Review by Frank Plowright
In 1995, four years after their landmark Death of Superman story, DC pulled a variation on that trick, and seeing as this is the era of Clark Kent with a pony tail and Superman with a mullet there’s a good case to be made for it being a mercy killing.
As with other Superman graphic novels reprinting work from the 1990s, this is a collective effort from different creative teams following an overall plotline, since at the time Superman stories spread across four different titles, in effect producing a weekly Superman comic. Around two years worth of continuity following The Return of Superman remains consigned to the back issue bins, never reprinted in book form. Leading up to this content Kent has written a controversial novel and revealed his dual identity to Lois Lane, Perry and Alice White have adopted a child, and a childhood friend of Kent’s has become a super villain who radiates kryptonite, and calls himself Conduit.
Unlike when Superman died, there’s no real attempt to pull the wool over readers’ eyes. In a well written sequence by Dan Jurgens, Superman explains how, contrary to the perception of most comic readers, he considers Clark Kent his real identity and Superman to be the disguise, while Kent was also a shield to protect those he loves from Superman’s enemies. As those loved ones are all targeted, Kent’s continued existence will be defined by Superman instead. So what’s the solution? It’s there in the title, and comes early in this collection.
While the writing continuity is tightly connected, the varying artistic styles are conflicting, with Jon Bogdanove well below the prevailing standard. His layouts are fine, but his figures distorted into sometimes grotesque positions. Compared with the slick superhero art of Tom Grummett or Jurgens (sample page), the elegance of Stuart Immonen and the pseudo-realism employed by Jackson Guice, Bogdanove is very much the poor relation. It’s also nice to see Gil Kane illustrating, although often in the form of figure and facial studies than action storytelling.
For all the decent art, The Death of Clark Kent never convinces. Conduit’s nigh infinite resources appear all too convenient, it takes some fanciful turns, and despite the danger to his closest friends and parents, would Superman really just choose to throw in the towel? It’s hardly the heroic choice given the power he has. There are a couple of pep talk chapters, and the second, toward the end, by Karl Kesel and Immonen is among the book’s highlights, setting the tone exactly right via a reunion. The final chapter returns Lex Luthor, who’d been temporarily thwarted by death.
A few more issues of the monthly comics are given the bum’s rush before the Superman continuity picks up in graphic novel form again with The Trial of Superman.