Waiting for the Trade – Superman

Waiting for the Trade

By Bill Miller

 

Superman: Reign of
Doomsday

By Paul Cornell

Collects Action Comics
900-904

 

Why I Bought This: I
had read the previous trade (Return of
Doomsday
) in which Doomsday returned to take on all of the Reign of the
Superman characters and that one had ended on a cliffhanger with Doomsday
victorious. While that trade was only okay, I was still likely to pick up the
conclusion once the price dropped online sooner or later.

The Plot: the
Reign of Superman heroes awaken on a space station containing a pocket universe
and Doomsday. Supes goes to mount a rescue mission of the Reign characters only
to be waylaid by a newly omnipotent Lex Luthor.

Chapter 1 – Supes finds out about Doomsday defeating Steel
and heads off to find him. The Reign heroes wake up on a space station that
Steel’s scanners reveal is infinite in size with no escape because it loops in
on itself spatially. Doomsday arrives and attacks the heroes with Cyborg
deciding to work against the other four heroes. In space Luthor has obtained
infinite power and uses it teleport Superman to him. Lex obtained his power
from the Phantom Zone where a heretofore unknown entity has been suffering for
years because it is empathic and the Kryptonian criminals stored there only
have negative emotions. It was on its way to our universe to destroy the source
of negative emotions when Lex found and forcibly merged with it. He tries to
give Superman pain by forcing human emotions on him, which is just an excuse to
have a bunch of flashbacks to key events in the Superman mythos since this
chapter was originally Action Comics 900.
Lex doesn’t understand why his plan isn’t working as he refuses to believe
Superman already has human emotion until he mind-probes him and learns he’s
Clark Kent. Lex doesn’t take the news well, ranting about his own poor
childhood and how Supes being Clark makes a
fool out of him. He tries to kill Supes but the entity begins to exert
influence and holds back the power he needs to do the job. Back on the space
station Doomsday is mimicking Eradicator’s power when the heroes drop down into
a bottomless pit but he just reappears seconds later using Superboy’s powers.
Back with Lex and he merges with the entity more fully to gain access to its
full power and this causes him to unleash a wave of universal bliss. While Lex
is happy now and has plans to use this power to right all of the wrongs in the
universe, the catch is if he uses the power for a single negative act he will
lose it, which in his words means not only can he not kill Superman but
Superman gets to live out his life blissfully happy. Lex finds he can’t abide
that choice and attacks Supes. He immediately begins to power down but the
power lasts long enough for him to trade punches with Supes for a few pages.
Once all the power leaves him, Lex of course has instant amnesia and then gets
sucked into a black hole but not before mentioning that he’s behind the
Doomsday attacks on the Reign characters and letting Supes know where the space
station is. Supes arrives and sees the way in as a one-way event horizon but
dives in anyway to help his friends. Together they find Doomsday’s dead body in
a lab, where Lex has been performing experiments on him. The result of the
experiments is he has in fact cloned Doomsday into four separate entities, each
one mimicking the powers of one specific Reign character.

Chapter 2 – With three Doomsday’s attacking (the fourth is
still falling in the bottomless pit), Supes rips out Cyborg’s heart so they
concentrate on the main threat, which is not as hardcore as it sounds since
Cyborg will come back to life as soon as the heart is put back in his chest. The
heroes run away with the original Doomsday’s body, while a mystery villain
watches the proceedings and begins to pilot the space station. The heroes try
to come up with a plan, while Steel notes that detached from Luthor’s machines
the original Doomsday is beginning to resurrect. The three Doomsday clones
arrive and attack and generally have the heroes on the defensive. The space station
is on a collision course with Earth that if successful will destroy the planet,
and is just 10-minutes away to impact. The heroes become aware of the impending
collision and go looking for a control panel but instead the mystery villain—a
new character by the name of Doomslayer, who looks like Doomsday only with
bigger claws and a metal breastplate. Doomslayer then kills the Eradicator with
ease.

