Review: Superman: The Final Days of Superman hardcover/paperback (DC Comics)

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Peter Tomasi's Superman: The Final Days of Superman earns its "Road to Rebirth" moniker, as it reads mainly as a backdoor pilot for a number of Rebirth series. In this way, Final Days comes off somewhat scattered, pursuing red herrings for most of the story. Also I wouldn't say that the threat here quite meets the level of what's necessary for a "Superman's last battle"-type story; "Whatever Happened to the Man of Steel" this isn't. That said, Tomasi does bring the emotion when needed, offering especially touching moments between Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and that makes this a unique "Death of Superman" story that stands distinct from its predecessors.

[Review contains spoilers]

The most famous Death of Superman involved neither Batman nor Wonder Woamn, and their heavy involvement in Final Days makes this immediately more than just a Death rehash. Furthermore, at least at the outset Final Days does not involve a rampaging monster like Doomsday but rather Superman's rather calm recognition of his impending demise, which allows him to go and say good-bye to his allies well before the requisite punching starts. In this way -- markedly unusually, really -- we get to see Alfred thank Superman "for everything," Batman to say it was an honor serving with him, and so on, a kind of intimacy in the face of death that tales of superheroic struggle can't usually allot time for.

Though the final part of this story might've benefited from a few more pages, Tomasi makes Superman's death satisfactorily moving, and especially Wonder Woman's mention that Clark go now to be with "all" his parents. Tomasi devotes one too-short page to depicting a "world without Superman," but I was impressed with the deep dive of characters Tomasi displayed across a recent spate of different writers' Super-titles: Ulysses, Lee Lambert, the old men of Smallville, etc. Again, this really needed more pages, but I intuit some of the fallout is also handled in Justice League and other titles.

Tomasi dedicates a good part of the first half of Final Days to set-up for Gene Luen Yang's Rebirth New Super-Man title. Some of it is necessary, some of it -- like a prolonged battle with mythologcal Chinese creatures or a fight-and-team-up with the Great Ten -- seem Tomasi passing the spotlight to artist and frequent collaborator Doug Mahnke. So too is there a whole issue here mostly devoted to setting up Supergirl's upcoming Rebirth status quo; I'll be curious to see whether Steve Orlando does actually call the National City DEO scientists "Jeremiah" and "Eliza" or not (I imagine they'll become "like parents" to Kara).

Though this story's fiery faux-Superman nets us some explosive art from Mikel Janin, the crazed clone is neither so frightening as Doomsday nor as iconic as a Lex Luthor or a Brainiac. This takes a little punch out of the ending, though again most of this book's joy is just in seeing Superman, Wonder Woman, and Batman flying around together for a while. It's never quite clear the nature of this creature since the Chinese Dr. Omen steals Superman's DNA only after the creature is already loose; Tomasi's got some equally floopy science in why Supergirl should have been affected by Vandal Savage's vaguely-defined power-draining apparatus.

But, as if there were any doubt, in Superman: The Final Days of Superman, Peter Tomasi does show himself up to the task of writing the Rebirth Superman ongoing. If there are missteps -- an albeit riveting fight with Ulysses that I thought reduced the character to too much of a one-note bruiser -- Tomasi's Superman is nicely, even a little unbelievably, selfless, decrying his own death only because he'll have less opportunity to help others. Tomasi also injects perhaps more humor than we normally see into Superman and Batman's interactions, as befits the themes of the subsequent Rebirth. Tomasi sends the New 52 Superman out at his best (depicted as better, perhaps, than he actually ever was) and that's a nice enough gesture at the character's end.

[Includes original and variant covers, interior and cover pencils]

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Superman: The Final Days of Superman
Author Rating
3 (out of 5)
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