Doomsday is here! Comic Book Classics Revisited is taking a deeper look at the 1992 blockbuster event The Death of Superman. Up to this point, a monster stronger than the entire might of the Justice League (minus Superman who was on TV at the time) is rampaging through the countryside and heading toward Metropolis. Now, in Superman (vol. 2) #74, the man of steel himself has entered the fray to stop this beast. Let’s take a look, shall we?
Ice is concerned that Blue Beetle is dying. His breathing is shallow, and he’s becoming more unresponsive. Maxima, though, feels that his sacrifice is an honorable way to go out for her comrade – which is a thought Ice is not a fan. Ice tells Maxima that she can take Beetle to a doctor to give him a chance to survive, but Maxima refuses saying there is a battle to be fought where they are, and that Blue Beetle is just a pussy who can go out like a hero while she punches Doomsday.
After more belly-achin’ from Ice about Ted Kord getting medical assistance, Maxima agrees to take Ted to the hospital while Ice helps fight Doomsday. When Maxima gets back, she can battle Doomsday all she wants (probably because Ice will be dead – that’s to say Ice is not quite on Doomsday’s level of toughness). Ice realizes that Doomsday is heading directly for a housing development.
Here, we meet teenage turd Mitch and his mom. Mitch is a real piece of work. He hates school, he thinks his mom is “corny” for asking how his day was, and he thinks his mom is the sole reason for why his dad left. This is the type of collateral damage I can live with. That initial summary dismissal of Mitch’s life isn’t reversed when he wise-asses his mom’s inquiries on how his day was, and then asks her why she can’t even keep the fridge stocked with soda pops. When Mitch’s mom says she couldn’t get to the store because his little BABY sister is sick, Mitch freaks out about how the baby rates higher than he does (dude… yeah I’m on your mom’s side, bub). When she says she’s trying to do the best she can, Mitch does the classic “No wonder Dad left and wants a divorce” schtick.
Thankfully, Ice comes flying through the kitchen window while Doomsday trashes the family car in the driveway. Soon, Booster Gold and Superman arrive. When Superman lands in front of Doomsday, he takes a gut punch from the monster and doesn’t even flinch. This impresses Mitch’s mom, but the teenager just chalks up the whole thing to being too slow and stupid to duck. Yeah, okay. A monster trashes the Justice League, nearly killing a guy, Superman takes a punch from him, and you say “big deal”? Teenagers are dumb. Anyway, back to the fight we all came here to see. Superman takes the punch like a champ, but Doomsday regroups by kicking Superman, which does considerable damage as it sends Superman through Mitch’s house, collapsing it.
Doomsday isn’t done with the other members of the League. He face slams Booster Gold, and punches the unconscious Ice. When the monster turns to Mitch’s mom and baby sister, Superman intervenes to cover the family’s escape for as long as he can. The rest of the League arrives with Guy Gardner being his usual self by asking Superman if Doomsday too tough for him. Shut your face hole, Guy. The League attempts to pit all their powers in a combined blast against Doomsday, but all it does is blasts a big chunk of his rubber suit off and frees his right arm. And we finally see most of the face of the monster under his suit. He’s got bones protruding all over his face, arms, and hands. He’s a true monster. Bloodwynd suggests Guy, Fire, and Booster get themselves to safety with their powers depleted while he and Superman take on Doomsday, but it’s too late. Doomsday blasts all five of the Leaguers. Doomsday issues a horrible beating to Booster Gold. With both eyes closed shut from his prior beating, Guy tries to aim blindly, but before he can blast, Doomsday tosses Booster into Gardner. Superman and Bloodwynd then try a two-front offensive, but Doomsday defends that successfully causing Bloodwynd’s eyebeams to start a fire. The fire gets to the gaslines in the demolished house and explodes into an inferno. Mitch, his sister, and his mother are trapped in the fire.
Doomsday leaps away from the destruction he caused, and Superman angrily follows. Superman closes in on Doomsday, but when Mitch calls for him to come back to save him and his family, Superman is left with a major decision – go back to save three people’s lives, or stop Doomsday from causing even more destruction.
This issue primarily focuses on action and Doomsday’s strength. The monster simply tosses the JLA around as if they were ragdolls. Even Superman is evenly matched. However, we do have a couple more important things to discuss. The first is that Doomsday is “officially” coined as the monster’s name. Yes, previously, Booster Gold called the monster that name, but it’s not until the awesome panel below that it becomes official.
That’s just classic Superman right there. Taking a punch that’s so hard, it comes with the “KRAKADOOM” sound effect, but just taking it like a champ. The second attack from Doomsday doesn’t go all that well as he gets surprised by a kick to the gut, but whatever. This is what we want out of a Superman frame. He’s even giving Doomsday that look like, “Yeah… We’re going to have some words… With our fists! Have at you, buck-o!”
Additionally, this issue ends on a pretty decent cliffhanger – and one of the most popular philosophical debate topic. Superman is caught between a rock and a hard place. Does he chase after Doomsday to stop the monster from killing more people or destroying more homes, towns, cities, etc, or does he go back to save three people in a fire? In the real world, the bummer is that Mitch (no matter how much of a jerk he is), his mom, and his sister would likely be casualties of a madman’s rampage. They’d die because you’d stop the madman before he is able to inflict more devastation. It’s pure logic, and, no matter how cold it is, if you can save more by stopping the madman, even at the relative low cost of three innocents, then you have to stop the monster.
But this isn’t real life. This is Superman. He will not allow for the death of anyone or anything. He could go back and get Mitch and his family out of the fire, then still be able to catch up with Doomsday. Odds are that’s what’s going to happen, but considering what Doomsday can do, considering the level of jerk Mitch is, and considering the mess that is Mitch’s mom’s life (we all know it’s not her fault, but it’s written pretty black and white that she’s a wreck), not many would be all that angry at Superman if he continued to chase Doomsday. It’s unfortunate they have to die, but Doomsday’s no joke. If you can stop him, do it! At least that’s what most people would say.
Let’s think about this story for a second. This is the DEATH of Superman. He makes his sacrifice by the end of this story (spoiler alert, by the way). He does this because he’s the Earth’s greatest champion. He does not do it because he makes the choice to put himself in a situation that could kill him. It’s not like war is breaking out and he enlists to help kill bad guys before they can come here, and is killed in action. He doesn’t make that choice. He just does what he does based on a defensive stance. He sees the threat, he does what he does.
I bring this up because, ultimately, he MUST make a decision here. It’s this decision that will ultimately lead to his sacrifice. He will either go back and save the family and must later redouble his efforts to stop Doomsday, no matter the cost, or he will continue chasing the monster and ultimately die on the inside knowing he made the choice to sacrifice three innocent bystanders’ lives.
As a side note, despite all the philosophical implications of the cliffhanger, and the action scenes, we do get to see what is under that rubber suit covering Doomsday. Despite all the power the JLA dishes out at Doomsday, it just reveals half his face. Oh, and frees his other arm. Yeah, that’s right, he’s been dealing out beatings with one arm tied behind his back. How’s that for tough?
I’m going to call it a day here. Come back on Friday as we move to part four of The Death of Superman story which takes place in The Adventures of Superman #497. Not only do we (and Doomsday) continue down the path to the fateful end of the story, but we also get into some interesting technical stuff in the issues that follow. Join us, won’t you?