How does a hero return from the dead?
After the events in The Death of Superman, Metropolis, and indeed the whole world, was left wondering how it would go on without Earth’s mightiest hero to defend it.
It would seem the fates had listened to their prayers and responded in kind, sending not one but four Supermen to the city to take up the mantle of Superman: a young boy claiming to be Superman’s clone, a mysterious man who dubs himself the last son of Krypton, a man clad in a steel suit, and a cyborg who claims to be Superman brought back to life. These four men appear on the scene at roughly the same time, and cause everyone to wonder: which one is the real Superman?
Therein lies to main plot of this storyline. Metropolis continues to face the steady stream of disaster that it has always been plagued with, while various factions develop in support of each of these supposed super men. Everyone has their theory as to who the real Superman is, but none is more haunted by this mystery than Lois Lane. The world lost a hero, but Lois lost the love of her life, and she is nearly driven to hysterics by these numerous claimants to Superman’s title.
While the first half of this trade is enjoyable, the story doesn’t really pick up until the second half. After all, this is supposed to be about the return of Superman. When would it be revealed who the real Superman was?
It must have been downright unbearable to read these stories as individual issues, having to wonder month to month whether the next issue would reveal the identity of the one and only Superman. As I read, I couldn’t help but feel that while each contender carried at least one trait that resembled the man of steel, none truly felt like the real Superman. A part of me was convinced that there was a FIFTH Superman out there, the real Superman, and that he would make a triumphant return. Another part of me feared that none was truly the real deal, and that Supes was really dead and gone. I worried that at best his clone, the super boy who’s not Superboy, would take up the role and this would be the man of steel we’d have to deal with from now on.
Thankfully, the comic gods smiled down on us, and gave the fans what they wanted.
Towards the middle of the trade, it is revealed that Superman’s body was placed in a regeneration matrix in his Antarctic fortress, where he was revived. He is brought back to life, living but not at full strength, and immediately journeys to Metropolis. He learns that disaster has struck Coast City and sets off to fight the one responsible.
Along the way, our one true Superman learns that the cyborg-Superman is in fact an evil being, determined to sully the name of the man of steel and destroy everything he ever stood for.
Although he’s still vulnerable, Superman sets of on a mission to bring this cyborg imposter to justice.
And, seeing as this is the 90’s, he has to go full-on action movie star to do so:
I’m going to ignore Superman’s use of guns, since he’s going up against robots here.
This ragtag bunch of Supermen fight their way through the enemy, making their way to the cyborg. Superman and Super-Cyborg (I like that name, I’m going to use that from now on) engage in a fierce battle, with Super-Cyborg convinced he will be victorious. He is willing to die as long as he can witness Superman’s death first, proving just how unstable he truly is.
Defying the odds, Superman regains his full powers and destroys the cyborg, vibrating his arm within the cyborg’s chest so fast until he simply explodes into a bunch of cyborg confetti.
Once again, I’m choosing to ignore the absurdity of this scene because YAY! Superman’s back!
With Superman’s triumphant return, order is restored to the world, at least for now. Little is said about the other Supermen, but I have a feeling we haven’t heard the last of them. With all of the focus on the battle, I was pleased to see that the story ended on a touching note: Lois and Superman, finally reunited in a dramatic and moving embrace.
It was sweet to be reminded of the more tender aspects of the comic, and Superman and Lois’s reunion was done absolutely perfectly. Everything else in the story was over the top; why should this loving embrace be any different?
Although Superman finally returned, much has changed. Coast City has been completely destroyed, and the aftermath of such destruction will undoubtedly be the topic of future comics. There are now multiple Supermen to contend with (what exactly will become of Superman’s young clone?) and there’s never any guarantee that the Super-Cyborg is really dead. This was a truly lengthy, emotional journey, and one I’m glad to have read. I likely would have been going crazy had I read this at the time of its initial publication, desperately wanting Superman back and wanting some sort of return to the status quo.
Now that that’s finally happened, I can’t wait to see where the comic goes from here.