Countdown to Doomsday!
Superman #74; Triangle Number 1992 – 46
Writer and Penciler: Dan Jurgens; Inker: Brett Breeding; Colorist: Glenn Whitmore; Letterer: John Costanza
Superman opens right where Justice League America left off, with the Justice League in shambles. Beetle is comatose; Fire, Guy and Bloodwynd are all out cold; Booster is halfway to Pennsylvania. Only Maxima and Ice are left standing, and Beetle needs immediate medical attention that Ice has to convince Maxima to get him to. In the meantime, Ice rushes off to try to save whatever civilians she can from the monster’s path.
This is where the tie between the two Jurgens issues gets stronger and makes the whole story better as a whole, because one of the kids who had been watching the interview on TV is now headed to his home right in the way of Doomsday’s path. This is where Jurgens takes this story, that is nothing more than a seven issue beat to get us to the actual death, and makes it into something character driven. In just two and a half pages, Jurgens adds depth to the whole story by introducing this struggling suburban family. He gives them a nuance that readers can connect with. It’s a single mom, recently left by her husband, trying her very best to raise two children. This family feels real and human, and putting them directly in the center of the monster’s rampage gives the reader someone to be scared for and someone for Superman to be there to defend.
Even after Superman arrives, there are still cuts to the family, watching their lives evaporate before them. It also establishes Mitch’s disdain for Superman in favor of the more brash Guy Gardner. Looking back on it, Mitch seems to be a clear stand-in for the 1992 standard comics fan. The fan who preferred books like Venom and Spawn to that of the Superman line. This kind of fan was prevalent, as while the Superman books were consistently good, they weren’t really top sellers by any means. Many fans thought him to be too old fashioned, too goody two-shoes, too powerful. But this single story set to change the perception around the character, not by changing who he was, but by highlighting it. Superman is great because he is that paragon of good, not in spite of it.
Much like Schubert on the issue before, John Costanza just consistently delivers fantastic lettering and sound effects throughout the issue. His effects are a bit more rough around the edges and a bit more kinetic, really helping to sell the scope of the fight. Even with the combined might of the Justice League and Superman are not enough to take down Doomsday, and in fact their combined efforts only free his other arm.
As Doomsday leaps away content with the destruction he has wreaked, Superman goes to follow, leaving the downed League and the family behind as the remains of the home that once stood there burns. Mitch looks around and realizes the entire League is incapacitated before screaming for the one hero he hates to return to save him and his family.
As Superman catches up to Doomsday he hears Mitch’s pleas, and has to weigh the impossible decision of saving the one family, or saving the people that Doomsday might hurt next. The issue ends with him continuing pursuit as much as he hurts to hear pleas he can’t answer. It’s such a good moment of Superman having to weigh who he can and cannot save, and that kind of struggle is the basis of a great Superman story.