The Death of Superman Book & DVD Set [GRAPHIC NOVEL REVIEW]

Death of Superman Book & DVD CoverWriters: Jurgens, Ordway, Simonson, & Stern
Publisher: DC/Warner Brothers
Genre: Superhero/Noir
Unique Elements: The death of an unkillable hero
Series: Superman
Release Date: August 11, 2015
Number of Page: 168 pages
MSRP: $26.00
Discount Link: Click Here
Included: Hardcover book (with digital version download code); DVD & Bluray of “Superman: Doomsday” (with digital version download code)
Website: Click Here
Movie Trailer: Click Here
Purchase Site: Click Here
Reviewed by: JT Hanke
Final Score: 5 Moons (out of 5)

I first got into Superman when, as a child, I lived in a desert town with no TV and, once a month, we’d go to the largest city in our area to get provisions. There was a half-price comic book store and I would find ‘70’s and ‘80’s Bronze age books for 15 cents apiece, purchasing as many as I could to make the month until I got back bearable. DC comics always had a more powerful tone to me and I would try to buy comics that I could find in as sequential an order as possible. Superman books were some of the more intriguing (second only to Flash, in my mind) because he was so powerful, that the writers always had to be clever with who the villains he’d face down were. Even so, I knew—as we all knew—that Superman could never die.

Or at least, that’s what we all thought until 1992’s bombshell that rocked the papers; that Superman was going to actually die. I remember being a teenager and going to a comic book shop to buy a black bagged copy of Superman #75: The Death of Superman issue. (It was the first new Superman comic I’d ever purchased.) Regardless of what the ramifications for Superman (or his resurrection later on) were, The Death of Superman storyline was one that permitted an entire world (both in comics and in reality) to explore what life might be like WITHOUT Superman. That film audiences got a chance to explore that concept in a new way earlier this year through Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (BvS) made reviewing this special release of The Death of Superman fitting.

When a Kryptonian super-mutant that’s designed as the ultimate killing machine breaks out of an underground vault, Superman will have to use every ounce of strength and resolve to stop it—even paying the ultimate price to do so.

Content

The idea of something that could kill Superman blew people's minds when it came out.

The idea of something that could kill Superman blew people’s minds when it came out. (Image owned by DC Comics.)

While the storyline of The Death of Superman is a little slim in some regards (after all, some of the writers aimed to have the final run be literally a slugfest from start to finish), it’s also surprisingly eloquent as it explores Superman’s final fight through the eyes of not only himself, but all those who fight (and have fought) alongside him. It may seem like an action movie about a huge fight, but it’s more paced like a horror/war film, with a seemingly unkillable monster who destroys and devastates everything around him.

It’s this story that brings Superman to his most human—where the only way to defeat the monster for a god to die like a man, in order to save the lives of the people he’s sworn to protect. The end of this book is heartfelt and powerful. (Do be aware that this is not the Omnibus version of the Death and Return of Superman, so the story ends with his death—not with any of the other supermen after his death, or his eventual return.)

It wasn’t until I reread this run in this version that I came to truly appreciate how much the Death of Superman story arc had profoundly impacted the DC Cinematic universe. While Frank Miller’s The Dark Knight Returns provided a lot of inspiration for BvS, a lot more of The Death of Superman made it into the movie than just Doomsday and the ending. Even BvS’ idea of a red-haired Lex Luthor who was the son of the notorious Lex Luthor before him originated in The Death of Superman run, which gives me even greater respect for Zach Snyder’s love of comics. (The tragedy of the chopped up version of BvS being released in Theaters is at least somewhat ameliorated by Snyder’s 3 hour original cut being released on BluRay, which we reviewed here.)

In addition to the 7 issue run of the Death of Superman combined as one graphic novel, this special edition includes copies of 2007’s PG-13 animated film, Superman: Doomsday, directed by Lauren Montgomery, Bruce Timm, and Brandon Vietti . This is an interesting reinterpretation of the mythos of Death of Superman, which focuses equally on the death and return of Superman. Although, the return of Superman is abbreviated and the follow-up supermen are essentially bundled into just one fascist clone (which has more in common with the super-antagonist in the Injustice: Gods Among Us storyline), the main elements of his regeneration along with the iconic black and silver suit are present. (According to early word from The Justice League film, it looks like the black and silver suit will be present for Superman’s big screen return, as well.) By having two Kryptonian mega brawls in the film, you get a chance to see what Superman has learned from his death to his new lease on life.

Presentation

The hardcover book is nicely put together with the glossy pages we expect in a good trade collectible. The final page includes a nice cardboard sleeve that securely stores both the DVD and Bluray of the Superman: Domsday film. (And, unlike most DVD/Bluray combo packs, there are a nice selection of extras on both copies of the disc.)

The extra features included with DVD/Bluray include:

  • Requiem and Rebirth: Superman Lives!: a comprehensive documentary about how the DC Comics team decided Superman’s fate
  • Commentary by producer Bruce Timm, writer Duane Capizzi, voice director Andrea Romano, and executive producer Gregory Noveck
  • Behind the Voice featurette
  • Superman’s Last Stand digital game
  • Justice League: The New Frontier featurette

While the other bonus features are nice, Requiem and Rebirth was awesome, as it really gave you a greater appreciation for the graphic novel, as it showed how the Death of Superman ever came about. (Ironically, the creative team had initially intended to have Superman and Lois get married but, when pre-agreements with the TV show, Lois & Clark, stymied their planned nuptials, they retaliated with the other extreme: death. No one in the team actually thought DC would let them do it. They were wrong.)

Additionally, digital versions of both the comic and the films are included, which means you can read and re-read the book or watch the movie on the go, without risking damaging the book.

Gothic Fit

Part of what makes Goths Goth is the fact that we don’t shy away from the painful parts of life. We examine and appreciate the tragedy as much (if not more) than the comedy. The tragic story of the Death of Superman is one that has a lot to tell about how people impact each other—not just superpeople, but normal people, as well. In addition, it started an exploration of life and death that continues to grow and more fully unfold in comics and comics-inspired cinema today!

All of us who had read this run prior to seeing BvS—the most Gothic comic book movie since The Crow—had a very different feeling about the end of that film than the rest of the audience, because we know the backstory. (And we also know that tragic tales often have hope woven through them, even after the final page—or moment—of a specific story.)

Closing Thoughts

Six months after the Death of Superman, DC’s Vertigo division was founded—which would explore more adult and dark themes, from Neil Gaiman’s seminal masterpiece Sandman to Brian K. Vaughn’s Y: The Last man. I don’t think that ever happens without the Death of Superman showing DC that people wanted content that explored really hard questions, even if they involved pain, despair, and death.

And certainly we don’t have video games on our iPhones like the better-than-console version of Injustice: Gods Among Us where we can fight as the original Doomsday without it.

Content: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Presentation: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Gothic Fit: 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)
Final Score (not an average): 5.0 Moons (out of 5.0)

 

Score: Five Moons

  

Author: JT Hanke

J.T. Hanke is the founder and former editor of DarkestGoth Magazine. Stepping down as editor in 2019, he currently serves as it's technical adviser and a contributing writer.

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