15th Nov2022

‘The Death of Superman: 30th Anniversary Special #1’ Review (DC Comics)

by Dean Fuller

Written by Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, Louise Simonson | Art by Various | Published by DC Comics

It’s hard to explain now, thirty years on, just what a huge event The Death of Superman was. It grew far beyond anything DC Comics could have imagined. It all started with that same old thing in comics, falling sales on the Superman books. There was nothing wrong with the stories or creative teams, they were all very good. I should know because I have practically every issue after all. The problem was with culture. Punisher was big, Ghost Rider was big, Wolverine was big, Batman was getting darker and darker. Superman was just out of step with tastes. So, to get a bit of publicity, then Editor Mike Carlin and his creative teams decided to kill Superman (temporarily of course).

The story, though, caught the attention of the national, then international press, and it became a worldwide phenomenon. It became a rollercoaster DC both couldn’t get off and didn’t want to. They milked the event for all it was worth before Superman’s eventual return. It is, without doubt, one of the true milestones in comic book publishing, and I was very happy to see DC honouring that with this Special. Not only that, but bringing back all the creative teams of the time to contribute, and threading these stories into the actual event and aftermath rather than just random, stand-alone tie-ins. DC’s usually good at respecting its history after all.

Let’s take a look.

We get 4 stories, a ton of superb pin ups and a fantastic cover by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding, plus the inevitable variants.

The first story is ‘The Life of Superman,’ by Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding. It’s the anniversary of Doomsday’s attack on Metropolis and the death of its greatest hero, and people are commemorating it. In school kids are being taught about it, including a certain young Jon Kent. He was never told about it by his parents, and so when Lois comes to collect him from school, he asks her to spill the beans. Jurgens frames this perfectly, Lois telling Jon the story as Jurgens recreates some of those iconic panels. This against the background of the seeming return of Doomsday himself, as Superman has to go toe to toe with someone who looks an awful lot like him. Superman’s brawn, Lois’s brains, and Jon’s innocence combine to win the day. It’s an absolute blast of a nostalgia trip, in both feel and look.

Up next is ‘Above and Beyond,’ by Jerry Ordway, Tom Grummett, and Doug Hazlewood, which focuses on Ma and Pa Kent. As they see Clark fight Doomsday on TV, and worry about his safety, they think back over all the adventures and events Clark had been through up to that point. Jerry Ordway gets to revisit a lot of those good old days, stories he contributed to, and it’s lovingly told and delivered.

The third story is ‘Standing Guard,’ by Roger Stern and Butch Guice. This one focuses on street level hero The Guardian, a supporting character for many years and one of the heroes who stepped up to protect Metropolis in Superman’s absence. This takes a more grounded look at events, as Guardian struggles to keep up with Superman as he repeatedly takes on Doomsday. We get more insight into what the supporting characters were doing, and how Superman did the heavy lifting, but a lot of others did as much in their own way too.

The last story is ‘Time,’ by Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove, featuring Steel before he became Steel. It shows us that heroes are heroes with powers or not. John Henry Irons was always one it seems, as he helps with the aftermath of the fight between Superman and Doomsday. He’s too late to help save Clark of course, but this is what drives him to adopt his identity of Steel, and to help protect Metropolis in Superman’s absence.

Although it’s easy to overuse the term sometimes, this is nothing short of a love letter to a place and time, and to a character in that place and time. This Special is absolutely pitch perfect and fits seamlessly with the original events thirty years ago. A beautifully written and drawn companion piece to the original story. I enjoyed the writing and art in every story, but my favourite was that featuring Ma and Pa Kent. It really tugged on the heartstrings.

Thirty years ago, we watched a Superman die. Thirty years later, it still resonates as much as it ever did.

***** 5/5


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