The second part of DC Animation’s adaptation of The Death of Superman, Reign of the Supermen arrives on blu-ray this week and brings together an action-packed conclusion to the iconic story. Come inside for my full review of the week’s new release!
Last August, DC released The Death of Superman, promising it as the first of a new two-part adaptation of the classic comic book storyline. It was pretty damn great. DC Animation continues to impress and Death of Superman was no different, delivering a story that managed to pack some emotional punch with it as well. This week brings about the second part, Reign of the Supermen...
Superman is dead, and in the aftermath, a handful of new (and very different) Supermen have arrived in Metropolis to take on the mantle. Despite her grief, Lois Lane is determined to get to the bottom of these new heroes. Working together with Steel (one of the new Superman imposters) and forging an unlikely alliance with Superman’s greatest enemy leads to dire revelations. A greater threat looms, but with the Earth’s mightiest hero out of commission, how can they survive?
That’s the basics of this sequel, and despite the verbiage they use (in pointedly not referring to it as a “Part II” in any way), it’s very much a follow-up to Death of Superman. Supermen doesn’t wasted time recapping the events of the last film, or filling in any gaps, so if you haven’t seen it yet, definitely watch that first.
It’s a cool thing in that these movies play really well off of one another, and feel like one giant story you can enjoy together. The problem, however, is that Reign of the Supermen doesn’t work nearly as well as a standalone film. Where you could watch Death of Superman by itself and enjoy it as nothing more than a solo film, Supermen almost requires the previous film. That’s not to say you couldn’t enjoy Supermen on its own. The action is stellar, with some battle sequences that left me going, “holy shit” at various points. The voice work is similarly great, pulling in great performances that sell you on the characters (I particularly loved the interactions between Wonder Woman and Lois Lane). Pretty much everything you’ve come to expect from the solid line of DC animated films is present.
I loved it, but I fully recognize that any of the emotional impact of the story wouldn’t have happened without the preceding film. There are a couple other minor plot points I take issue with (namely the stuff surrounding the Justice League members that happen in a blink), but on the whole it’s another great entry in DC’s animated universe.
Perhaps my favorite aspect is how well it manages to balance adapting the comic story, while still keeping it firmly within the established DCAU canon they have. It works within the world they’ve built up so far in all the previous films and the modern setting, but still manages to hit the major points (including characters) that fans of the original comic will easily recognize. It’s a very fitting conclusion to the story that began in last year’s The Death of Superman, with plenty to keep people glued to the screen, even if it’s a tad weaker on the “standalone story” side of things.
Sight and Sound
If you’ve watched any of the DC Animation films in the last few years, you’re more than familiar with the animation style at this point. That doesn’t mean it’s not gorgeous, nor that they’ve stopped trying to improve in all that time. Reign of the Supermen looks gorgeous, with a sleek art style that highlights the characters and keeps the action moving seamlessly. The HD blu-ray transfer of the film is sharp and crisp, allowing the animation to shine properly with all the vivid colors that are present.
The sound transfer is equally solid, with the surround sound putting you in the middle of the action. One of the early action scenes involving the various Supermen is all over the place and you can hear it going around you as heroes zoom around, fire off laser blasts, or crash into buildings. It’s immersive without overriding the dialog; so all around, from a technical side, the blu-ray transfer is more than adequate.
The Bonus Features
The Reign of the Supermen blu-ray includes a DVD and digital copy of the film, as well as a handful of bonus features included on the disc:
Lex Luthor: The Greatest Nemesis (Featurette) – Evil Genius. Archenemy of Superman. Misunderstood hero? This documentary will look at one of the most renowned villains in literature and debate his ethics and motivations throughout his publication history and as the calculated anti-hero of Reign of the Supermen. We’ll also explore how Lex Luthor is emblematic of technology without limit, often demonstrating what effect unbridled power, resources, and influence can have on humanity. We’ll discuss the affinity for storytellers to associate Lex Luthor and with the field of science as they challenge our morals and integrity with real world issues such as cloning and what can happen if science fiction became science reality.
A Sneak Peek at the next DC Universe Movie, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five – An entertaining, insightful exciting look at the next animated film in the popular DC Universe Movies collection.
From the DC Vault: Superman: The Animated Series, “Heavy Metal”
From the DC Vault: Justice League Unlimited, “Panic in the Sky”
To be honest, the features list this time around seems pretty scant compared to other DCAU releases, with only ONE featurette related to the film itself. It’s a really cool look at Lex Luthor and how he’s changed from the villain we know into what we see in the last couple animated movies. He’s still a villain, but he’s evolved into something else that’s both intriguing and more menacing.
The only other thing we have after that is a look at the next film, Justice League vs. The Fatal Five and two episodes from older cartoon series (something that’s a bit of a staple with these blu-ray releases). While the main featurette is pretty interesting, there’s just not a lot of “meat” to the bonus features this time around.