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.