18 November 2008

Faster than a DC Bullet, Issue #7: The Death of Superman

Comic trade paperback, ~168 pages
Published 1993 (contents: 1992)

Borrowed from a friend
Read November 2008
The Death of Superman

Writers: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Roger Stern
Pencillers: John Bogdanove, Tom Grummett, Jackson Guice, Dan Jurgens
Inkers: Brett Breeding, Rick Burchett, Doug Hazlewood, Dennis Janke, Denis Rodier
Letterers: John Costanza, Albert DeGuzman, Bill Oakley, Willie Schubert
Colorists: Gene D'Angelo, Glenn Whitmore

DC Universe Timeline: Four Years Ago
Real World Timeline: 1992

(Holy crap, we're vaulting to the present day at this rate. Apparently the past sixteen years of comics take place in four years? No wonder Superman decided to die-- he just wanted some time off.)

In the early 1990s, comic book writers decided to kill off Superman, knowing that it would allow them to sell a bazillion copies, even to schmucks who don't buy comic books. Rather than have someone awesome kill of Superman, like Lex Luthor, they decided to invent someone totally lame to do it instead. Meet the Darth Maul of the DC Universe: Doomsday.

We're introduced to Doomsday as a big green fist smashing its way through a wall. The best part of this is that breaking your way out of a subterranean capsule apparently makes the sound effect KRAAKK! KARAAKK! KRAKA-DOOM! I hope someone out there is collecting the stupid textually-represented sound effects comics are filled with; this one deserves to be on the list. As the issue's main plot progresses, we get little snaps of what this gigantic fellow is up to. His first act of violence? He kills a bird. Exactly how this is supposed to establish him as a threat is beyond me. "Oh no, how will Superman defeat the horrendous... BIRD KILLER? He has the power to crunch two-pound lifeforms with his bare hands!" He can also fell trees.

After that excitement-filled, opening, we cut to an orphan kid buying spraypaint in a hardware store. Apparently, his mother's been kidnapped by a gang of thugs looking to "steal electricity". Lois Lane gets some sort of tip, and leaves Clark a message on his computer. "Very high tech of her," comments Clark when he shows up at work. I think this is sort of putting paid to the notion that this story somehow takes place in 2004. The underground monsters end up stealing Metropolis's electricity, but Superman defeats them fairly easily. They're lead by a scruffy homeless man named Charlie who's actually working for Superman in any case; we're not exactly talking about a strong opposition. They come from a place called "War World"; no one ever bothers to explain why they're hanging out in the sewers or what they're going to do with their electricity. Superman leaves Charlie in the sewer in the end, because homeless people can't aspire to live better lives.

After this thrilling adventure, we cut back to the monster thing, who has just attacked a tanker... in Ohio! Apparently the monster thing came from Ohio. This makes me mildly better disposed towards him. Actually, I think this is the first time I've ever seen Ohio in a superhero comic. I bet he comes from Cleveland, though. The Justice League has been called in to deal with the tanker fire, as apparently they don't have firefighters in the DC Universe. An officer of the highway patrol thanks the Leaguers for helping out: "I'm well aware that Ohio is out of your normal area of jurisdiction--" What! I'm pretty sure this is set during the era when the Justice League was all "International" and worked for the UN; is Ohio not a UN member?

After the monster kills a deer, the Justice League springs into action (in Blue Beetle's totally awesome flying beetle) and combats him. They catch up to him outside Lex Oil's Ohio facility, where they are trounced pretty easily. Superman ditched a TV talk show where he's been doing an interview and flies to the rescue. "How could one man stand against the whole League?" he thinks. Whoa, slow down Superman. It's not like Wonder Woman, Batman, or even the Flash are part of the League now; we're talking about Blue Beetle, Booster Gold, Bloodwynd, Fire and Ice, Guy Gardner, and Maxima. These aren't exactly heavy hitters. Guy, as much as I love him, is in one of the periods where he's been kicked out of the Green Lantern Corps, so he's dressed even worse than usual, and I'm pretty sure I could take out Blue Beetle. And I've never even heard of Bloodwynd or Maxima. This comic doesn't exactly inspire me to want to know more about them, either. I'm pretty sure Maxima's power is being stupid. And having an invincible midriff.

Superman finally shows up after half the League has been incapacitated. "I'm telling you, right now--" says Booster Gold "--it's like doomsday is here!" Yes, Booster, I can certainly see how wiping out a tanker and an oil facility would make this the biggest threat the League's ever seen. For some reason, Superman decides that "Doomsday" must be the monster's name. Not good with comprehension, our Superman.

It's the early 1990s, so unfortunately about half of Superman's opening battle with Doomsdayis intercut with a long-haired teenager with attitude who hates his mother. Superman hates this kid even more than I do, however; when he's trapped in a rampaging inferno, Superman flies away, thinking, "I have to... block out that plea for help!" What a nice guy.

