DC’s “Final Days of Superman” crossover is now six chapters in, and the verdict is still pretty much the same. This arc features some of the strongest Superman characterization we’ve seen from the New 52. Ironically, it took dying for this Clark Kent to finally and consistently start reading like the hero he should be. But where the characterization has been strong, the plot has proved lacking. Too many issues have felt aimless and plodding, as if setting up the various DC Rebirth titles is more important than actually exploring the significance of Superman’s impending death. There’s little sign this approach will change before the end.
This particular chapter offers a key moment in the crossover, and arguably the most significant development in the Superman franchise since the Man of Steel lost his powers and identity last year. For the first time, the New 52 Superman and the pre-Flashpoint Superman are crossing paths. It’s a huge development, and one that that deserves far more attention than it receives here. The book tends to chug along as it transitions from the recent China field trip and the focus shifts back to the glowing, impostor Superman who has been stirring up trouble back home. Frankly, there are too many Supermen clogging up these pages. It dilutes the significance of having the two established Supermen meet for the first time if they’re simultaneously dealing with their doppelgangers. This entire crossover is starting to feel a little too reminiscent of the “reign of the Supermen” storyline.
But again, Tomasi’s characterization makes this arc worth reading despite the storytelling missteps. It probably goes without saying that if Tomasi can write a New 52 Superman who falls more in line with his classic self, he can also do right by the actual pre-Flashpoint Superman. Tomasi does a great job of exploring the family dynamic among Clark, Lois and their son as their happy domestic life is torn apart. This issue is probably the best indicator so far of what to expect from Tomasi’s upcoming Superman series, given that these are the characters he’ll be focusing on. Tomasi also finds success in further exploring the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman trinity, though Batman has some weird, off-kilter moments as he whines about his “failure” in China.
This crossover has featured a who’s who of talented DC artists. Even with Dale Eaglesham and Scott Eaton sharing art duties on this issue, the general high standard of visual quality remains. If this issue proves anything, it’s that Eaglesham needs to be drawing an ongoing Superman project. The two artists have similar storytelling sensibilities despite some obvious differences in anatomy and approach to figure work. Colorist Tomeu Morey also helps to maintain a sense of visual consistency in the switch from Eaton’s pages to Eaglesham’s. The colors are also every bit as essential as the pencils in terms of conveying Superman’s increasingly dire physical state.
At this point “The Final Days of Superman” will go down in history as a flawed crossover at best. In some ways, it’s just the shot in the arm this franchise needed. In other ways, it suffers from the same problem so many Superman crossover have in the past – poor pacing and too much exposition among them. Still, there’s enough that works in this issue to suggest that Tomasi is the right creator to take over the relaunched Superman comic this summer.