One of the greatest qualities of Marvel’s on-again, off-again series “What If?” is that it explored places that a monthly comic couldn’t or wouldn’t normally go. Famous storylines in the company’s history were revisited with different scenarios and outcomes, not unlike DC’s great Elseworlds line in the ‘90s. There was often more death, more genuine shock and some pretty thought provoking pieces. An animated “What If?” series for Disney+ is currently in development, which I think will be an awesome addition to their lineup. It was great fun.
DC also seems to be trying to get in on the action with their new “Tales from the Dark Multiverse” line, not an ongoing (yet) but a series of six one-shots. There is even a Watcher-like character from the dark multiverse who provides the narration, which is a nice nod. Like its Marvelous competition’s counterpart, the series revisits famous moments in DC Comics history, like Infinite Crisis, Knightfall, and the Judas Contract. Unlike its counterpart, however, the different turns these stories take are still thought provoking but exclusively darker (hence the title, natch). I didn’t jump on this series right away because I didn’t care for Dark Nights: Metal, which is where the concept spins out of, but the “Death of Superman” title definitely caught my attention.
To begin, I cannot believe how popular this story was. I really can’t. Even with all the hype before and since, not to mention the trade being reprinted umpteen times, it seems that current writers, who are now very likely fans that grew up with the story, still look for new ways to comment on it and take the tale in different directions. To me, this was the most titanic, epic moment in the history of comics and one I have always loved revisiting myself, so it is great to see others feel the same way.
The premise of this book was essentially exploring the idea of how Superman’s death and return would have played out if the Eradicator had joined with Lois Lane. As we know from the original “Reign of the Supermen,” the Eradicator was the only Superman of the four who appeared after Supes’ death who embraced violence to defeat criminals. His approach to Superman’s mission was often not unlike that of many other Wolverine/Ghost Rider/Punisher-esque heroes of the ‘90s, very fashionable for that period. But combine this with Lois Lane’s agony over her fiancé’s death, and you have a character who basically comes unglued from the beginning. How she would stop crime, carry on the fight for truth, justice, and the American way, and what Superman would think when he finally does come back, are some of the waters the book dives into.
I was shocked by how much I enjoyed this story. I am still riveted at seeing a bloody, battle-damaged Superman going toe to toe with Doomsday, even though I know how the story ends. To see a writer/artist team up to pay it further homage and explore a darker angle is tremendously fun and exciting. The quality of the book is solid too, with writer Jeff Loveness keeping everyone in character for 1992-1993, fused with great art from Brad Walker, a Superman vet. In my time reading the 50 or so pages, I was completely zoned in to what was going on, which I can’t say about a lot of books nowadays.
The success of this one-shot, and that DC would ever consider writing it, is a testament to the staying power of the landmark event that is The Death of Superman. I love that this special even exists because it means that there is still an audience for this story. And in this business, that’s saying something!
I highly recommend this issue to anyone who loves The Death and Return of Superman, What If?/Elseworlds comics, or Scott Snyder multiverse stories. Myself, I hope they do a lot more Dark Multiverse stories with Superman and would even buy this type of book if it became an ongoing. For now, I’m definitely looking forward to the hardcover collection of all six books next year.
Who knew someone in 2019 writing about Lex Luthor II could be so fun!