Superman decides that even if the whole Justice League couldn't take Doomsday down, he can. He's got a point. Superman refers to the monster as "Mr. Destructo" at one point; I wish that name had stuck instead of "Doomsday"; it would have given this story the gravitas it deserves. We learn that the battle is occurring in "Kirby County, Ohio"-- there's no such place, though Wikipedia informs me that there is a "Kirby, Ohio" south of Findlay. On the other hand, Route 110 runs through the area, which is actually an 11-mile state highway in Henry County, west of Bowling Green. The governor of Ohio is mentioned; during this time, that would have been George Voinovich. The lieutenant governor actually particaptes in a phone conversation, where he is repeatedly insulted. Poor Mike DeWine.

For some reason, there's a sequence where Jimmy Olsen is dressed as a giant turtle. Then, a news anchor informs us that "It appears 'Doomsday' is on a straight path crossing from Ohio through New York State... Some theorize that the creature is on a straight course to-- or through-- Metropolis." Apparently, the news has magically got wind of Superman's misbegotten nickname for the creature. And Pennsylvania does not exist in the DC Universe. Thank God.

Superman fights Doomsday by a gas station. Can't anyone ever catch up to this guy not in proximity to flammable materials? Now we learn that the gas station is in "the village of Griffith in upstate Kirby County." Doomsday must be fluctuating the fabric of space or something, because Griffith is in eastern Ohio, nowhere near Kirby or Route 110. Alarmed by the fact that the writers don't know a thing about geography, Jack Kirby's Golden Guardian shows up. Now, I like random appearances by Fourth World characters as much as the next guy, but all he does is talk to Superman and telepathically commune with Dubbilex. Thanks a lot, dude.

All of a sudden, Doomsday's attacking a Lex-Mart in Midvale, which is about fifty miles northwest of Griffith. So much for his beeline towards Metropolis. And "Lex-Mart"? Are there any other megacorporations in the DC Universe? At the Lex-Mart, Doomsday watches an ad for a wrestling match at the Metropolis Arena. Why wrestling matches an eight-hour drive away are being advertised on this TV station is beyond me. Doomsday is intrigued by this ad and decides to head for Metropolis... despite a reporter telling us fifteen pages ago that he was heading straight towards it.

Superman and Doomsday continue to punch each other a lot. This has been going on for about fifty pages, now. I'm starting to miss the sewer folks. They might have been stupid, but that made them entertaining. Doomsday is pure tedium.

More proof that it's the early 1990s materializes with Lois Lane's awful aviators and Lex Luthor's long, flowing locks. Since when did Lex Luthor have hair, anyway? Or hang out with Supergirl?

Doomsday looks at a sign and learns that he's only sixty miles from Metropolis. Which would place him and Superman somewhere in New Jersey, I think. What the heck? What happened to Midvale? Or all of Pennsylvania, for that matter? If you're wondering why I'm focusing on the geography so much, it's because it's the only interesting thing happening here. Unless you count Superman and Doomsday throwing each other at things again and again. Including the Wild Area, which is a giant treehouse outside of Metropolis. Why wasn't this retconned out of existence during the Crisis? The Golden Guardian is still tagging along, still doing nothing. He finally decides that Doomsday is too big for Superman to handle alone... and promptly never appears in the story again. Way to go, dude.

It wouldn't help much, though. Supergirl attacks Doomsday and gets turned into a featurelss purple thing with googly eyes. I don't know what kind of punch can do that, but it's one I'd stay away from.

"This insanity ends in Metropolis!" Superman shouts outside of a Lexpark Garage. What, were the geographically confused inhabitants of Kirby County, Ohio not worthy of your best efforts? I guess not-- Ohio's not part of the UN after all.

As sensitive as ever, Jimmy Olsen (thankfully not dressed like a turtle) is excited that Doomsday's killing hundreds of Metropolis residents because it gives him some good photographs. No wonder he can't ever get a girlfriend.

Superman's cape is torn off and wraps itself around a convenient wooden pole.

Superman and Doomday punch each other for a series of one-panel pages. Superman takes one in the jaw. "Bony protrustions... so sharp.. he cut me!" he shouts. Yes, my natural reaction getting punched is also to describe the punch.


Finally, Superman decides to punch Doomsday really hard. Hard enough to kill him. Why didn't he think of this earlier? I don't know, but it's too late. Because he dies.

The narrator tells me that everyone will remember this day for years because Superman dies. He doesn't bother to mention that he only stays dead for a few months. Personally, I wasn't crying; I was rejoicing. Because the whole mess was finally over.

Note that this originally appeared on my old LiveJournal and included pictures back then. Sadly, the pictures are lost in the mists of the Internet.