I think it’s time to give Superman a little love before September. What’s funny is that the trade I’ll be looking at today doesn’t feature Superman in any major capacity. For those who don’t know, World Without A Superman was the second part of the Death/Return of Superman storyline from the 1990’s. That part of the storyline was actually called “Funeral For A Friend.” In other words, Superman has gone on to be with “The Almighty Rao.” I mean, he is Kryptonian after all. I looked at the Death trade last September and while I did have some issues with it, I did like it.
Next up is this storyline that continues from the moments after Superman’s bout with Doomsday. The issues in it are Superman #76-77, The Adventures of Superman #498-500, Superman: The Man of Steel #20-21, and Action Comics #685-686. It also contains a couple of short stories from a one-shot called Legacy of Superman. The creative team is more or less the same. The only differences is that one of the short stories is written by Karl Kesel and drawn by Walt Simonson.
World Without A Superman
Writers: Dan Jurgens, Jerry Ordway, Louise Simonson, Jerry Ordway, and Karl Kesel
Pencillers: Dan Jurgens, Tom Grummett, John Bogdanove, Jackson Guice, and Walt Simonson
Inkers: Brett Breeding, Trevor Scott, Walt Simonson, Doug Hazelwood, Dennis Janke, and Denis Rodier
Letterers: John Constanza, Bill Oakley, Albert DeGuzman, and John Workman
We pick up right after the fight between Superman and Doomsday. Both combatants are down. While Doomsday is revealed to be dead, paramedics and even Prof. Emil Hamilton do their best to revive Superman. Unfortunately, it’s already too late since Superman is too far gone. While Lois and the rest of the supporting cast mourn, rights for access to Superman’s body get brought up. Cadmus (mostly Paul Westfield) wants Superman’s body and they even have Doomsday’s dead body too. Because of this, a spat breaks out between Cadmus and Metropolis’s Special Crimes Unit (SCU). It gets broken up by Supergirl and Team Luthor. The White House has also sent over papers claiming Superman’s American status so he can get a decent burial.
Meanwhile, everyone is mourning the loss of Superman. The ones who aren’t mourning his death are locked up in prison. While he has passed, Metropolis still has protectors from heroes like Supergirl and the Guardian. A couple of days later, the funeral is held and it is heavily publicized. Lex Luthor II was able to get this big event set up and he even had a statue of Superman created to be placed at Centennial Park. A lot of the heroes come out to support the thing and even President Bill Clinton himself shows up to the funeral. Lois is reluctant to go, but she does anyway. The Kents don’t attend but they do their own sort of memorial at the site where Clark’s ship crashed. A little spat involving a promoter named Rex Leech does interrupt the processions for a bit, but the funeral ends up turning out well.
Pay no attention to the blond Wonder Woman... someone messed that up!
Afterwards, the heroes who attended the funeral decide to honor Superman by reading letters sent to him and fulfilling the wishes of the senders as best they can. Meanwhile, Mitch, the boy whose house was wrecked by Doomsday, comes to Metropolis to apologize for Superman’s death. He almost goes to see a woman who claims to be Superman’s wife, but he luckily runs into Jimmy and Bibbo who talk to him. Also, the Kents and Lana come to Metropolis to check up on Lois and they mourn together.
Things start to heat up when Cadmus (led by Director Westfield) dig under Superman’s tomb and steal his body. Luthor sends Supergirl to see what happened and Dan Turpin of the SCU also gets involved. They both head underground and run into the Underworlders, a group of outcast mutants. A fight breaks out and ends when bombs placed by Cadmus go off. Later, the SCU and Luthor investigate the caves and this causes another bomb to go off and cause flooding. They decide to keep the theft a secret in order to not cause any mayhem. At Cadmus, The Guardian is upset with Westfield over the theft. It’s decided that Superman’s body will be studied but under other doctors, not Westfield. Also, the Kents and Lana leave Metropolis and say their goodbyes to Lois.
As the floods get worse, Lois is sent to investigate them. It’s there where she finds out about the theft. With the help of the Underworlders and the Newsboys Legion, she’s able to sneak into Cadmus and see Superman’s body. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to take it with her. Afterwards, she publishes a story in the Daily Planet about Superman’s body being stolen. While this story does help in getting Superman’s body back, it also has the effect of making Jonathan Kent (who wasn’t feeling well already) have a heart attack. Lois takes a plane down to Smallville after she got the news. Jonathan gets taken to the hospital and he ends up flatlining and going into coma.
Jonathan then enters into a realm where he sees Clark being taken away. He tries to stop it but gets stopped by hooded spirits. It takes a while, but he is able to talk Clark out going into that bright light. Both Jonathan and Clark head into some portal that is supposed to lead to the land of the living. Pa comes out of his coma claiming Clark’s back. Lois heads back to Metropolis and hears reports of “Superman” saving folk. The trade ends as she and Inspector Henderson head back to Superman’s tomb to find it empty.
If the synopsis feels a bit brief, that’s because a bunch of stuff happens and I just need to hit the essentials. I thought this was a pretty good read. While the first trade hit us with repetitive action, this one hits us with a lot of characters mourning over Superman’s death. While we do get some good action scenes, the main bulk of the trade looks at a lot of the people in Clark’s life. We see how his death affects everyone like Lois, the Kents, other supporting characters, some heroes, and even some villains. It’s all handled quite well. There are a lot of nice moments involving these characters. I especially like the stuff surrounding Cadmus stealing Superman’s body and Jonathan Kent’s near-death experience with Clark.
The artwork is pretty good as well. I don’t have many as many qualms as I did last time. Of course, Jurgens and Grummett kick it out of the park with some good artwork. I even enjoyed Guice’s and Bogdanove’s stuff this time around. You might get some wonky images here and there, but it’s all good this time. Walt Simonson’s part of the trade was okay for me. I’ve never really seen his stuff and I’m not too impressed with the artwork for that story.
I really don’t have many issues with the trade. The dialogue can be a chore to sit through sometimes. There were a couple of things that could have been fleshed out more like the situation with Mitch’s family. I also wonder why most short stories from Legacy of Superman as well as a Justice League tie-in were left out of the trade. For those who don’t know, the one-shot featured stories about Gangbuster, Thorn, Sinbad (not this one), Waverider, and the Newsboys Legion. While the last two were included, the other three weren’t. I guess that was done because those stories don’t touch on the situation with Superman’s death or the whole situation with his body. I do wish the Gangbuster story was kept in since the character was featured in the main Superman books.
Overall, this was a nice read. It may be light on Superman doing his thing, but that’s not a bad thing. It looks at Superman’s family and friends at a really tough time. You might shed tears even though I didn’t… okay, I might have made a sad face at a few moments. Check it out if you haven’t. If you want a more in-depth look at the storyline, check out From Crisis To Crisis: A Superman Podcast. I can’t plug that podcast enough. Well, I’m out. I need to prepare for next month and it’s going to be interesting. Peace, God Bless, and let Lex Luthor beat you at martial arts. Your life might depend on it.