One of the smarter moves the DC Animated Universe did was begin to build interlocking storylines, characters, and voice artists. This has allowed them to build off previous events and let the status quo consistently evolve rather than feel static. (Amazing animation can do this far more easily and effectively than the film division.)
As a result, we are now emotionally invested in this incarnation of the classic heroes and villains, which allowed the redone Death of Superman film in 2018 work so well. This also paved the way for the sequel, Reign of the Supermen, which has received quite the promotional bump.
Out on home video today from Warner Home Entertainment, the 87-minute adventure rarely lets up and is more satisfying than previous installments. While it takes the name from the 1993 storylines that followed the Man of Steel’s death, it bears little resemblance. This is wholly set in the new framework and fits quite nicely.
As the world adjusts to the absence of Superman, four beings wearing the S-shield arrive, each claiming to be the hero reborn. As we meet the teen version, armored hero, cybernetic edition, and cold goggled killer, it’s clear none of them are the real deal. When they tussle with one another, they are betraying the Action Ace’s ideals, doing his legacy a disservice in the name of senseless violence.
But just seeing the S-shield gives others hope. For the members of the Justice League, it raises questions. And for a grieving Lois Lane (Rebecca Romjin), it makes her heart ache.
All the pieces are in place, but then we struggle with juggling four distinct Supermen, those they interact with, and what’s the real threat. In the comics, it was the arrival of Mongul, resulting in the destruction of Coast City. Here, continuing previous animated threads, it’s Darkseid (Tony Todd) and his minions (which are bordering on being overused across all media). During the Parademons’; first assault, it’s great seeing the JLA, especially Hawkman and Green Lantern (Nathan Fillion), in action. Then they stand stupidly stock still as Darkseid sends a boom tube to remove them from the playing board.
Instead, Cyborg Superman offers mankind the ability to be their own heroes and those who accept, are transformed into variations of the OMACs from The OMAC Project comic. They are all being controlled in order to create the massive boom tube Darkseid needs to arrive in splendor. Or something. Co-writers James Krieg and Tim Sheridan could have done more with the exposition and learn that a Mother Box is a sentient device, not a laptop.
Meantime, Lois is busily investigating what’s going on at Project Cadmus, running afoul of Dabney Donovan (Trevor Devall) and Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson). Slowly, we are given hints that maybe Superman isn’t dead since, after all, his body has vanished, and we see activity in the Fortress of Solitude.
When the next attack comes, it’s Superboy (Cameron Monaghan), Steel (Cress Williams), and the Cyborg Superman (Patrick Fabian) (secretly controlled by Darkseid) to defend humanity (apparently the Teen Titans were off that week). Showing how truly cowardly he is, Luthor refuses to get involved on more than one occasion until he comes to realize why Earth needs a Superman (Jerry O’Connell).
For all its faults, Justice League did a much better job handling Superman’s resurrection and public return than what happens here, robbing the movie of the Wow moment it had been building up to. In fact, the entire climax occurs aboard the JLA Watchtower with just Lois as witness, reducing the magnitude of the moment.
Still, as the dust settles, it resets the animated universe’s status quo for the future. When that comes remains to be seen. For now, this is a lot of fine individual moments, marred by a jumbled overall story.
The movie has been released in the usual assortment of formats including the popular Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD combo. The 1080p, AVC-encoded disc does an excellent job capturing the brilliant hues and fervent activity. The 5.1 soundtrack, encoded in lossless DTS-HD MA, nicely complements the visuals.
There is a paucity of bonus material here, perhaps because later this year, Death of and Reign of will be combined, with extra footage, in one massive disc. What we get here is acceptable, just not thrilling. We get the obligatory Sneak Peak, this one being Justice League vs. The Fatal Five (9:29), which is designed to fit the Justice League Unlimited version of reality than the current animated universe. Me, I can’t believe my favorite Legionnaire, Star Boy, will be getting the spotlight and they introduce us to an animated Jessica Cruz.
There’s Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis (16:08) with artist Jon Bogdanove and former Superman editor Mike Carlin among those chatting about what makes Lex so evilly delicious.
Rounding out the extras are episodes taken From the DC Comics Vault: Superman: The Animated Series, “Heavy Metal” (20:52), introducing Steel, and Justice League Unlimited, “Panic in the Sky” (23:04).