Chapter 3 – Doomslayer reveals he’s an evolved Doomsday with
intelligence and awareness of what his origins are. He says Doomsday has killed
millions and must be stopped. His plan therefore is to not only kill Doomsday
but also any world that has ever encountered him so as to erase all knowledge
of him from the universe. Steel hacks the door open and the supermen work on
stopping the space station. Their strength decelerates it enough so the threat
changes from planet-wide to continent-wide to city-wide (and of course it’s
heading for Metropolis), at which point Superman has the others clear out and
flies it into the ocean. It creates a massive tidal wave but the other three
stop that from hitting Metropolis. Doomslayer then unleashes plan B and sets
the Doomsday clones on the Earth.

Chapter 4 – The Reign heroes are making one-on-one stands
across the world while Supes takes the original Doomsday to Star-Labs. Doomsday
wakes up, but with Eradicator’s intelligence is in control of him. Doomslayer
is working on sending his pocket universe into the Earth’s Core as a plan C of
destruction. Meanwhile the Reign heroes have been joined by various Justice
League groupings to face the Doomsday clones while Superman takes the fight to
Doomslayer. We get big brawl of a fight scene and Eradicator kills one of the
Doomsdays but notes the original will soon reassert its intelligence. Superman
meanwhile has made way to the core of the space ship when Doomslayer powers it
up in hopes of killing him.

Chapter 5 – The second Doomsday clone is defeated in the
opening panel, leaving just one more to go. Meanwhile Supes learns the spaceship
is alive: it’s not happy about having been used by Lex and Doomslayer but Supes
gives a rah rah speech and it agrees to help him save the world. Supes now
takes on Doomslayer physically as the ship begins to depart. The JLA’s heavy
hitters put down the last Doomsday and the clones are disposed of in a space
warp by GL. Doomslayer is about to kill Supes when Eradicator arrives (still in
the original Doomsday’s body). Together their combined strength is too much for
Doomslayer. With his last though Eradicator tosses Superman from the space
station, which then seals up and self-destructs to end the threat of Doomsday
and Doomslayer. Afterwards Clark and Lois have dinner and reflect on what
Superman means to America.

Bonus Chapters – A story of how Jor-El sent Clark to Earth. Superman meets a Buddha Hippo Alien and
they compare notes on what it means to be human. Lois and Superman throw a
dinner party for the Legion of Super Heroes in four pages. Superman helps out
protestors in the Mid-East and almost creates an international incident. Plus
pin-ups and a partially illustrated script of Supes racing a former football
player wearing Iron Man style flight suit.

 

Critical Thoughts: I
have a mixed reaction to this. It’s not that it’s a bad story, it’s just not
the story I wanted. I bought this hoping for a slice of 90’s nostalgia; not
unreasonable when you consider it is playing off the history and characters of
the most famous story of the 90s. Whereas this story, for reasons I completely
understand, is also trying to be much bigger than that with the penultimate
Superman vs. Luthor fight and trying to give Superman and Lois some closure.
Again this is a logical creative choice since this trade encompasses both the
landmark 900th issue of Action Comics and I believe is the last
Superman story before the New 52 reboot; but the result is a jarring a mix of
things that don’t seem to fit together easily. There absolutely should be a
last Superman story focused on Luthor and Lois, but I don’t think that needs to
be in the same story with Doomsday and the Reign characters. As someone who
rarely reads Superman and picked this up because of the prior trade (which was
a crossover in a bunch of spinoff titles and not the main Superman titles) for
this to open with omnipotent Luthor is a really jarring beginning vs. what the
cover promises. That Luthor chapter feels like it needs to be the last chapter
of some other chapter and not the first chapter of this one.

As far as the Luthor stuff goes, I liked Luthor’s choice that
he can create or universal peace or try to kill Superman and being a villain he
gives up the former for the chance of the latter. I will say this is the first
comic I’ve ever read where the hero is okay with universal alteration as
Superman encourages Luthor to let the universal peace wave ride out. Usually
superheroes are a lot more concerned with free will or the integrity of the
timeline or not playing God or whatever. I always think of Zero Hour where the heroes insist Hal Jordan shouldn’t be allowed to
alter time even though his goal was to save millions of people who died in
Coast City and a help a few heroes who came to bad ends like Batgirl as a poor
example of that cliché where they against universal change on the basic
principal rather than the end goal.

