Not everything translates well from comic books to animation. In a comic book, the writer can write a story and give explanations and backstories. They have monthly issues to plan and detail their story. When you move that same story that developed over an extended period from a book into animation, you would lose a good portion of the integrity of the new adaption. This was the case with Reign of the Supermen.
Following the 2018 animated movie Death of Superman, Reign of the Supermen was the second act in the famed 1993 DC Comics story about the death and return of Superman. In the original story, Superman is confronted with the alien Doomsday and during a massive battle both Superman and Doomsday are killed. During Superman’s, “death” for figures appeared to replace him: The Eradicator, the Cyborg Superman, Steel, and Superboy.
Superboy was a clone that was formed from the DNA of Superman and Lex Luthor and created in the labs of Cadmus. Steel was a brilliant ballistics expert who was once saved by Superman and created his armor to serve as a replacement to the Man of Steel in Metropolis. Eradicator was a weapon created centuries ago on Krypton by an ancestor of Superman that took a human form to replace Superman upon his death.
Cyborg Superman was a scientist-astronaut named Hank Henshaw who along with his crew was poisoned with radiation and ultimately blamed Superman for the accident. Though his body died, Hank Henshaw’s mind molded with alien Kryptonian technology and he became Cyborg Superman and used his identity to get revenge on Superman by taking his name and being the bad guy.
The actual story of the Reign of the Supermen in the comics took months to flush out a lot more backstory than I have provided here. DC had the brilliant idea to try to condense this in a 2-hour animation. Not the best idea. A lot of plot points in the original story were condensed in order to make the ultimate bad guy behind Doomsday killing Superman and Cyborg Superman being the bad guy impersonator be none other than Darkseid.
Watch this movie for the fun of watching a movie if you have nothing else better to watch but please do yourself a favor and get the trades or go digital to read the full complete real story of the Reign of the Supermen. It’s not so much that DC decided to change the story to condense it, it’s the fact that they did not condense it well. In truth, this should have been a trilogy: Death of Superman, Reign of the Supermen and Return of Superman.
One of the main plot points that ruins this movie is the last 15 minutes. The lackluster explanation to bring Superman back so that he can save the day. Then have him reunite with Lois and give the world the worse explanation why Clark Kent was missing while Superman was presumed dead was the worse rushed feeling to the end of a movie I ever experienced. Even with the plot change to tie it all together in a new way, giving this whole movie to the replacement Supermen and having Superman come back in another installment would have told a better story.
Another misstep was the voice casting. Tony Todd, who is an exceptional actor and has done great voice work in the past was dreadfully miscast as Darkseid. At no point did Darkseid sound like the God he is but rather just a very angry human crime lord. Similarly, Rainn Wilson did not have the power in his voice to properly portray Lex Luthor. Lex Luthor should sound like the egotistical mega maniac he is not whatever this was. It was too nasal.
It was not all forgettable, there were some highlights. Steel and Superboy were both portrayed very well and made you wish you had more time with their backstory or at least a chance to see them in action without a Justice League to save them. Although it was rushed to fit in the movie, the love between Lois and Clark was shown in the best way. Throughout this movie even presumed dead, Lois’ love for Superman was undeniable.
If there is nothing on your regular cable stations and you’ve watched everything you want on Hulu and you’ve got no one to Netflix and chill with, then, yeah, give this little movie a chance and kill some time. Otherwise, do yourself a better favor and read the source material for this story.
Kenny Walker Jr