Review – The Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special #1: The Rebirth

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The Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special #1 cover, via DC Comics.

The Death of Superman 30th Anniversary Special #1 – Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Roger Stern, Louise Simonson, Writers; Dan Jurgens/Brett Breeding, Tom Grummett/Brett Hazelwood, Butch Guice, Jon Bogdonave, Artists; Brad Anderson, Glenn Whitmore, Colorists

Ray – 10/10

Ray: “The Death of Superman” was maybe the most significant DC story of all time—kicking off the modern era of DC events, and also elevating Dan Jurgens into one of the biggest creators in comics as the showrunner. Now, Jurgens reunites with a host of creators from the original storyline to pay tribute in this epic anniversary special.

Credits. Via DC Comics.

Jurgens writes and draws the main story with an assist on finishes, and this doesn’t quite feel like a return—because Jurgens has never really stopped writing Superman! As the creator of Jon Kent and the Rebirth-era Superman writer, Jurgens has followed him over the next thirty years, and it all comes full circle with the forty-page main story. Set in a continuity that feels a lot more linear, it begins with a 10-year-old Jon Kent learning about his father’s death and return at school, courtesy of a visit from Doomsday survivor Mitch Anderson—one of Jurgens’ most underrated characters, who later became the superhero Outburst. This turns into a major drama at home, as Jon is understandably upset that his parents kept this traumatic era from him.

A twisted transformation. Via DC Comics.

But there’s no time to decompress, as a new crisis emerges. A man who cleaned up the rubble after Doomsday’s attack over a decade ago took a fragment of Doomsday bone as a souvenir—and now it’s mutated him into a being later dubbed Doombreaker. This mutated human-Doomsday hybrid evolves faster than the original and pushes Superman to his breaking point—until Superman gets an assist from his son to prevent history from repeating itself. This story works as a recap of the original, but also serves as a tribute to all of Jurgens’ Superman work and has brilliant characterization for the entire cast of characters. It’s amazing that Jurgens hasn’t lost a step in thirty years.

Jerry Ordway and Tom Grummett take the story back to Smallville, where Jonathan and Martha Kent are nervously watching the fight on TV during the original storyline. Martha tries to distract her husband by reminiscing with him on the many times Clark faced terrifying odds before, and the topic changes to a scrapbook she’s kept of some of the less-heralded heroics their son participated in. It’s a sweet, powerful, and deeply melancholy story given that we know what comes next—and I must say, it’s nice to see the original post-crisis design of the Kents again after them being drawn younger for so long.

Roger Stern and Butch Guice turn the focus on Guardian, who comes in and out of the story as he helps Superman in the aftermath of Doomsday attacks and barely survives himself—before being a key player in the moments following Superman’s death as he attempts to protect the body from Paul Westfield’s machinations. This is a grittier story that features great moments for mostly-forgotten supporting characters like Dubbilex and Dan Turpin (who has made a comeback in Nightwing at the moment).

Finally, Louise Simonson and Jon Bogdanove turn the focus to one of the best characters to come out of this era—John Henry Irons. He became Steel after Superman died, but here he’s still an ordinary man as he nearly dies saving a group of kids during the attack—and then emerged, seemingly thinking himself superhuman. Through sheer grit, he travels across Metropolis saving one person after another in the middle of a crisis where Superman can’t save everyone. This is essentially the missing pieces before Steel’s introduction, told thirty years later, and it feels like we’re stepping right back into that story.

Overall, all four of these stories are note-perfect, but the first Dan Jurgens tale might go down as an all-time classic.

To find reviews of all the DC issues, visit DC This Week.

GeekDad received this comic for review purposes.

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