It feels like it was just yesterday that we saw Superman make the ultimate sacrifice to save Metropolis in The Death of Superman. Now, Reign of the Supermen, the movie’s sequel, lands in stores. It’s the continuation of the iconic 1992 storyline that features not one, not two, but FOUR Supermen. For fans of the Man of Steel, it really can’t get much better than that!
Reign of the Supermen takes place six months after Superman’s death. Although the hero himself is still presumed to be dead, four new Supermen rise to the occasion and protect Metropolis in his absence. They are all unique in their own ways and have different motivations as they attempt to fill the void left by Superman’s death.
These heroes consist of Superboy (a comical teen clone made partly from Superman’s DNA), Steel (an armored hero who wields a steel hammer and fights with the same brand of justice as Superman once did), the Eradicator (who closely resembles Superman and shares the same abilities, but lacks his empathy and humanity) and Cyborg Superman (the most prominent of them all, claiming to be the Man of Steel reborn).
Each of them heroically wear the Superman emblem across their chests, which naturally leaves us questioning who the real Superman is. The central focus of the film lies within solving this mystery, which Lois Lane takes upon herself.
As all of this happens, a deadly threat targets Earth that not even the remaining members of the Justice League can handle, and revelations emerge leading us to believe that not all of the Supermen have good intentions.
Prior to watching the movie, I’ll admit that I wasn’t completely familiar with the “Reign of the Supermen” part of the comic book storyline, so this movie actually managed to shock me more than the first, simply because I didn’t know what was coming. I was honestly pretty shook when certain details emerged about one of the Supermen, and how closely it ties in with a seemingly minuscule cameo in The Death of Superman.
Supers aside, though, I really want to emphasize how Lois Lane and Lex Luthor play an integral role in this film. They may not get title treatment, but they’re every bit as important as the four Supermen.
Imagine having your boyfriend tragically die in your arms and having to be reminded of him almost every single waking moment of your life. That’s pretty rough, and it’s exactly what Lois Lane has experienced every day since Clark’s death.
Of course, Lois has always been so much more than Superman’s love interest. She’s persistent and determined to expose the truth through her thriving journalism career. She boldly walks toward, not away from danger. Much of Reign of the Supermen follows her experience in seeking the truth about the Supermen. Several of the movie’s many action sequences even have her fighting back during life-threatening moments, as if we needed her to be even more admirable and badass.
With Superman gone, its obvious that Lex Luthor would try to capitalize on his absence in whatever way he possibly can. If he can’t be Superman, why not own a Superman? While I usually wouldn’t support anything Lex Luthor does, some good came out of him genetically engineering Superboy. Conner Kent is easily the movie’s most light-hearted character, and brings plenty of much needed comic relief to the film’s more serious scenes. Hopefully, he has a long future ahead of him in upcoming DC Universe animated movies.
Strangely enough, Lex Luthor is a lot more likable in Reign of the Supermen than he was in The Death of Superman. Don’t get me wrong, he’s still an asshole, but it’s funny because he’s helping and finally doing some good…while still acting like a total jerk most of the time. I found myself really rooting for him at times, but still being a little skeptical because, you know, its him. But with his contributions in this story, it feels safe to say that Lex might’ve just proved himself enough to play a pretty major role alongside the Justice League down the line.
Reign of the Supermen marks the end of the current animated universe’s “Death and Return of Superman” adaptation. Those who are familiar with the comics will be happy to know that a special someone does make an appearance before the end, sporting some familiar long hair and a gnarly black suit.
This leads directly to my final point. One thing that Reign of the Supermen makes clear is that no matter how many super-powered beings may try to take Superman’s place, no one can ever truly replace him. There is and will only ever be one Superman, the one we all know and love. Reign of the Supermen really does stand as a love letter to the Man of Steel, despite the fact that it focuses on everyone in Metropolis but him. Ultimately, it demonstrates that people can be inspired by him to do good, but they’ll never truly be able to fill his red and blue suit. And that’s not a bad thing, as characters like Superboy and Steel prove. They can feed on that desire to live their lives as he lived his to become their own heroes.
For what it’s worth, while the movies do stand alone pretty well, I highly recommend watching Reign of the Supermen back-to-back with The Death of Superman together in one sitting. It makes a pretty spectacular experience for Superman fans and offers a welcome reminder of how rich the Man of Steel’s comic book history is. Also, make sure to stick around for the post-credits scene at the end!
Lissete Gonzalez writes about film, TV and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to Couch Club, our weekly television column. Look for her on Twitter at @lissete74.