Review by Frank Plowright
In 1993 DC really milked Superman’s death, and this selection of stories is the low point. There’s an excess of mawkish sentimentality, hand-wringing and loss as the wider DC Universe comes to terms with Superman’s sacrifice, and boy do we get to hear about it at length, even down to Presidential eulogies. While the later stories that sprung from The Death of Superman have some intrigue and originality about them, there’s only the start of that in this melodramatic wallowing. The sample page is written by Jerry Ordway (art by Tom Grummett) and is indicative of the overall tone.
The better sequences are short rather than entire chapters, and tend to move the spotlight away from assorted mourners. The best chapter overall is by Dan Jurgens, who sets three interesting plots in motion. Having the Justice League sift through Superman’s correspondence is both amusing and touching, the guilt of someone involved with Superman before he died has a believable quality, and those who know Superman’s civilian identity discuss if this should be revealed to the wider world. Jurgens ends on a suitably sinister note with an event that will have later consequences.
What’s apparent from this collection is why the comic is titled Superman rather than Lois Lane or Ma and Pa Kent. They’re not strong enough to carry a superhero title on their own, and neither are the likes of Guardian and Gangbuster, and all too many pages feature characters we don’t really care about. The other main plot concerns Superman’s corpse being abducted, and the subsequent struggle to locate him. It’s somewhat distasteful, but in order for the mysteries of the following book to work this set-up is needed.
The art is extremely variable. Out of context you’d barely recognise Jon Bogdanove’s versions of Bill and Hilary Clinton, and while Jurgens is good, much of the remainder is average. Both writing style and art are very much embedded in their era, and without a really strong plot to pull them above it World Without a Superman isn’t essential 21st century reading. Skip to Reign of the Supermen. In 2016 DC issued a revised version with extra content titled Funeral For a Friend. Most of it is also found in The Death and Return of Superman Omnibus.