Tales From The Dark Multiverse: The Death of Superman #1
Scheduled to arrive in stores: October 30, 2019
Cover date: December 2019
“Tales From The Dark Multiverse: The Death of Superman”
Writer: Jeff Loveness
Penciller: Brad Walker
Inker: Drew Hennessy & Norm Rapmund
Cover: Weeks and Anderson
Reviewed by: Michael Bailey
Tempus Fuginaut, the Guardian Against The Dark Multiverse, continues his quest to discover why there is dark and why it always returns. He turns his attention to a world where Superman died, but because of a few nudges here and there, things play out differently than when it originally happened. Lois Lane, fiancé to Clark Kent, grows cold and vengeful after his sacrifice, and during a trip to the Fortress of Solitude to say goodbye to that part of Clark’s life, she meets The Eradicator. The Eradicator tried to revive Superman, but he was too late, and Lois offers her body to house the energy being. She will be able to avenge her fiancé and the Eradicator can preserve Krypton.
Lois launches an all-out war on crime and injustice. She goes above and beyond what Superman did and uses lethal force with impunity. She confronts Lex Luthor and murders him. She is confronted by Batman, but the Dark Knight loses that fight. When the imposter Supermen (Superboy, Steel, and the Cyborg) arrive on the scene, Lois immediately knows that the Cyborg is evil. When Lois confronts him, she immediately attacks the imposter and Superboy and Steel join the melee. They lose their lives quickly, but suddenly the one, true Superman arrives. He puts up a good fight despite his weakened state, but the Cyborg uses Kryptonite to kill him a second time. As Lois holds Clark’s body, she swears that the world wasn’t good enough for him, but she will make one that is.
Story – 4: I must admit that I’m slightly amused at the concept of the Tales of the Dark Multiverse series of specials. In some cases, the stories they are riffing on were dark to begin with. How do you make those stories even darker? The Death and Return of Superman is different. At its core, that story was one of hope. That may sound odd considering Superman dies at the end of the first act, but what came after was all about how important Superman was to the world and to those that loved him. This makes a dark take intriguing.
Jeff Loveness does a good job exploring this concept. The idea of Lois becoming the Eradicator and going all grim and gritty could go wrong in a hurry, but Loveness takes that concept and turns it into a great character study. He shifts some things from the original by adding concepts that were not part of the original version of the story, but that comes down to how those original stories were written. The Superman creative teams were not opposed to dealing with social issues. When news of the death hit the news cycle in September of 1992 there was a story about domestic abuse running in SUPERMAN and SUPERMAN: THE MAN OF STEEL. 2019 is different from 1992. Like it or not the people that write and draw comics these days are more likely to put in the hot button issues of the day. By adding the frustrations Lois feels about gun control, climate change, the crisis at the American border, and other issues to her grief over losing the man she loved, it makes her turn make more sense and works for the story Loveness is telling.
More to the point, her idea of what being Superman is doesn’t stray too far from the original concept of the character. The Superman of the late thirties was more than happy to tear down tenements that needed to be rebuilt, declaring war on careless drivers, and throwing men out of hotel windows with guns wrapped around their necks. Lois is more extreme in this story, but, again, that comes down to what was acceptable in the thirties and what is acceptable today. Her going after the corrupt and the ones that profit from war and those that grow rich at the expense of the poor is very much her becoming the champion of the weak and the oppressed.
Is it right? That depends on your personal beliefs.
One of the few problems I had with this special is not the fault of the special. Loveness had a thankless task of taking a story that sprawled over dozens of issues of the various Superman titles and do a dark version in a one shot special. There is a rushed quality to the story, but I can’t blame the story for this. Shortcuts had to be taken, but Loveness did a good job of making those shortcuts carry emotional weight. It would have been nice to have this be a mini-series, but what we got was satisfying.
The ending was a bit rushed, but this was made up for by the return of Superman. The moments before Superman died again were powerful. The idea that people would be afraid of Lois is touched upon, but because of the story constraints we don’t get to see much of this. The fact that Lois saw Clark’s reaction and then keeps going down the path she is on was an interesting direction to take. It wouldn’t have been surprising to see her make a turn here, but the story kind of demanded, by its dark nature, to have her continue her crusade.
I almost typed out a list of inconsistencies in the continuity from the original, but after finishing the issue I didn’t have it in me. Those things really don’t matter to the story Loveness is telling.
Finally, it was interesting to see how Lois took the death of her fiancé and how it mirrored stories told about Superman when Lois dies. The INJUSTICE game immediately comes to mind. Lois dies and Superman leads a takeover of the world after murdering the Joker. The fact that Lois took a similar road could say something about how much she and Clark have in common. Or, it could be that this is a common trope in fiction. I’m good either way.
Art – 4: I was a fan of Brad Walker’s previous Superman work, so it’s no surprise that I liked what he did here. His storytelling was clear, and the page layouts served the emotional beats of the story. There were bits here and there that were wonky, like the look in Lois’ eyes on the page where Superman dies, but these bits were few and far between. I loved seeing Walker’s take on the characters from the original stories and his longhaired Superman looked great for the several pages he was around.
Cover Art – 5: This is a striking cover. I liked the design of Lois’ outfit and the bleeding (or weeping) S symbol. Weeks and Anderson also managed to work in the tattered cape from the newsstand cover of SUPERMAN #75. The use of blacks makes this cover stands out. I liked it.
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