Superman Who?

Superman: Reign of Doomsday: written by Paul Cornell; illustrated by Axel Jiminez, Pete Woods, Kenneth Rocafort, Jesus Merino, and others (2011): It wasn’t until I found out that writer Paul Cornell has had a long professional relationship with the Doctor Who franchise that it all clicked: his Superman is a super-powered Doctor Who. Or perhaps vice versa.

In any case, Cornell’s Superman refuses to kill, has hope that even his enemies can change, and tries to solve problems without violence. And he occasionally explains himself to both enemies and allies in somewhat lengthy speeches.

This is really Cornell’s riff on the Bronze Age, pre-Crisis Superman of the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, a hero who was the smartest guy in the room but didn’t rub it in anyone’s face. Superman even holds out hope that Lex Luthor and even the creature that killed Superman in 1992, Doomsday, can learn to be better beings. It’s a much more expansive vision of Superman than that seen in the rebooted Justice League or across much of DC’s New 52. Of course, this collection, along with the Chris Roberson-penned conclusion to the Grounded arc, is the last adventure of the post-Crisis, pre-New 52 Superman. That we know of, anyway.

The art is solid throughout on the main story, despite the rotating cast of artists. Superman must first deal with a Luthor who’s achieved infinite power and then clean up the mess left by Luthor — namely, several clones of Doomsday, a bizarre inter-dimensional spaceship, a kidnapped Superman Family, and a world-killing object heading towards Earth at near-light velocities. All in a day’s work.

Cornell’s Superman is a pretty interesting fellow, but not in that vengeful, dark way that so many of the world’s aging superhero-comic-book readers crave from the distorted versions of their favourite heroes of childhood. This Superman really would probably have a great adventure with one Doctor Who or another, though there’d have to be one episode or one issue that would basically play out as the science-fictional equivalent of My Dinner with Andre.

There are also some short stories penned by other writers and artists from the 700th issue of Action Comics. They’re interesting in parts, but it’s Cornell who really shines here, along with his collaborators. Recommended.

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