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The ’90s Revisited: Superman – Dead Again!


deadagain_supermanthemanofsteel038Over the past several weeks, I’ve been reading/rereading complete stories rather than “just” single issues here or there that aren’t connected directly to one another by story or series.

The latest instance comes from issues I picked up recently at a sale (Carol and John’s Not At ComicCon 2015 sale). Finding they had a good stock of mid-’90s Superman books–ALL FIVE TITLES–allowed me finally to in one single purchase get the entirety of the Dead Again! arc (which either has not ever been reprinted in collected volume, or at least I do not have said volume). This purchase saved me the hassle of moving then replacing a dozen-some longboxes in a confined space to pull hardly a dozen issues, where I would then have to move and replace the boxes again after reading.

deadagain_superman094Despite seeing issues from this arc here and there over the past several months/years and being interested in re-reading the story in its entirety…it wasn’t until Michael Bailey and Jeffrey Taylor began their coverage of the story on their From Crisis to Crisis podcast that my interest was heightened to the point of action…which combined nicely with the well-timed opportunity of getting the issues and the time to actually read the entirety of the 11-issue arc in two days.

I actually can’t remember the last time I sat down and re-read more than one or two Superman issues in a row, let alone an entire cover-branded storyline like this from the ’90s Superman books. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience, and may next look to The Trial of Superman.

deadagain_adventuresofsuperman517I never noticed it as a kid when I originally read this some 20 years ago, but the issues do not line up 100% going from issue to issue the way they probably would if this was being published in 2015. Each issue ends on a some level of cliffhanger/dramatic moment–setting the stage for the next chapter–but then that next chapter didn’t often seem to pick up from the exact same moment. Additionally, some of the narratives of individual chapters would be different stylistically…some straight-forward, others picking up “later” and then flashing back to fill the reader in, then continuing on.

The art is also all over the place throughout the arc, and reading it all at once, I noticed the differences from book to book in a way I never had before.

deadagain_actioncomics704All of this is not unexpected, given the multiple titles and creative teams. I rarely went back to re-read issues week-to-week as the issues were coming out, and having a week between issues I don’t recall comparing the visuals to each other all that much…though even back then I’d noticed a personal preference for the art in the Superman title.

Dead Again! begins with characters reacting to the fact that a body–one that APPEARS to be the genuine Superman’s–is found in what should have been an EMPTY tomb. The tomb/room had been damaged in a fight between the current/live Superman and new villain Conduit. Various tests seem to confirm the body as being genuine, leading our active Superman to seek out villains that might be responsible for trickery…after all, he remembers coming back from the dead, being Clark Kent, etc. Other characters react in differing ways–Lois believing him to be genuine, while other characters aren’t so sure (and don’t have Lois’ “insight” into Superman’s genuinity).

deadagain_supermanthemanofsteel039Across the arc, Superman’s search involves Conduit, a new villain named Death Trap, the Eradicator and the Outsiders, STAR Labs, Atom, the New Gods on New Genesis, Darkseid on Apokalips, Mr. Mxyzptlk, the Metropolis SCU, hallucinations, and finally the ultimate villain of the piece (despite seemingly being ruled out on New Genesis) Brainiac himself.

Over the course of the story, we see Superman growing increasingly irrational as the situation drives him closer to sheer madness, as the supporting cast gets more concerned about him and his mental state. We also have a significant subplot as a young orphan–Keith–finds and loses his mother while gaining new foster parents in Perry and Alice White. We see the majority of Superman’s rogues gallery, and generally see questions raised and answered regarding whether or not there could have been–if this is–another “imposter” Superman…the possibility that Superman himself, the true Superman might never have actually been resurrected.

deadagain_superman095While I don’t recall this story getting any serious media attention and it does seem largely a footnote in the entirety of the ’90s Superman…this is a pretty significant arc, and an interesting follow-up to stuff. After the Death and Return of Superman “trilogy,” there were a number of smaller arcs and the overall continuing story/”Never Ending Battle” of the multiple titles collectively telling a weekly story…but this seems to be the largest singular story since Superman’s return, and paved the way for the likes of The Death of Clark Kent and The Trial of Superman, as well as (eventually) a number of other several-month arcs that punctuated the ongoing saga.

And this is definitely well worth the read if you get a chance!


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