There’s one foe that even the greatest of our heroes can’t defeat—death. In “The Final Days of Superman,” the Man of Steel discovers that he’s dying and sets out to make sure that his friends, fellow heroes and the planet as a whole are prepared for a world without Superman. Written by Peter J. Tomasi and drawn by a stable of top-tier artists including Mikel Janin, Doug Mahnke, Paul Pelletier and Ed Benes, it’s a powerful, emotional storyline that closes the book on one era of Superman before Rebirth launches a thrilling new one.
This week, “The Final Days of Superman” hit its midway point with SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN #28, but if you haven’t been reading and are worried that it’s too late to hop on board—worry no more. We’re here to recap the events of each issue so far, getting you up to speed and ready for Part Five next Wednesday in BATMAN/SUPERMAN #32.
To note, this will be a general recap, briefly summarizing the important story beats of each issue. We still want you to read the issues, so we’re not going to be covering every single detail. However, we are going to be spoiling a bunch of things, so let’s just leave this right here, shall we?
Are we good? You still here? Last chance to bail out…
Okay, let’s recap “The Final Days of Superman.”
Part One: This Mortal Coil
SUPERMAN #51 by Peter J. Tomasi and Mikel Janin
Superman discovers that due to the effects of three different events—his time in the fire pits of Apokolips in JUSTICE LEAGUE, his kryptonite chemotherapy in SUPERMAN and his battle with Rao in JUSTICE LEAGUE OF AMERICA—he’s dying and there is no cure. He’s understandably angry, but rather than dwelling, he sets out to tell the people he’s close to and make sure that his fellow heroes are prepared to fill the void that will be left after he’s gone. First to learn is his oldest friend, Lana Lang, who promises to make sure he’s buried next to his human parents, Jonathan and Martha Kent.
Meanwhile, we discover that in China, someone known as Doctor Omen is attempting to hack into the server at the Fortress of Solitude, while in an event that may or may not be related, an unidentified, flaming object crashes into a former convict and parole violator who emerges engulfed in flame and energy, claiming to be Superman. The issue ends with the real Superman visiting Lois Lane and telling her that he wants her to tell the world about the life of Clark Kent and Superman.
Unforgettable Moment: There are many in this debut issue, but we have to go with the image of Clark pushing Lana on her swing set—a brief moment of happiness before he tells her the bad news.
Part Two: Dark Discovery
BATMAN/SUPERMAN #31 by Peter J. Tomasi, Doug Mahnke, Jaime Mendoza and Wil Quintana
Superman heads to Gotham to both tell Batman and ask a favor—he needs Bruce’s help tracking down Supergirl, whom he’s had a hard time locating. Batman asks Clark what he’s doing to figure out a cure, refusing to accept that it could be terminal. (After all, as he reminds Superman, “I brought Damian back from the dark.”) Ultimately, Superman assures him that he’s tried everything, there is nothing to be done and he has made his peace with it. Bruce promises to help him find Kara.
Meanwhile, the fiery, faux Superman from Part One is seen rescuing people from a burning building and seems a little puzzled when Jimmy Olsen doesn’t recognize him. He flies away from the burning building, but falls unexpectedly, crashing into a boy’s rooftop pigeon coop. No longer resembling Superman and looking once again like the parolee, he gets angry at the boy when the boy tells him he owes him money for wrecking his coop, throwing him off the roof. However, with a jolt of energy he transforms again into the faux Superman and saves the boy before he hits the ground, leaving the boy on the roof puzzled.
Batman meets up on a Gotham City rooftop with Superman, letting him know that he’s found Supergirl and that she’s in National City. However, no sooner does he do this than they’re both attacked by four Mandarin-speaking animals of the Chinese Zodiac. When they’re defeated by Batman and Superman, three of the animals implode, while the final, still-living one teleports elsewhere, leaving Superman with plenty to ponder as he makes his way to National City.
Unforgettable Moment: After Superman’s left the Batcave, the usually stoic Bruce punches a monitor at his computer as Alfred looks on, saying nothing. The moment says mountains about their relationship and how Bruce feels about Clark.
