the only time in history he’s been referred to as such, but whatevs) and yet he can’t seem to do any damage to this insanely powerful creature. We’re seen Superman face off against any number of foes, and while many have given him trouble, none have stood so unflinchingly against a full-on assault.
The climax of the story erupts as Doomsday enters Metropolis, continuing his path of destruction. Superman, completely alone in battle at this point, vows to do anything it takes to stop this evil being and bring an end to his violence. For the entire last issue, the comic switches from the standard panel by panel format to a series of splash pages, indicating that this is a pretty big culminating event of the story.
These pages create a heightened sense of drama, drawing the reader in and stressing the point that something major is about to happen. Had standard panel-by-panel storytelling been used here, the impact would not have been as effective.
Ultimately Superman defeats Doomsday, but unfortunately it’s a hollow victory. Superman himself has taken a heavy beating, and his final blows with his foe were simply too much, even for the man of steel. As Lois clings to his body, it is revealed that Superman is dead.
Despite the trade title giving away the ending, this was still an extremely powerful moment. Come on, this is Superman. He can’t die, not really. It was clear from the tone of this comic that this wasn’t some sort of cheap ploy (as had been done in the past, where the reader is lead to believe Superman has died in one issue, only to have it revealed that it was Deadman in disguise). Superman has died saving his beloved city, leaving everyone to wonder where the comic goes from here.
Now, as I mentioned, this comic came out over twenty years ago, and as anyone who hasn’t been living under a rock knows, the Superman comics didn’t just randomly end back then and never resume. I don’t know the details, but I can only surmise that Superman will return somehow. It might take a while, and I’m sure the comics will draw out his return to allow his death to truly set in with other characters, but I’m certain it will happen.
I just can’t get over the fact that DC allowed Superman to be killed in the first place. Yes, it adds drama to the story, but couldn’t they have killed Guy Gardner instead?? I’m sure his death would have been far less traumatic for readers (or maybe I just really don’t like him).
Though sad, this trade was well-paced and focused enough to keep me engaged in the story. It’s action-filled pages counter-balance the emotion of the final scene, creating an odd yet satisfying story. Superman may be dead, but I’m sure he’ll make a triumphant return sooner or later.
The fans wouldn’t have it any other way.