Following on from the brilliant Batman: Gotham By Gaslight Warner Bros. Animation and DC Entertainment have brought another magnificent DC story to life, this time the epic Death of Superman saga which caused comic book chaos when it came out in 1992 and 1993.
Although always a Marvel fan even I could not ignore the spoiler ridden title that held the idea that one of the most famous super heroes every created could be killed off and I rushed to purchase the comic encased as it was in a sealed black bag with the bloody Superman S dripping on the front.
A cracking read it contained all the drama and action I wanted from the final moments of such an iconic character hence why flashing forward to 2016 and a packed out press screening of Batman vs Superman: Dawn of Justice I was shocked and disgusted at how badly the same story was handled.
Shoe horned like an ill-fitting bat boot into the final act of an already problematic movie the epic and catastrophic battle between the Man of Steel and the unstoppable alien aggressor known as Doomsday not only looked terrible but lacked any kind of drama or impact.
Thankfully now we have The Death of Superman done how it should have been done and given the time and effort it deserves. Interestingly there has already been an animated version of this tale entitled Superman/Doomsday which told an abridged version back in 2007.
Forming the first part of two features produced by Gotham by Gaslight’s Sam Liu who co-directs with Jake Castorena, the script is from a New York Times bestselling author Peter J. Tomasi and focuses fully on this hugely important and influential storyline.
Opening like any other day in Metropolis with a gang of high-tech suited criminals attempting to cause chaos on the city streets before a red and blue blur stops them in their path the preamble is interestingly far more preoccupied with Clark Kent’s insecurity than Superman’s power as we see him uncomfortable to introduce his parents to Lois Lane
Already we realise this is unlike so many other Superman stories as we see his weakness, his humanity rather than the indestructible, muscle bound titan the feature films force onto us again and again. Tortured by his inability to let Lois in he seeks advice from his super friends with Flash and Wonder Woman both believing he should share his secret with the love of his life while he worries it will change everything between them.
More shockingly an early scene sees a set of astronauts in space and in danger as a huge asteroid hurtles towards them. Believing they will be okay because Superman will save them and saying so repetitively we witness their death alone and scared with no saviour rushing to the rescue. This scene alone shows a dynamic complexity to a character who can often appear two dimensional and boring dispelling the myth that the hero always saves lives and always triumphs and preparing the audience for more loss to come.
The asteroid is Doomsday and once on Earth the beast starts its rampage, murdering all in its way from Aquaman’s Atlantean friends to women and children as it marches onwards towards Metropolis. When the entire Justice League face off against this seemingly unbeatable force the battle begins and it doesn’t stop till the death of Superman has come to pass.
Featuring a brilliant voice cast cantered around Slider’s Jerry O’Connell as Superman, X-Men’s Rebecca Romijn as Lois Lane and most surprisingly of all The Office’s Rainn Wilson as a chilling Lex Luthor we also get star turns from returning voices of the Justice League with Jason O’Mara (The Man in High Castle) as Batman, Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Daredevil) as Wonder Woman and Nathan Fillion (Castle) as Green Lantern amongst others.
As mentioned the story is simple but perfectly scripted showing Superman’s weakness wonderfully well and making us care more than ever before about a character that can come across as cold and dull by showing imperfections in such a perfect being.
Aside from this the action scenes are off the scale and once Doomsday starts fighting the Justice League the bloody chaotic combat doesn’t let up with buildings falling, super heroes torn to shreds and a city severed in half, giving the viewer exactly the sort of insane blockbuster action the live action feature films have so far failed to deliver.
Comic fans and super hero lovers should rush right out and get this amazing animated movie so they can see what a truthful, respectful and well-made adaptation of the dark and superb story The Death of Superman looks like. Especially before the next part Reign of the Supermen appears and changes the game all over again.