Warning: This story spoils plot elements from Superman Vol. 3 No. 52 and DC Universe: Rebirth. You have been warned.
Rest in Peace, Man of Steel.
Despite the suspicions of many fans, the final chapter of the eight-part storyline “The Final Days of Superman” didn’t reveal any last-minute turnaround for Clark Kent’s alter ego in his fight against Kryptonite poisoning; after a final battle with a man who believed that he was actually Kal-El from Krypton, Superman died, surrounded by his Justice League colleagues Batman and Wonder Woman, as well as longtime friends Lana Lang and Lois Lane.
The demise of the hero is surprisingly final, in terms of comic book deaths; the fact that he essentially implodes, leaving behind only a pile of ashes, precludes hopes for a traditional resurrection. Unlike his previous high profile death — in 1992’s Superman Vol. 2 No. 75 — there’s no chance that it will later be revealed that he was actually just in a state of stasis as his body recovered from injury, instead of really being dead. (The character also died at the end of this year’s Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, although the movie finishes with a strong hint that he will return.)
This doesn’t mean that the “never-ending battle” has finished, however; June sees the launch of a new Superman comic book series, as well as the relaunch of Action Comics, the character’s second ongoing comic book title. Both of these titles will feature Superman — just a different Superman, who is older, married to Lois Lane and comes from an alternate timeline that no longer exists.
(At least, that’s been the status quo since the character’s introduction into DC’s primary timeline in 2015’s Superman: Lois and Clark mini-series; in DC Universe: Rebirth, it’s suggested that might not be the case. “You and your family are not what you believe you are,” the second Superman is told. “And neither was the fallen Superman.” What that means has yet to be revealed.)
It should also be noted that Superman’s final implosion had one last-minute side effect: both Lois Lane and Lana Lang were struck by energy exploding from his body as he died. Solicitations for August’s Superwoman No. 1 reveal that Lois Lane has Superman’s powers as a result of the zap, but that she’s also dying as a result. As for Lana … ? Well, that remains a mystery for now.
The changes in the Superman mythology come as DC Entertainment launches Rebirth, a line-wide overhaul of its superhero line spearheaded by CCO Geoff Johns. June’s relaunches of Superman and Action Comics will be accompanied in later months by new comic book series Superwoman, New Super-Man (centering on a Chinese hero with the powers of the Man of Steel), Supergirl and Super-Sons, which will star Jon Kent, the son of Superman alongside Damian Wayne, the son of Batman.