The historic story of the death and return of Superman is collected in one massive hardcover volume featuring an all-new cover by pivotal creator Dan Jurgens, timed to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the event! The Death and Return of Superman Omnibus includes the best-selling trade paperbacks The Death of Superman and The Return of Superman, as well as portions of
World Without Superman, plus 40 pages of bonus extras including promotional material and product spotlight.
Collecting: THE MAN OF STEEL #17-26, SUPERMAN #73-82, ADVENTURES OF SUPERMAN #496-505, ACTION COMICS #683-691, JUSTICE LEAGUE AMERICA #69, SUPERMAN: THE LEGACY OF SUPERMAN #1 and GREEN LANTERN #46.
Nearly a quarter century ago, Superman died. In less than a year, he came back. It was the first Superman story I would read, and it was what got me into comics. Dan Jurgens, the main writer of Superman at the time (and the writer of Action Comics now) became a favourite of mine, but it wasn’t until I was older that I realized I was probably the only Superman fan on
Prime Earth that didn’t hate this story with a passion, or view it as a cheap publicity stunt.
Having re-read the entire saga via this massive 1000+ page omnibus, it’s clear that, even after all these years, is one of the most iconic Superman story arcs ever produced, irrespective of the constant criticism Death of Superman has received.
The Story begins with Superman: Man of Steel Vol .1 #18: Doomsday escapes from his prison while Superman combats the Underworlders. Doomsday rampages through Ohio, which attracts the attention of the Justice League (Guy Gardener, Blue Beetle, Bloodwynd, Fire, Ice, Booster Gold and Maxima). Superman – being interviewed by Cat Grant in front of high school students (Justice League America #69) – joins the fight later, but Doomsday seems almost impossible to beat, taking down every member of the Justice League until only Superman is left. Lois Lane and Jimmy Olsen cover the fight as Doomsday – after nearly killing a single mom and their two kids and then defeating Guardian – makes a b-line to Metropolis, where Superman stops him once and for all (Superman (vol. 2) #75). Superman tries to dispatch the monster, much to the protest of Lex Luthor II, who literally melts her face with a single punch. Doomsday is finally killed by the Man of Steel, as the latter dies in Lois Lanes arms.
Superman is buried in Metropolis, with a funeral attended by the Justice League (Batman, Green Lantern, Wonder Woman, etc), and even then- US President Bill Clinton and first lady Hilary. These were collected in a story-arc entitled Funeral For a Friend:
part 1: Adventures of Superman #498
unnumbered tie-in: Justice League America #70
part 2: Action Comics #685
part 3: Superman: Man of Steel #20
part 4: Superman (Volume 2) #76
part 5: Adventures of Superman #499
part 6: Action Comics #686
part 7: Superman: Man of Steel #21
part 8: Superman (Volume 2) #77
epilogue: Superman (Volume 2) #83
The final major story arc is Reign of The Supermen!: Four men appear in Metropolis, two claiming to be the actual Superman.
There’s the Eradicator/Last Son of Krypton (appearing in Action Comics #687), a visored anti-hero who retains some of Superman’s memories, but has no qualms about killing bad guys. Theres the Terminator-esque “Man of Tomorrow”/Cyborg Superman, who is proven DNA-wise to be Superman, but claims to have amnesia (appears in Superman #78). The Metropolis Kid/Kon-El (The Adventures of Superman, #501), an arrogant, self-absorbed teenage clone created by Cadmus (who had stolen Superman’s body – Superman Vol 2 #77). He becomes the news maker for WGBS. And finally, the Man of Steel/John Henry Irons (Superman: Man of Steel #22), a former weapons maker who dons an armored suit to protect Metropolis. Unlike the others, he never claimed to be Superman, but he does best embody Superman’s principles (even leading to conviction for Metropolis Kid and the Eradicator).
In the end, Cyborg Superman turns out to be evil consciousness of Henry Henshaw, leading Mongul’s army to create a new Warworld. He destroys Coast City (with the help of warlord Mongul) and builds Engine City in its place, powered by Kryptonite, and captures Kon-El after seemingly destroying the Eradicator. The original Superman emerges from the regeneration Matrix that the Eradicator used to power himself at the Fortress of Solitude, but is depowered and bearing his infamous black suit (Superman: Man of Steel #25). He goes to Coast City with Kon-El (who escaped), Supergirl, and Steel to defeat Cyborg Superman and Mongul, with the original Superman gaining his powers back and defeating Henshaw for good (Superman Vol. 2 #82).
I loved this anthology of one of Superman’s most defining moments for a number of reasons. One of my favorite aspects were the numerous side stories that show the supporting cast dealing with the loss of Earth Mightiest hero. Lois Lane – convinced that Superman may still be alive – thinks she’s spotted Clark Kent around every corner, while Jonathan Kent suffers a heart attack (Superman: Man of Steel Vol. 1 #21), and goes a series of dream states ranging from heaven to the Korean war in hope of getting his son back (Adventures of Superman Vol. 1 #500).
The other lovable aspect of these stories is Lex Luthor II himself. Throughout the story arc, one will be constantly left questioning the motives and intentions of Lex, while waiting for him to show his true colors. On one hand, he seems to have a complicated relationship with Supergirl, and seems to have her under his thumb. On the other hand, he seems opposed to the agenda of Cadmus, and even attempts to “buy” exclusivity to the Metropolis Kid, and is angry when he fails. The most evil thing he does in this story is kill his Karate Instructor Sasha Green (Superman Vol. 2 #77), but if readers are expecting a master plan to overthrow Metropolis, it doesn’t really happen here, as Lex seems more ambiguous, but always driven by self interest as usual.
While this omnibus was an amazing throwback to my childhood, I’m not unaware of the criticisms. For one, many die hard Superman fans were complaining that a one-dimensional monster like Doomsday got to have the honors of killing Superman, as opposed to a villain with a more intimate history with the Man of Steel, such as Luthor, Brainiac, Lobo, or even Darkseid. While all four reigning Supermen, Clark Kent’s replacement Ronald Troupe, and even the Lex Luthor clone himself have a backstory featured in these collected issues, Doomsday has none. It’s pretty clear that this character was created for one main reason: to kill Superman.
Also, the only weakness Doomsday seems to exhibit is to break the bones sticking out from his body, which are sharp enough to cut Superman. However, there’s no real strategy or plan of action to defeat this character; the only way to stop him is to bet him until he drops.
When I first read this as a kid, I remember that one of my first questions was “Where the heck were the Justice League?” Not the JLA members who were mopped by Doomsday, but iconic heroes such as the Flash, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, or Captain Marvel. They all appear for Superman’s funeral (Superman: Man of Steel Vol. 1 #20), and even perform philanthropist duties in his honor (Superman Vol. 2 #76), but as for the main fight against Doomsday, only B list JLA members are available for the fight. Turns out that Wonder Woman was off planet, Batman… well, he would have enough on his plate in 1993 with the Knightfall Story Arc. In any case, it’s a nitpick at best, given the behind the scenes executive decisions going on at DC, pushing the actual Superman plans about a year ahead to match the release of Lois and Clark.
Nevertheless, this is still one of the most iconic Superman stories ever written. The artwork, while characteristically early nineties, is still beautiful to look at. This amazing story propelled Dan Jurgens into my top 10 of comic writers, and if people are willing to look beyond the behind-the-scenes politics that defined the legacy of this story, or the nitpicks of die-hard fans (who are generally impossible to please anyway), they’ll be in for one of the best reading experiences of their lifetimes.