So in the aftermath of the huge Death of Superman event, DC Comics then unveiled the Reign of the Supermen. If you read last week’s Vault, and the entry on the Shaquille O’Neal movie, Steel, then you know that DC introduced four substitute Supermen in the four monthly Superman titles.
Action Comics featured the Last Son of Krypton, who looked like Superman, but was sensitive to light and merciless. Adventures of Superman featured the Metropolis Kid, a teenaged clone of Superman whose adventures continued later in Superboy. Superman: The Man of Steel featured Steel, actually John Henry Irons, the brilliant engineer who constructed a suit of armor with the Superman shield as a tribute to the original hero who had inspired him. And Superman featured the Man of Tomorrow, a cyborg whose metal half was built of Kryptonian metal and whose DNA matched Superman’s.
The four titles formed one continuous story, with the ongoing question, “Which one is the real Superman?” It was obvious that Steel and Superboy were not the original. But the Last Son of Krypton and the cyborg both had legitimate claims to being the real deal. Which one was he?
As it turned out, neither. In Superman #80, we found out that the cyborg was actually the Big Bad. How bad? He had the super-master-villain Mongul working for him, that’s how bad.
Meanwhile, the Eradicator lost his power source, which took a Kryptonian warsuit to Metropolis and was revealed to be…
Badass long-haired Superman. And since it was the 90’s, he ended up not only having guns in each hand, but superfluous leg straps and ammo pouches as well. The Supermen have to stop Mongul and the cyborg, who is revealed to be a guy named Hank Henshaw. Who?
Yeah, the big bad of this 30-part story is a meta-joke on Marvel, a pseudo-Reed Richards! Damn it!
The only thing worse is that I apparently have every chapter of this story, through all four monthly Superman titles, except the very last one. Seriously, I can’t find it, which makes me suspect I never owned it.
Shit. But the other Supermen each have their moment to shine. Superboy stops a missile from destroying Metropolis, the Eradicator sacrifices his existence to give his power back to Superman and Steel saves the Earth by shutting down a giant engine meant to send Earth out of its orbit.
You could say that the Death of Superman and the Aftermath which ended up returning everything to mostly status quo ante was nothing but a mercenary marketing strategy on the part of DC Comics, but Dan Jurgens, Karl Kesel, Louise Simonson, and Roger Stern, along with artists Jurgens (again), Jon Bogdanove, Tom Grummett and Jackson Guice managed to turn this nakedly moneygrubbing event into an actually tense story with lots of interesting twists and huge scope. If only they hadn’t turned everything on a huge meta-joke, this could have been a truly classic story.