Superman: Doomed is the first chapter in an event set to play out over the course of the next month in the monthly Superman titles, pitting Supes against the alien monster Doomsday, the same one who killed him back in the day (or did he? I’m still not 100% sure if Superman died or not in the New 52 continuity. I’m leaning towards yes, though.) This one-shot first issue is written by Scott Lobdell, Greg Pak, and Charles Soule, with art by Ken Lashley, and in this opening chapter, they introduce us to a new version of the monster. In this new iteration of Doomsday, he’s not just some kind of giant brawler like he was before. Nope, this is a more dangerous and lethal version than he was back when he debuted in 1992, and just his mere presence on Earth causes death and destruction. For example, when he appears this time, he lands on a small island in the Bahamas, where just his being there burns away and eradicates all life forms nearby, including thousands of people. As depicted, it’s kind of gnarly.
I was kind of expecting to not like this comic, frankly because I’ve always found Doomsday to be more of a gimmick than a character, going back to when he first killed Superman twenty years ago. but I found myself kind of liking this story. This comic is smart to utilize Doomsday as a catalyst for Superman to make some hard decisions about his own moral code. How can he not justify killing this thing, which is barely a person and more like a mindless killing machine, when it’s presence literally murders innocents? And when he tries another solution, and it fails, aren’t all those lives on his head now? A lot of the actions of this book seem to be a response from DC to the controversy over Superman killing Zod in last year’s Man of Steel movie.I think it’s cool for DC to acknowledge that there is a conversation to be had at least about Superman using lethal force. Lord knows the internet was having that conversation ad nauseum last summer.
Once again though, I dislike the presentation of Wonder Woman in this comic, who appears mostly as Superman’s girlfriend. Of the three writers of this book, Charles Soule is the only one to portray New 52 Diana in a way that isn’t just a knock-off of Red Sonja or Xena, in the pages of Superman/Wonder Woman, so I’m going to go out on a limb and say I don’t think he wrote Diana’s appearance in this issue, and it was either his co-writers Scott Lobdell or Greg Pak. She’s back in one-dimensional, “angry warrior” mode, and worst of all, when she parts with Superman in this issue, instead of sharing a tender moment with her boyfriend who might never come back, she says “Go! Kill that thing and bring me its head!” to which Superman responds “Diana, that’s the most romantic thing you’ve ever said to me.” Ok, who are these people??
Used to better effect is Lana Lang, one of the few characters to fare better in her New 52 incarnation. The previous continuity’s Lana was kind of a wet blanket, the girl Clark left behind in Smallville who never really got over him, even when he went on to marry someone else. In this new version, she’s an electrical engineer, and Clark’s confidant since childhood. When she finally meets Lois Lane for the first time in this issue, the writers don’t feel the need to force some kind of rivalry between them, which is refreshing. If there is any positive effect to having Superman be with Wonder Woman instead of Lois Lane, it’s that we can skip the Lois/Lana rivalry and actually show these two women actually working together, which this issue does. (sort of.)
The writing and plotting on this one is slightly haphazard, but it gets the job done in setting this whole event up. Less haphazard is the art by Ken Lashley, who is doing some fine work here. He’s an artist who has been around a while, but this is the best I’ve ever liked his art, even if it’s the 90’s Image throwback art that’s popular right now. Lashley has been around since the early 90’s, doing work on books like Excalibur and X-Force for Marvel, and while I didn’t much like his style back then all that much, I find that he’s improved a quite a lot over the decades since then. Lashley is now one of the few artists at DC who can draw the new Superman costume and fina a way to not make it look overly busy and, well…too 90’s looking, for lack of a better word (Jae Lee is the other artist who can draw and keep it looking sleek.) I don’t think I’ll ever love the new Superman costume, but it says a lot that artists like Lashley can get me to not totally hate it.
Superman has had the hardest time of almost all the major DC Icons since the launch of the New 52; although Grant Morrison’s Action Comics run was fairly well-received, neither Superman nor Action Comics have set the world on fire, and Scott Snyder and Jim Lee’s Superman: Unchained has been plagued by delays. DC is hoping the team of superstars, Geoff Johns and John Romita Jr., can course-correct for the Man of Steel, and Doomed seems to be another high profile attempt to do the same. And while this isn’t the greatest or most original comic out right now, it’s worth a read, especially if you’re a Superman fan.
Parts of this review previously appeared in Nerdist’s Pull List roundup last week.