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The Return Of Superman is the inevitable end to the ongoing Death Of Superman series that lasted for several months and generated much hype in the world of D.C as everyone tried to second-guess what was going to happen. Of course, everyone always knew that Superman WOULD return, it was just a case of when and how.....
In the meantime, we of course had four seperate replacements for The Man Of Steel and this collection also deals with them. Each of the four replacement Supermen was, at one time, offered as a potential candidate for being the real Superman reborn and all had their own approach ~ some good, some bad, but it comes as no surprise that when the real Superman comes back from the other side, he is less than impressed with how some of them have been behaving in his absence. And of course, some of them inevitably don't want to give up their new notoriety......
This is a satisfying read but a little bit of a disappointment in places. For me, the explanation of how Superman is able to return feels a bit contrived and cliched and more than a little bit convenient. Still, his return is handled quite well and the writing here is certainly first-rate despite a few niggles I have at some of the plot points.
Like I say, it was always inevitable that Superman WOULD come back and, also inevitably, it was never going to quite match the hype and excitment generated by his sensational departure from the D.C universe but all in all I think it fair to say that there is a certain sense of completeness reading this as everything is finally brought around full circle and it is nice to see the human perspective as viewed through the eyes of the still distraught and grieving Lois Lane.
The artwork is cool, well drawn and easily followed and this is a good collection to own if you have been following the story so far. But it is one strictly for the fans and the more casual readers amongst you might well look at this and wonder what all the fuss was about. This is a graphic novel that tries to be deep and meaningful but ends up just being all about one thing: the return of The Man Of Steel......
The Return Of Superman is a graphic novel from 1993 which brings together the final issues from the 'Death Of Superman' arc. After The Death Of Superman and World Without A Superman arcs comes The Return Of Superman, the book I'm reviewing here. It runs for over 400 pages and closes this chapter in the history of Superman in an entertaining and satisfactory manner.
The book begins with a prologue introducing us to four new characters. Each one is a mysterious superpowered being who uses or will adopt the imagery of Superman. They are: A 'Man Of Steel' in an 'Iron Man' type suit with the Superman symbol. A Superman lookalike with a revamped costume and visor who has no qualms about hurting or killing criminals ("All who sin shall know the vengance of Superman!"). A super powered teenage boy who escapes from the top security 'Cadmus' project and claims to be a clone of Superman ("Don't ever call me Superboy!") and a Cyborg who seems to be half Superman and half robot ("Yes...I'm back.") The Cyborg Superman announces his arrival by burning the plaque dedicated to the spot where the last son of Krypton died fighting Doomsday.
With the real Superman dead who are these mysterious characters? Could any of them be the real Ka-El? And why have scientists in Antartica noticed an unusual quality to the 'Aurora Flare'? This book will reveal all...
The Return Of Superman is a lot of fun. The kitchen sink is thrown at the story and the artwork, which varies of course because different artists were involved in the overall arc, is always very colourful and enjoyable. An entire city is destroyed, masterplans and secret identities are revealed and characters from Superman's past and present are drawn into the drama including Green Lantern and Supergirl.
The start of the book makes it clear that Metropolis is struggling without its protector with gangs starting to invest in more futuristic weaponry in order to gain control of the city. The 'Man Of Steel' Superman investigates this and we learn about his past and motivation. It's fairly obvious to the reader who can't possibly be the real Superman so you can do a bit of detective work yourself as you read.
'Superboy' meanwhile soon gains coporate sponsorship with a television station who are eager to gain exclusive rights to one of the 'new' Supermen. Though cocky he's still struggling to understand the nuances of his powers and his tv sponsers aren't above secretly hiring supervillains to make his crime fighting more of a show for the viewers! Although the character borders on being annoying at times he's thrown into so much carnage you end up liking him. His inability to fully control his powers makes him more interesting because he sometimes become vulnerable in tense moments.
Meanwhile the 'Cyborg Superman' breaks into the Cadmus project and steals the body of Doomsday (the monster who killed Superman in the first place) in order to throw it into space. It's too dangerous to hold on Earth he reasons. Cadmus are susceptible to the idea that this is the real Superman (he broke into their base afterall and only Superman could do that) and so is Lois Lane. Los Lane was engaged to Clark Kent/Superman and is anxious to find out if her fiancee has been altered and returned. She runs tests on the Cyborg Superman and he proves to have some of Clark Kent's memories. But what about the other Superman, the cruel one with the revamped costume and visor? He seems to know her too. Guy Gardener, the loose canon of the Green Lantern Corps, investigates this Superman for himself and gives him the thumbs up after watching him in action ("You're sure as heck the Superman I wanna have around!").
It gets more interesting when the 'Supermen' start interacting and fighting. Cults begin to spring up and beneath the Superman monument argue over who the 'true' Superman is. A vast alien spaceship begins to approach Earth, a planet now without Superman to protect it. And now the Kryptonian 'War Suit' from Superman's Antartic Fortress Of Solitude is stomping along the seabed in the South Atlantic with a masked man onboard. I could go on like this but you get the general idea!
After the ruminations on what Metropolis would be like without Superman and the angst of Lois Lane, Clark's parents and numerous Superheroes, it's nice to finally reach the payoff part of the arc where everything is revealed and the action gradually takes over. It does become a tiny bit 'samey' towards the end when it becomes a non-stop fight/battle but the villain in this is one is one you want to see taken down so it's great to near the endgame.
There are some nice set-pieces throughout the book; Superboy attempting to stop a missile in flight, the super powered fights, the cyborg Superman breaking into Cadmus to take Doomsday. Maybe it becomes a bit much, like a rich pudding, but the writers were freed up by the nature of the arc to throw several bombshells into the mix and the fact that this isn't just any old Superman story adds to the appeal.
It isn't V For Vendetta or whatever. It is eventful and colourful fun though. The characters do get a bit nastier than usual at times and it isn't every week that an entire city is destroyed in Superman!
The various characters are all well done and play their part in the story. Everything is tidied up nicely at the end and the moment Superman fans are waiting for is handled nicely too. I quite liked the idea that Superman - because there are several interlopers using his name - would identify himself with charismatic authority. There are a few giant size splash pages and, understandably, a couple of these were saved for the very end to good effect.
So overall, if have never got around to the 'Death Of Superman ' arc, it's well worth a read. Nothing Earth shattering but great fun nonetheless.
Anyone who loves graphic novels or comics will find The Return Of Superman a fun book to dip into.