Adapting the entirety of the arc of the Death, Reign and Return of Superman was always a heavy ambition for DC and it’s a shame that they never quite get it just right when it comes to putting it on the small screen. I loved “The Death of Superman.” And while I thought “Reign of the Supermen” was a pretty damn good movie all in all, it suffers from a lot of the major flaws most DC animated movies do. It rushes through so much important exposition, and doesn’t give its four main characters enough screen time to warrant caring a lot about them, or even rooting for them for that matter. When all is said and done, “Reign of the Supermen” is a very good follow up to “The Death of Superman” with some great action set pieces, and wonderful animation.
Six months after Superman sacrificed himself for Planet Earth and took down the unstoppable alien known as Doomsday. Now with Earth realizing how much they needed Superman, and the Justice League spread thin, suddenly four mysterious super beings arrive. A Steel Superman, A young Superman, a violent Alien Superman, and a part cyborg Superman emerge, all resembling Superman in some form. Claiming to be Superman they are prepared to defend Metropolis. As Lois Lane begins investigating the four separate heroes vying for the mantle of Man of Steel, she begins to uncover a plot involving clones, a secret threat waiting in the wings, and the intentions behind all four pseudo-Supermen. Can someone step forward to help Earth in its time of need?
“Reign of the Supermen” breezes through the intriguing four supermen well, giving the spotlight to the fascinating heroes, all of whom have their own goals for calling themselves Superman. DC and Warner even find time to have fun with the casting of the four superheroes, casting Cress Williams as the noble Steel, Cameron Monaghan as Superboy, and Charles Halford as Eradicator Superman. The voice cast is top notch as the original with Rainn Willson giving a great portrayal of a brilliant and occasionally slimy Lex Luthor, while Rebecca Romjin is very good as Lois once again. What’s important is that “Reign of the Supermen” keeps true to so much of what makes the Reign of Supermen storyline so intriguing. It’s the idea that all four supermen represent various qualities of what makes Superman so great.
Steel is Superman’s nobility and self sacrifice, Eradicator is Superman’s cold, remorseless thirst for justice, Superboy is the confused outsider looking for a direction element of Superman, while Cyborg is the alien element. That said I wish DC would have stalled “Reign of the Supermen” for a little while and used a second part of the tale to explore what a world without Superman is like. Although we do get some looks at that prospect, I would have loved to see the chapter of the saga where people stepped in to try to fill the void Superman left, including Bibbo, et al. For fans that loved how much “The Death of Superman” held true to the original source material, “Reign of The Supermen” is a very loose adaptation of the original narrative (there’s no Supergirl or Mongul).
The writers even change up a lot of motivations for the characters, including Cyborg Superman who is less megalomaniacal and much more of a tragic villain. There’s also the introduction of a famed DC nemesis that seems to be included just because, which tends to feel sloppy on the writers’ parts. There’s also a lot less focus on Steel than I would have liked. Considering the writers pay so much time to the trio of Supermen, Steel deserved a lot more exposition and clearer looks at his heroic motivations and why he felt he owed Superman. In either case, “Reign of the Supermen” has its flaws, but it’s a fun, action packed, and well acted sequel. I hope we get more Superman features down the line from DC Animated.