Reign of the Superman
Directed by Sam Liu
Starring Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Cameron Monaghan, Cress Williams, Patrick Fabian, Rosario Dawson, Nathan Fillion, Tony Todd
I’m sure many of you will remember the Death of Superman story arc from DC Comics back in the early 1990s – such is the impact the Big Blue Boyscout had had on popular culture since his debut in the 1930s it made the global mainstream media at the time. Of course, this is comics and we all know that usually in comics, death isn’t quite the permanent proposition that it is to most people (excepting perhaps the Judge Dredd comics, where dead is, usually, dead). As part of DC’s Animated Universe the Death of Superman story was released last year, and now the direct follow up, again based on the 90s comics series, appears, with Reign of the Supermen, which comes with a pretty genre-friendly group of actors as voice talent, including Sliders‘ Jerry O’Connell (voicing most of the Supermen), X-Men and The Librarians‘ Rebecca Romijn (Lois), Serenity‘s Nathan Fillion (Green Lantern), the mighty Tony Todd (Darkseid) and Rosario Dawson (Wonder Woman).
As with the preceding film, this largely follows the plot of the original comics, but swaps a few bits around, and drops others or even adds changes to fit into the running time of an animated feature. As someone who remembers reading the original comics, I had no problem with the changes, which for the most part work fine for the film version.
Reign leads on directly from the events in Death – the world is still in shock at the death of the Man of Steel, their greatest protector (Diana confesses to Lois that nobody, not the regular population or even the Justice League, realised just how much they depended on Superman, his loss is felt keenly and the League is stretched thin).
Into this world without a Superman come four possible heirs – or pretenders? – to the cape: a cyborg Superman (claiming to be the real Kal-el, resurrected and rebuilt with Kryptonian advanced technology), the visor-wearing, brutal Eradicator (he looks like Superman, but is vicious, prepared to kill, without a thought, any he thinks guilty), Superboy (a teenage hero who is cocksure and bridles at being called Superboy, insisting he is Superman), and the armoured figure with the big S on his chest, who calls himself Steel.
Lois has been buried in her grief, not even going into work at the Daily Planet, but we know how tough a reporter she is, and she picks herself up and channels her grief into doing what she does best, digging for information.
She’s determined to find out who these four supermen are and what their connection is, if any, to the real Superman, and begins with a meeting with Wonder Woman in her civilian guise as Diana. Diana assumes Lois has asked her out as a girlfriend to share her feelings of grief and is relieved when Lois tells her she just wants to know what the Justice League may have on these new supermen. “Thank Hera! Despite my reputation I’m not so good at the touchy-feely!” comments Diana.
The League doesn’t really know any more than Lois does, so it’s down to her using her journalistic skills, and it isn’t long before she is hunting them down, trying to find their stories, sceptical of some of their claims, slowly unravelling who each of them actually is.
I’m sure a great number of readers will be very familiar with this story arc, but there will also be some who never read that series (it was nearly thirty years ago now, after all), and there is a new generation of younger fans who are interested in these heroes who won’t have that familiarity with all of these back-stories from the comics, so I am going to avoid potential spoilers by not going any further into the plot here. I will say that I quite enjoyed this animated version – it’s far from perfect, of course, but frankly it is better-paced than the live action Batman Vs Superman, for instance.
It isn’t too long into the running time before we get some super slug-fest action.
And there are some nice character moments here too – Perry holding an editorial at the Planet (yes, he does mutter “Great Caesar’s Ghost!”), calls out to his chief reporters for their take on events, then calls for Clark Kent.
Silence, awkward pause, he called for him out of habit, but Clark is down as missing in the debris after the events of Death of Superman (Lois, of course, unable to acknowledge her lover was also really Superman).
Plus, we have Lois and Diana enjoying an ice-cream as they do some friend-bonding (there’s also a nice nod to the ice-cream scene in the live-action Wonder Woman), and Diana doing a Lynda Carter style “twirl” to change into Wonder Woman.
The animated film is also a lot more suitable and friendly to younger fans than some of the live-action films have been lately – it’s fun for adults who remember these major epics in the comics, but they are also great for younger fans and an accessible way into the back-history of these characters.
• Reign of the Supermen is out now from DC/Warner Bros – Amazon affiliate link