So here’s a bombshell for you: Superman has never died in the New 52. At least, not yet. But don’t worry, this spring he’ll be facing off with Doomsday, the villain who temporarily sent him six feet under in the 90s.
Now I know those of you with exceedingly good taste in comics are probably thinking, “Hold on! Didn’t Grant Morrison mention Superman’s death towards the end of his run on Action Comics?”
“Well, the truth is, if you look back at those issues, there was a lot of crazy stuff going on back then, between [Mister] Mxyzptlk and everything else that was going on,” Charles Soule explained in an interview with Newsarama.
That explanation actually checks out. For those of you who are unfamiliar, Mister Mxyzptlk and all other beings from the Fifth Dimension are able to bend reality to their liking. They could even feasibly transport characters to the pre-New 52 timeline. Also, I’m pretty sure DC has given up on letting Grant Morrison’s decisions remain canonical.
Charles Soule, the current writer of Superman/Wonder Woman, will be working with Scott Lobdell (Superman) and Greg Pak (Action Comics) on a crossover event revolving around Superman’s first major battle with Doomsday in the New 52. We don’t know whether it’ll end with Superman taking a dirt nap, but Soule promises, “Superman’s due for a real big universe-shattering story, and this is certainly that.”
While Superman may not experience a death, his career sorely needs a resurrection. He’s been written into a very dark corner these days.
The most amazing part of The Death and Return of Superman is not when Superman rises from the grave, but when we see everyday humans carry on his legacy in his absence. John Henry Irons, a former weapons engineer, sees this tragedy as a chance to reinvent himself as the hero known as Steel. Bibbo Bibbowski, a working class hero, dons a Superman shirt and takes to Metropolis’s slums to feed the hungry. It’s clear that Superman saved the world, and not just by defeating Doomsday.
The New 52 Superman does not yet have an impressive legacy. Sure, Grant Morrison had an amazing run on Action Comics, presenting a Superman with a deep love for humanity. He battled monsters, yes, but he took the time to clean up after himself, building improved housing for displaced citizens of Metropolis. This is not the Superman DC decided to stick with. Clark Kent’s become a recluse writing a blog instead of working at the Daily Planet. He only has one coworker: Cat Grant, and Scott Lobdell has made it clear that Superman has no respect for her. With his parents dead, the only other company he keeps, besides the occasional phone call from Lois Lane, are members of the Justice League.
And this coming April, the Justice League won’t want him, either. In his place will be his lifelong nemesis, Lex Luthor, who will have successfully liberated the world from the Crime Syndicate. I can’t count the times New 52 Superman has saved the world, mainly because I can’t remember any times – at least not in the public eye. Sure, he’s corrected time paradoxes and defeated reality-warping beings, but that’s all very thankless work. The two most high-profile things he’s done so far is enter a relationship with Wonder Woman and zap the face off of Dr. Light.
So is DC fixing to kill Superman a second time? In Doomsday’s one-shot special, titled Batman/Superman: Doomsday #1, we learned that Superman’s Kryptonian family has a prophecy about the “last knight of the House of El” landing on a planet where he is feared and hated for his power – which is pretty much where he is right now. One day this hero will lose his life in the process of defeating a “real monster,” Doomsday. It is then that the little people will realize too late what a great hero he was.
While the prophecy itself does not mention any resurrection, the panels accompanying the text depict a united Super family at the end, something which has been lacking in the comics. Each major crossover in the New 52 thus far has ended with Superman, Supergirl, and Superboy going their separate ways and hating each other. Another death/resurrection may be just what the family needs.
Of course, the writers are being very coy about whether this prophecy will come to pass. Charles Soule said, “So I think there are a lot of open questions about Superman and Doomsday and his ‘death.’ And we will do our best to answer some of them — probably not all of them, but some of them in this story.” In another interview with Newsarama, Scott Lobdell warns people not to expect “a cover band version of the Death Of Superman.”
I’m not setting my expectations too high for this next Doomsday event. I definitely don’t expect it to be a tear-jerker like The Death and Return of Superman was in the 90s. My only measure for success is whether this event could put New 52 Superman back on the right track as humanity’s greatest hope. For better or worse, he’s the Superman we’ve got, so I choose to root for him.