When it comes to Reign of the Supermen, it plays to my nostalgia in a very specific way. You see, as a kid in the summer of 1993, I began delving deeper into comic book collecting beyond just titles featuring Batman. And during that time, there were two things that especially appealed to me most: anything having to do with the X-Men and whatever had Superman’s four possible replacements following his demise on the cover.
Right now, I imagine those old enough can relate in some fashion because either they began collecting around that time, or just share a fondness for that era. Either way, this entry into the DC Universe line of animated films has great significance because it’s really the first time the material has been adapted to this degree.
Previously, WB’s animation division told the death and resurrection story in more truncated fashion when Superman: Doomsday was released in 2007. But more recently, they decided to take another crack at it by dividing the epic tale into two films, those being last year’s The Death of Superman and the freshly rolled out Reign of the Supermen.
Even if you hadn’t seen the first part in the overarching narrative – and I highly recommend that you do – the basics are probably known to you. In short, Doomsday shows up on Earth, kicks the Justice League’s collective ass, and then he and Big Blue kill each other in combat.
When we join Reign of the Supermen, it picks up not long after those events, wasting little time introducing us to the aforementioned replacement heroes: Superboy (Cameron Monaghan), Steel (Cress Williams), Cyborg Superman (Jerry O’Connell) and the Eradicator (Charles Halford). Suffice it to say, each uniquely represent a different aspect of the Last Son of Krypton.
If anyone could be described as the center of the piece, it’s most definitely Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn). To me, it makes sense to follow her closely because using her as an onscreen surrogate in feeling the loss of Superman (Jerry O’Connell, again) allows for the viewer to connect deeper with her and the unfolding story. I mean, who better to choose than Clark Kent’s colleague and lover as she investigates strange happenings at LexCorp? And if that weren’t enough, she actually forges a new friendship with Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson).
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Aside from Lois, it’s most definitely Lex Luthor who gets their time in the spotlight. Granted, I did enjoy what Rainn Wilson brought to the role in The Death of Supermen, but he definitely outdoes himself this time around. His Luthor is so nuanced and arrogant that I hope to see more of him in the future. And just when you think he’s the most evil guy in the room – and he does do some downright despicable things – he surprises you by showing there’s good in him when you least expect it.
Funny enough, Reign of the Supermen seems to be just as much of a followup to The Death of Superman as it is a quasi-sequel to Justice League: War. I’m not going to entirely spoil what I mean by that, but know that Darkseid (Tony Todd) finally makes his return to this New 52-inspired continuity. Furthermore, what goes down involving him and what’s said in the post-credits scene forces me to believe that an adaptation of Geoff Johns and Jason Fabok’s Darkseid War is on the way.
It’s at this time that you probably want to ask which animated flick to feature the Man of Steel I prefer. In all honesty, Superman: Doomsday will always hold a special place in my heart because it was such a well-told, tightly written story – even if it omitted key details from the source material – and may remain my favorite.
But when it comes to the more current two-part mini-saga, I think I lean in the direction of The Death of Superman. I don’t know, maybe it’s just because that one contains more of Kal-El himself and is more emotionally resonant, but Reign of the Supermen didn’t entirely knock my socks off. Don’t get me wrong, it’s very good and worth your time and money, but sometimes one just veers in a certain direction for reasons you can’t fully describe.
As for the bonus features, a must-see sneak peek at the next DC Universe animated movie, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five is included. Set to be a spiritual successor to Justice League Unlimited, the teaser should get your anticipation level high before sitting down for “Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis,” a featurette examining the differences between Lex and his super foe.
Other supplemental content includes two bonus cartoons, which usually serve as a surefire way to please the target audience. In this case, it’s “Heavy Metal” from Superman: The Animated Series and “Panic in the Sky” from Justice League Unlimited that were pulled from the vault.
Inner debate aside, I’ll close this review by once again stating it’s recommended that you pick up a copy of Reign of the Supermen. It’s very seldom that DC animation disappoints, and this is sure to satisfy you on some level. If Warner Bros. were to, say, cut this and The Death of Superman together as one fluid movie just as they did with Batman: The Dark Knight Returns, I may have to double dip.
The DC Universe line of animated films does it again with Reign of the Supermen, a worthy followup to The Death of Superman that finally adapts the classic storyline featuring Superboy, Steel and others.