I’m also not sure why Luthor is so pissed off when he learns
Superman is Clark Kent
unless the Smallville continuity is
in effect. Since from what I’ve seen of their adult personas Lex seems to be
barely know Clark, when he deals with the
Planet it always seems to be through Lois. That’s my biggest problem with DC.
They change their continuity so often it’s hard to keep track of which one is
in effect at any given moment/story.

As for the actual Doomsday story I bought this for, it’s
okay. I would have liked to have seen Cyborg have a bigger part since he really
is the ultimate big bad of that era. Doomslayer is pretty lame character with
overblown motivations, but in that sense he does fit the 90s nostalgia kick
perfectly: He’s just like Doomsday only bigger and with more metal and a
cheesier name. If he had an over-sized gun he’d hit the 90’s cliché trifecta.
There is a nice sense of action in the last two chapters, but overall the story
just feels like its missing something.

Also for someone who hasn’t seen Steel in decades when did
his tech get so good? In the Reign titles (and the Shaq movie) he had some low
level armor with construction-themed weapons like a sledge hammer and rivet
gun. Now he can instantly scan a universe sized spaceship in seconds, and
reprogram alien technology? I know all comic characters have a tendency to
enjoy power level creep over time but he seems to have gone from street level
to cosmic over the years.

 

Grade: D+. It’s
not terrible, but it still doesn’t feel coherent. It feels like two stories
crammed together because of an editorial deadline so that ultimately neither
story works as well as it should. I think as much as I bought this for the
Doomsday story, it’s actually the Lex story which suffers more as that some big
ideas that it doesn’t have the time to flesh out; and then the Doomsday stuff
can’t properly follow it.