Part Three: Dazed and Confused
ACTION COMICS #51 by Peter J. Tomasi, Paul Pelletier, Sandra Hope Archer and Tomeu Morey
Superman finds Supergirl and rescues her from what he thinks is imprisonment at the Department of Extra-Normal Operations (DEO). However, it turns out that Supergirl was there willingly. Her powers were leeched along with the Justice League’s during their recent battle with Vandal Savage, but she hasn’t yet recovered. The DEO offered to help keep her safe and jump-start her powers in exchange for her help every now and again, but the power renewals haven’t been working, restoring her abilities for only a short time before she loses them again.
We then journey back to China, to the lab of Doctor Omen where it’s revealed that Batman and Superman’s mysterious attackers were sent by her to retrieve a sample of Superman’s blood, which the surviving animal retrieved. We also look in on the story’s other “Superman” who shows up to work at the Daily Planet claiming to be Clark Kent. He now seems to have a genuine multiple personality, with his Superman persona constantly battling in his mind against his parolee persona. Ultimately, the former criminal wins out, and he attacks and kills the building security guards before being tased by Lois.
Finally, we leap back to Kal and Kara, who have traveled to the Fortress of Solitude. Kal-El tells his cousin that he wants her to consider stepping up into the role that held after he’s gone. Kara’s reluctant. She saw how quickly people turned on Superman when his identity was revealed, but Kal reminds her that it’s not about them, but the people of the world. The world’s super heroes serve as a clear example of right in a world where that’s not always so clear. Kara agrees just in time for the Fortress to receive an unexpected visitor—Wonder Woman, who demands to know when Clark was planning on telling her.
Unforgettable Moment: Seeing Clark discuss the weight and reward of heroism with his one living family member is undeniably moving, but we have to go with Lois tasing the evil fake Superman. It’s just too badass to think of doing otherwise.
Part Four: Last Kiss
SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN #28 by Peter J. Tomasi, Ed Benes and Alex Sinclair
Superman reveals to Wonder Woman that he hadn’t reached out to her because he knew that telling her would be the hardest of all and that it wasn’t going to feel truly real until he saw it in her eyes. Like Bruce, Diana has a hard time accepting it, saying that she can ask the gods for help, but Kal-El asks her to please trust him and accept that it’s not a battle he’s going to win. In response, Diana asks him if he loves her and the two share a kiss.
The moment is interrupted by the news that A.R.G.U.S. is holding someone claiming to be Superman who murdered several Daily Planet security guards, setting up the first confrontation between the real Supes and the faux one. Superman and Wonder Woman fly to Stryker’s Island where they confront the faker, who now seems to fully believe he’s the Man of Steel and Kal-El is the impostor. Superman and Wonder Woman observe that the energy coming off of his body looks exactly like Superman’s solar flare, which he first used on Ulysses (you remember, in Geoff Johns and John Romita, Jr.’s “The Men of Tomorrow” ) who is being held at the same facility.
With the faux Man of Steel getting more and more agitated at Kal-El’s presence, Superman heads downstairs to question Ulysses, asking if the solar flare had any strange effects on Ulysses’ physiology. He doesn’t get a clear answer, however. Faux Superman bursts from his cell, causing a power failure which also allows Ulysses to escape. Superman attempts to battle Ulysses, but the ailing hero is easily bested by his onetime friend. Wonder Woman fares a bit better against the faux Superman, but the strange doppelganger still manages to escape. When Diana runs down to aid Kal-El, she finds him standing alongside a grinning Ulysses who says he has no need to kill Superman since he’s already dead.
Unforgettable Moment: We gotta go with the kiss. Seeing these two heroes who have been through so much alongside each other share a moment like that stands out even amongst this chapter’s heavy action.
There you go! You’re all caught up. Now be sure to join us for the second half of “The Final Days of Superman,” which continues in BATMAN/SUPERMAN #32, ACTION COMICS #52 and SUPERMAN/WONDER WOMAN #29 before its shocking conclusion in SUPERMAN #52.
Have you been reading “The Last Days of Superman”? Let us know your thoughts, and your more unforgettable moment from the storyline in the comments below!