Comic Book Classics Revisited is back with Part 5 of The Death of Superman! Doomsday is tearing through the countryside and Superman has yet to be able to stop him! Even the combined might of the Justice League has been little more than a punching bag o’ ragdolls to Doomsday. With Maxima now down for the count, Superman is left to face the monster alone! Let’s dive into Action Comics #684 as the action and pace heat up!
While Guardian attends to the dazed and injured Maxima, Superman reveals he’s never faced anything like Doomsday before. Superman tells Guardian to get her to the hospital while he foreshadows his own fate by exclaiming he’ll stop Doomsday even if it’s the last thing he does. He takes off to follow Doomsday’s trail of disaster all the while wondering where the monster might have come from. (SPOILERS: Krypton)
Meanwhile, on the ground, Doomsday smashes up another Optimus Prime-looking tanker truck in a nearly gleeful manner. When an innocent bystander witnesses Doomsday’s destruction, he’s tossed in his car way up into the air. Thankfully, Superman is there to catch the man’s car and save him. Superman and the man talk a bit about what he may have witnessed. When asked about the monster, Superman responds, “I wish I knew. He came from out of nowhere — Destroying things at random — Apparently for the sheer hell of it!” Now, I will admit that I didn’t read a great many Superman comics in my lifetime, but I cannot remember another time until well after this story when Superman used any kind of swear word – even one as tame as “hell”. That said, I’m sure that helps underline the problem Doomsday presents.
Using his telescopic vision, Superman sees that Doomsday has made his way to the Midvale Lex-Mart, and like a budget-conscious Black Friday shopper, is tearing the place to shreds. When he gets to the electronics department, Doomsday sees a commercial for a wrestling match between Major Mayhem (a version of Hulk Hogan in a reality where he joins the Village People) and the Mighty Gorilla that’s taking place at the Metropolis Arena. Picking up on the mayhem of “War-Bash 9000”, Doomsday officially gets the idea to go to Metropolis. Previously, I know I’ve talked about Doomsday heading to Metropolis, but I will admit I was handing out spoilers. He was kind of aimlessly destroying the countryside prior to now. Now, he’s officially heading to Metropolis where our big finale takes place.
Anyway, before Doomsday could politely ask for directions to Metropolis, Superman comes in and plows him into the wall. As the two titans continue to duke it out, news choppers arrive, and Superman is horrified that now Lois and Jimmy are in direct danger from Doomsday. Back in Metropolis, the gross couple that is redheaded Lex Luthor and weird shapeshifter Supergirl are watching the news coverage. Supergirl desperately wants to go help Superman, but Lex keeps trying to keep her at his side and in Metropolis saying that the city will need her if Superman can’t stop the monster. So she stays back. Clearly Supergirl isn’t able to discern that Lex is just trying to manipulate her and prevent Superman from getting any powerful assistance.
Superman and Doomsday continue their fight, this time with Doomsday tossing Supes into a Big Belly Burger restaurant. Just outside, Doomsday finds a sign stating Metropolis is just 60 miles away. When Superman realizes the monster is able to read the sign and is forming an idea around it, he’s recharged to fight off Doomsday to try to prevent him from getting into the city. Jimmy and Lois realize they have never seen Superman fight so hard. That’s backed up by Superman flinging Doomsday miles further away from Metropolis. Secretly, and to himself, Superman begins to wish he had some help with Doomsday and even thinks to himself how surprised he is that Lex hasn’t sent Supergirl. When Superman throws Doomsday into a hillside, he doesn’t realize that there is an underground Cadmus Project installation beneath it. Above ground, Superman and Doomsday battle through the Tree City grown by the creations of Cadmus. Not realizing what is going on above ground, Cadmus calls the Guardian back to base to find out what all the ruckus is.
Guardian arrives just after Superman uses one of Tree City’s massive trees to smash Doomsday. Guardian tells Superman to rest a bit as he “got him” with that last attack with the tree. Of course, that doesn’t work out too well as Doomsday blasts his way out of the wooden ruins of Tree City. This buries Superman under some earth and knocks Guardian out leaving Doomsday completely free to continue toward Metropolis unblocked.
We’ve moved entirely into the action side of the story. There’s no more time given to the higher brow stuff about Superman as a character, protector, godlike being, etc. We’ve entirely gotten on the side of his fighting prowess and spirit. He’s pouring it onto Doomsday and giving it all he’s got to try to stop the monster. Some might think this story is now devolving into a punch-em-up action vehicle. In a way it is. However, it’s a bit more than that. You see, one of Superman’s greatest weaknesses has been his own stories. It’s too easy for Superman to win. Writers often have to either focus on endangering his friends or have space aliens to even come close enough to give Superman something that would equal a story. For how powerful he is, how easy would it be for him to punch something to dust? That said, most of his stories should be roughly a page long. Four to six panels… That’s it.
Wait, Doomsday is an alien. He’s also headed toward Metropolis where all of Superman’s friends and loved are mostly centrally located. Well, shit, that destroys my argument about this being something more than just the typical yawner of a Superman story.
But seriously, though. Even though a huge chunk of this story is now just a brawl between two mighty titans, there is so much more going on here. We’re seeing Superman give his all to fight back a seemingly unstoppable foe. If Superman was to cut loose like this in any one of his other stories, he’d basically be labeled a murderer because the bad guys would just be punched to dust. This has a completely different feel than a shallow action book. Perhaps it’s because we know how it ends. Maybe we’re made to feel this way simply because if Superman is going to dead by the end of the story, we expect it to be a big, bombastic brawl and not just some stupid sun poisoning or getting scratched by Nuclear Man or whatever that idiot from Superman IV was. His death needs to come at the hands of a monster that could literally murder everything and tear the planet a part.
We’ve come to the end of today’s revisit of The Death of Superman Part 5. With this issue, we have counted down to only three panels per page. Next time, we’ll move to only two panels per page as we get closer and closer to that fateful final punch. Next time, we will look at Part 6 in the pages of Superman: Man of Steel #19!