Waiting for the Trade – Doomsday, Avengers movie & FCBD

Waiting for the Trade
By Bill Miller
Superman: Return of Doomsday
by James Robinson, Jeff Lemire, Dan Didio and Steve Lyons.
Collects Steel #1, Outsiders #37, JLA #55, Superman/Batman Annual #5 & Superboy #6.
Special Bonus Content: Avengers the movie – So before getting to the review I wanted to weigh in on the Avengers movie. The short review: it’s awesome in all the right ways paying off the anticipation of the five-year wait since Iron Man and Hulk came out in the same summer and we were promised a future Avengers film.
As a lifelong fan of the Avengers comics there was so much to love here. Yea there’s the obvious notes like Cap taking command of the battlefield or Black Widow’s scene with Loki (or really Loki’s entire performance) or the various Hulk jokes at the end—and those things are indeed all fabulous highlights. But I just love that this film exists. After years of super hero movies that had to explain every departure from the ordinary (and rightfully so when you are trying to appeal to a broader audience) you have this film that fully accepts the world these characters live in because it’s already had a five film build-up for audiences to get used to anything goes here. And so we have things I’d never thought I’d see in a movie like Project Pegasus and the Helicarrier and that wonderful post credit scene. And that makes me truly happy. The only thing that could have made me happier was if in Project Pegasus we had a five-second cameo by SHIELD Agent Wendell Vaughn.
If I had to make any type of criticism it’s that I don’t think the new Banner is as nearly as good as Edward Norton, but that’s a minor thing since Hulk isn’t the character I care about in an Avengers film anyway; as a comic fan when I hear Avengers I think Cap-Thor-Iron Man-Hawkeye in that order and those four characters are perfectly cast in this film and given plenty of moments to shine. I particularly loved Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye, who is my second favorite Avenger after Cap in the comics. He brings the awesome six ways from Sunday in this film, so much so that I’d love to see him get a spin-off movie.
Is it the best comic book movie ever made? Probably not. Spider-man 2 set that bar impossibly high to where I’d arguably consider it the best of movie of the last decade period. But Avengers is still amazing and worthy of being in the conversation. It works as both a big summer action film (particularly those alien invasion scenes at the end) and as a comic fanboy dream come true and I will be seeing it in theaters again.
Bonus Content 2 – Free Comic Book Day: So I’m lucky enough to live in an area where I have easy access to three different comic shops. I visited all of them Saturday, grabbing about five free books from each shop while also shopping local at each (grabbing trades on cosmic Marvel, Dr. Doom, Psylocke, the Avengers, Heroes for Hire and a Batman/Tarzan team-up so expect reviews on all of that in the next few months.) I’ve read about half the free stuff. Here’s quick one sentence reviews: The New 52 isn’t a comic book so much as a bunch of preview pages and nothing previewed here looks like something I’d want to buy. Finding Gossamyr I grabbed on a whim because of the gorgeous cover and I found I liked what was inside both visually and as set-up for a larger story—this has a good chance of being a future trade in my collection. The Image 20 sampler has the same problem as the DC one, you’re seeing too little of these stories to be grabbed or to feel like you read a story; there’s some more intriguing ideas here than in DC but it’s doubtful I’d follow-up with any of these titles. Hypernaturals was one of the first three books I grabbed because of Dan Abnett and Andy Lanning’s names above the cover. The story was okay, it’s hard to get invested in a new universe off the bat but it’s a decent set-up issue. DnA are my favorite writers currently working in comics so there’s a decent chance I will buy a trade of anything they write eventually. Witchblade was one of my last pick-ups as I’ve never read the character at all before, but as I know she’s a cornerstone of the Image universe I figured why not give her a try. The story was well written and I can see why people would like her, but it’s just not by cup of tea. Voltron was a nice blast from the past. I really liked the art a lot. The story was a little on the simple-side but then again it is an adaptation of children’s cartoon. Still a decent enough set-up that I’ll probably pick-up a trade of this if it hits the discount bin. Avengers: Day of Ultron was also a good set-up story. Perhaps because I’m still high on the Avengers movie I found I didn’t hate Bendis’s writing as much as I usually do in this. If you’re going to insist on basically every active hero in the Marvel Universe being an Avenger, I liked that Cap picked out a specialized team for this mission. I thought the villains were treated shabbily but that happens in every Bendis story unless the villain is Osborn or the Hood. Ultron is a long-standing favorite of mine so there’s a decent chance I’ll grab this story in trade one day.
I still have to read Dinosaurs vs. Aliens, Spider-man Season One, Superman Family, Buffy, Serenity, Mega-Man and some random book with a robot and velociraptor on the cover.
And now without further ado, the Doomsday review
Why I bought this: I read the whole Reign of Superman arc in the 90s and found it to be quite enjoyable. This is a follow-up to that with a fun high-concept premise: Doomsday decides to track down the four imposter supermen from that arc and kill them.
The Plot: Like most Doomsday stories it’s basically just a series of fight scenes as Doomsday tracks down the four imposter supermen and Supergirl with little motivation given beyond his destructive tendencies and hatred of all things Kryptonian. Spoilers ahoy:
Chapter 1 – Doomsday returns to Metropolis and the site where he killed Superman years ago. Steel–the least of the four supermen as he has no powers, he’s just a construction worker with a suit of armor with construction-themed weapons like a sledgehammer and rivet gun—arrives and tries to occupy Doomsday while civilians in the area evacuate. In a twist Doomsday evolves and begins to fly in order to go after Steel, who was trying to keep his distance in the fight. Steel infects Doomsday with paralyzing nanobytes designed specifically to stop him but Doomsday evolves free of them in seconds and then pummels Steel nearly to death and flies off with his body leaving a tattered cape in the wind just like when Superman died at his hands.
Chapter 2 – The Eradicator—an artificial Kryptonian being that shoots have flame from his hands and has no qualms about killing in the fashion of many a grim & gritty 90s hero—has taken over some fictional country. His allies in the Outsiders, who I never seen in a comic before and know nothing about other than they once had a book with Batman, are talking to him about whatever he is doing in said fictional country when Doomsday attacks. Several Outsiders having energy project powers but they all bounce off Doomsday and he tears through them as well as some chick with a magic sword on their team. Then Achilles of Greek myth goes toe to toe with Doomsday and hurts him but ultimately Doomsday beats him down too. Finally Eradicator and some dude who can pull power from the Earth itself try to fight him but Doomsday evolves again so that he too has energy projection powers and he zaps earth dude and then impales Eradicator with his bone spikes and teleports away with the body, which is another new power for him.
Chapter 3 – Some members of the JLA who include Jade and a bunch of characters I don’t know are dealing with an invasion of some alien city by magical creatures, this part of the story doesn’t involve Doomsday so we’ll skip it. Meanwhile out in space Supergirl, who is apparently Superman’s Kryptonian cousin that died back in Crisis and not the alien that had the combined powers of Mystique and the Invisible Woman back in Reign of the Supermen, is out in space with a female Green Lantern and Nightwing in the role of Batman piloting the Bat-Wing when Doomsday attacks. He wounds the Lantern and destroys the Batwing in two panels. The JLA send Star-Man and a Blue Lantern as reinforcements but again energy projection powers have little effect on Doomsday so Grayson teleports the Lantern and Supergirl to the JLA Satellite and in a really cool scene Doomsday flies so fast he breaks through the wall just as they arrive in the teleporter, at which point Cyborg Superman emerges from the Lantern’s back-pack.
Chapter 4 – Cyborg—the most powerful of the imposters and a villain himself who can mentally control technology, evolve his own cyborg parts into weapons, and regenerate from surrounding metal plus has some Kryptonian DNA for strength, flight and invulnerability—takes control the JLA satellite locking Star-Man and the Blue Lantern out and turning its weapons against Doomsday, Supergirl and Grayson while also attacking Doomsday head-on. Suddenly Supergirl gets sick and Grayson takes her to the med-lab where she is dying from guilt based on some prior Superman New Krypton crossover. While she’s being treated, Grayson tries to lead the fight away from her and the two villains are causing a lot of destruction in their wake. Cyborg loses an arm but eventually uses tech-enhanced heat vision to kill Doomsday by disintegrating a third of his body. Then in the book’s best scene both in visuals and writing (this story is partially narrated by Cyborg) Doomsday evolves unexpectedly into a cyborg himself and returns from the dead. Things start going badly for Cyborg and Grayson, while Supergirl cures herself through forgiveness in a bit of heavy-handed melodrama. She arrives to save the day and is on the verge of defeating Doomsday when Cyborg attacks her from behind and then Doomsday uses the distraction to KO her. He finishes Cyborg and teleports away with both of them.   
Chapter 5 – Superboy is flying over Detroit when Doomsday attacks from above. It’s a pretty one-sided fight since Superboy’s strength levels are closer to Spider-man than Superman. Superboy tries to keep some distance using his limited telekinesis but Doomsday evolves that power too and drops a building on him. Out on his feet Superboy uses a full-power heat vision blast and it doesn’t even phase Doomsday who then pummels him, possibly to death, and takes the body leaving Superboy’s black S-Shield behind, which was the cover of the Death of Superman polybag 20-years ago.
And that’s the end, we’re told to read more in the Reign of Doomsday trade for the conclusion.
Critical Thoughts: Well it’s always weird to see a trade paperback with a to-be-continued ending. That aside I enjoyed this story for what it is. It is exactly what you’d expect from a story that’s plot is Doomsday tracks down the four imposter Supermen one at a time. These are not the characters you read about for emotional nuance; so in terms of 90s nostalgia with big fight scenes this book delivered.
The Superboy fight is probably the weakest chapter just because of the four fake supermen only Steel is weaker so he probably should have been chapter two and let the book end on Doomsday defeating Cyborg and Supergirl since that’s the real main event with the only characters that could be a threat to him (and plus the JLA are involved so really once they all lose what can Superboy possibly do). Both the Eradicator and Steel fights have cool moments, with the writing in Steel being strong as well in-terms of showing the protagonist’s bravery in a hopeless fight as he tries to protect civilians. I would say the Outsiders chapter is a little weak in that I still don’t know who half those people are or what their powers are even after reading them in a fight scene (conversely I’ve never seen Starman or Blue Lantern but after their chapter I know what their power are so it isn’t really that hard to make that clear to a new reader). It’s funny the best and worst writing is in the same chapter: as the stuff narrated by Cyborg in chapter four is fabulous and the fight is also really fantastic but Supergirl’s death angst is just ridiculously overwrought nonsense.
Grade B. I knew what kind of story I wanted this to be when I bought and for the most part it was exactly that. I fully intend to pick-up the sequel to see the conclusion one day.