01st Nov2019

‘Tales From the Dark Multiverse: The Death of Superman #1′ Review

by Dean Fuller

Written by Jeff Loveness | Art by Brad Walker | Published by DC Comics

dark-multiverse-superman-cover

Who doesn’t love a good ‘What if’ story? No one, that’s who. That is why Marvel and DC especially keep mining at that rich vein of story ideas. Call them Elseworlds, or the 2099 Universe, or What If, or Tales from the Dark Multiverse, they basically give writers a chance to do something new with something old. With these Tales from the Dark Multiverse one shots, we even have a DC ‘Watcher’, Tempus Fuginaut, who stands watch between realities. I still find it amusing that DC who ,post-Crisis, tried so hard to keep the one Universe thing going, have now gone all in on the multiple universes, multiple realities thing. For me, that’s a good thing. More possibilities mean more stories, more stories means more good stories, and we all win. I always followed Grant Morrison’s line of thinking, with his hypertime theory, that all these realities and multiverses were never really destroyed, just sort of forgotten, and waiting to be rediscovered.

The Tales from the Dark Multiverse one-shots have all essentially followed on from the end of the Dark Metal storyline. They take pivotal storylines from the past, and give them a dark, twisted edge. On worlds like our own, but aren’t, we see how the same events went down a much different, darker path. This time, we are revisiting probably the biggest event ever in DC’s history, the death of Superman. Jeff Loveness and Brad Walker probably couldn’t believe their luck when they were told they would get to play in that sandbox. After a nice monologue from Tempus, we join the events on this world as Superman dies, and Lois holds him in his arms. So far the same as our Earth, but on this world Lois Lane is not just sad. She is angry. Very angry. Angry at a world that wasted the gift that was Superman, angry at the heroes that let him die, and angry that his memory is being tarnished by people like Luthor, trying to make their own capital from his death. To make it worse, the world learnt nothing. Wars continue, the rich exploit the poor, and life goes on.

Lois does all the things she should. Visits the Kent farm, visits the empty Fortress, says her goodbyes to both Clark and to Kal-El in really well written monologues that show Jeff Loveness really understands both Lois character and these events. Up to now, things have gone pretty close to the original story, but now we diverge. The Eradicator, a born again energy being who is the protector of Krypton, arrives at the Fortress. He had tried to save Superman, by placing him in a Kryptonian Life Matrix, but this had failed (in our reality, this worked of course). Superman really was dead. The Eradicator energy needs a host, and Lois offers up herself. She, in effect, gains all the powers of Superman. She takes Superman’s mission to the logical extreme, in her mind, and launches her own assault on the bad things. She stops the banks who exploit people, ends wars, ends famine, takes from the rich and gives to the poor, destroys everyone’s weapons, and punishes the corrupt. Only, corruption goes both ways.

They say power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely, and Lois becomes the poster girl. What started as a mission to honour Superman’s memory becomes something else, as she wonders why he didn’t do what she has. Was he weak? afraid? was he not really ‘super’ at all? Once she murders Lex by burning him up in the atmosphere, you know she’s crossed a line from which she can’t return. Villains fall, even heroes as Lois continues to destroy Clark’s memory, rather than honour it. Cyborg Superman arrives, but this time not given the time to pretend he’s the real thing, and fights the clone Superboy, Steel and Lois. We also get another surprise appearance at the end, and another death, but I won’t ruin that one for you. No happy endings here. On this world, the death of Superman was just the beginning of the end.

Wow, what a ride that was. Loveness and Walker could have just got by on the fumes of nostalgia alone, and I certainly enjoyed that, but they took time to craft a story that made sense, that was tragic, brutal and achingly sad. How do we commemorate a death? Uphold the dead person’s values? vengeance? grief? Loveness lets us get into Lois’s head, we understand why she makes the choices she does, even if we don’t agree with them. She wanted to create a world free of pain, of hunger, of violence, but to do that she corrupted the values that Clark held so dear. She took away choice, free will, the chance to show they can be a good people if shown the way. Powerful storytelling, and powerful art by Brad Walker to really convey it. The art both manages to channel that mid 1990′s nostalgia and really convey the power of the story, of Lois abilities, of the violence. It’s a wonderful story that is wonderfully delivered.

The irony perhaps of Lois’s actions is that Superman’s memory burns ever brighter because of her actions. Everything she does reminds us she isn’t Clark, and makes us miss him all the more. It’s a tragedy that once again shows us that we are all just one bad day away from being the bad guy, of going down a path we never expected to take. Jeff Loveness conveyed that beautifully.

Clark and Lois. Not all love stories end well.

***** 5/5

Tales from the Dark Multiverse is out now from DC Comics.

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