Following on from last year’s animated retelling of the famed Death of Superman tale, now comes the hotly anticipated follow-up effort that picks up the action six months after the Man of Steel’s demise.
By now, you’re most likely familiar with the aforementioned Death of Superman story. Initially a comic book that ran from late-1992 across 1993, the story has since been adapted as a previous animated movie back in 2007 and was then pulled from for elements of 2016’s Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. Having battled the unrelenting, unstoppable Doomsday to the death, the Man of Steel (Jerry O’Connell) is no more; his prone body left lying under a pile of rubble as a sobbing Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn) cradles her fallen beau. Now while you may know that iconic story, you may not be all that familiar with what followed across the pages of DC Comics once the Big Blue Boy Scout had kicked the bucket. Well, Sam Liu – director of All-Star Superman, Batman: The Killing Joke, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, The Death of Superman, and so many, many more DC-driven releases – is here to showcase that fallout, both pulling from the source material and also putting a skew on proceedings that make the story fit within the confines of the DC Animated Movie Universe.
As mentioned, Reign of the Supermen opens up six months after Kal-El’s death. In that time, the world in general has gone to the dogs, with Superman’s Justice League colleagues stretched thin after losing their most powerful presence. But wait, what’s that on the horizon? Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s Superman! Well, to be precise, it’s four Supermen. Fresh on the scene, we have the Lex Luthor-created teenage clone, Superboy (Cameron Monaghan); the armour-adorned Steel (Cress Williams); the clinical but massively effective Eradictor (Charles Halford); and then the “is it really him?” Cyborg Superman (Jerry O’Connell/Patrick Fabian) that appears to be the real Man of Tomorrow back from his apparent grave.
While The Death of Superman served to highlight the emotion of its titular hero's demise and the aftereffects felt by those closest to Supes, here we have a different sort of film entirely. Instead, Reign of the Supermen plays almost as a mystery movie of sorts; the mystery in question being whether in fact any of these new Super-sorts really are Superman, and then just which of them can be truly trusted. Luckily for all involved, legendary reporter Lois Lane is on hand to get to the bottom of this.
To properly elaborate on what works and doesn’t work about Reign of the Supermen would be to veer towards spoiler territory, both for this picture and for the original comic arc. For those of you familiar with how the source material plays out, some of the suspense will obviously be lost here. That said, Sam Liu and his team have managed to construct a movie that follows the basic fundamentals of the comics yet manages to put interesting new spins on the story that make this follow-up picture a fresh, unique beast all of its own. As for those for whom this movie and its predecessor are their first encounters with this story, there’ll be engaged from start to finish in this latest DCAMU offering.
Here, the action is electric, the narrative constantly engaging, and the performances hitting the perfect beats for what is needed, particularly where the four new Supermen are concerned as we see those characters fleshed out and established. The star of the show is Rebecca Romijn's turn as Lois, with her serving as the emotional core of the picture, but Rainn Wilson's Lex Luthor often threatens to steal the movie by the sheer magnetism of his performance when on-screen. Likewise, Cameron Monaghan - likely best known as Gotham's Jerome/Jeremiah - is another who impresses, with him delivering a multi-faceted performance as Lex's built-in-a-lab Superboy. Elsewhere, Frederick Weidmann's score is the perfect accompaniment to the tale that we see unravel before our eyes; Weidmann managing to brilliantly capture the otherworldly nature of some of the film's locales, while never being afraid to offer up a powerful battle cry of a song when the action calls for the ante to be upped.
In terms of bonus material, as is ever the case with DCAMU releases, there’s plenty here for viewers to sink their teeth into. While the classic Superman: The Animated Series and Justice League Unlimited episodes may be the initial standouts, it’s the sneak peek at the upcoming Justice League vs. The Fatal Five that is the most must-see out of the extras included here. That impending release has maybe snuck under the radar of many, but this preview piece positions the film as something that could be a very special movie indeed.
All in, Reign of the Supermen is yet again another impressive release for the ever-expanding DC Animated Movie Universe that was brought to life following 2013’s Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox, and we can’t wait to see what lies ahead for DC’s Finest – especially given how Reign of the Supermen seems to be setting up a monumental shift in the very foundations of this world by the time the feature (and its credits...) comes to a close.
Special Features: Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis featurette / Justice League vs. The Fatal Five sneak peek / From the DC Vault, Superman: The Animated Series ‘Heavy Metal’ and Justice League Unlimited ‘Panic in the Sky’ / Trailers
REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: SAM LIU / SCREENPLAY: JAMES KRIEG, TIM SHERIDAN / STARRING: JERRY O’CONNELL, REBECCA ROMIJN, RAINN WILSON, PATRICK FABIAN, CHARLES HALFORD, CAMERON MONAGHAN, CRESS WILLIAMS, ROSARIO DAWSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW (DIGITAL), JANUARY 28TH (BLU-RAY/DVD)