Thirty years ago, DC Comics did something shocking – they killed their main hero, Superman. This was not a dream or an alternate world, this was, for DC, the real deal. Superman, the iconic hero, died after a battle with Doomsday. After 75+ years, Superman died. Of course, this event was not limited to a single issue or a single comic title. Almost every DC comic title that was being published dealt, directly or indirectly, with his death. For DC Comics, it would be safe to say that the whole world changed. To mark this event, DC has published a 30th Anniversary Issue (released November 2022). I am going to try and post a spoiler free review but fair warning, I will probably fail. No spoilers yet so you should be safe to read the next paragraph at least.
To say that I am a huge fan of supes would be an understatement. I am not going to get into any arguments here about his powers, or how extreme they have gotten in some cases. This whole Batman vs. Superman is, to me, a pointless and stupid fanboy exercise. Am I biased? Yes. But being as logical as one can when discussing superhero books, I am sure I know the answer. No, I am just going to give a review, realizing that I view the world through red kryptonite-colored glasses! OK, spoilers will most likely start now.
Superman died at the hands of Doomsday. After a classic slugfest that almost leveled a good part of Metropolis, Superman stopped Doomsday but then died in Lois Lane’s arms. This kicks off major issues for DC. They had a very public, and well attended funeral for Superman. He was then placed inside a memorial that the world built for him. After a short while, his body disappeared, and three new Supermans show up plus a being calling himself Superboy. This all leads to the Reign of the Supermen! Eventually, the real Superman does make a comeback. We have back the original, with a bad haircut.
“The Life of Superman” is the first story of four and is written and drawn by Dan Jurgens. It focuses on Jon Kent finding out about Doomsday and what happened between Doomsday and Superman. Lois and Clark have not told Jon about that event yet, saying that they wanted to tell him when he was older. A Doomsday related threat shows up, and in true comic fashion, shows up when Lois, Jon, Perry, and Jimmy are all around. As an added dimension, the threat can sense Kryptonations. Superman, in addition to dealing with the physical threat, worries the creature will sense Jon’s unique genetic make-up. The story wraps in what I consider true Superman fashion. While it is too short to really do the topic justice, it does ring true. I imagine writing kids can be tough and speaking in Jon Kent’s voice is even tougher.
As the writer for Jon, you need to strike a fine line. He would understand the need to keep his father’s secret. However, I also imagine him being teased or succumbing to the old trope of ‘my father can beat up your father’. In Jon’s case, this is most likely true. Jon is well represented and written here, although he has a great vocabulary for a grammar school kid. I guess with Clark Kent and Lois Lane, star reporters as his parents, that could be expected. Solid story.
“Above and Beyond” is the second story written by Jerry Ordway and drawn by Tom Grummett. It focuses on Ma and Pa Kent and is a very short summary of Superman’s past major battles. While Martha Kent is worried about PTSD, the story also showcases Superman’s less well known but equally valuable humanitarian work. While a little preachy, it does a good job of showing that Superman does more than battle bad guys. This is not as exciting as the first story but helps to round out the character. Showing other people in Superman’s life is important to help keep him grounded.
“Standing Guard” is the third story written by Roger Stern, drawn by Bruce Guice and focuses on Jim Harper, The Guardian. It is a standard side hero story. It deals with Jim’s feeling indebted to Superman, trying to help him during the Doomsday fight, and then fight off the director of Cadmus who wants the bodies of Doomsday and Superman to study. While its art and writing are solid, I feal there is nothing new here. We all know Superman is good and Cadmus morally grey at best. While Jim Harper is a solid B list Superman character, he doesn’t add sufficiently to the whole story.
“Time”, the final story written by Louise Simonson and drawn by Jon Bogdanove, is centered on John Henry Irons. As one of the main characters in Reign of the Supermen. John is well thought out. The fact that Louise Simonson was one of the main writers for Superman helps to interweave John Henry Iron’s story into the larger Doomsday story. It also does a good job explaining John’s motivation and showcasing his engineering background. His story rounds out and is the strongest of the four. This 80-page graphic novel feature a few assorted pin ups at the conclusion.
Overall, I give the book a B-. For a retrospective on one of DC’s biggest events, I would have hoped for more. No insult to the writers and artists that all did a fine job; I just feel we should have gotten the highest caliber on all the stories. It is a worthwhile book, but compared to Kingdom Come or Superman American Alien, it falls a little flat. Read it yourself and see if you agree.
Reviewed by David S. You can view the official listing for The Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special at DC Comics here.