25 SNES #5: The Death and Return of Superman

The plan was for the next entry in this series to be an RPG, either the fairly lengthy one I am no halfway through (Lufia) or the relatively brief one I’ve queued up next (Super Mario RPG), but by the two thirds point of the month it was clear that wasn’t going to work out, so instead I switched to another brief game; The Death and Return of Superman


When I went searching for some SNES deep cuts to help get me to twenty-five games for the year, the one really surprising game I occasionally saw on best of lists was The Death and Return of Superman.  Most of the others I was familiar with even if I hadn’t had the chance to play them. This was a licensed title that had completely slipped past me. Usually that sort of thing does bode well, but Death and Return of Superman is a perfectly fine game.  It is very much of a product of the 90’s and hasn’t aged particularly well, but there is plenty of interest here and the game plays just fine.


Like the majority of licensed games in this era, Death and Return of Superman is a beat-em-up. Superman goes left to right and punches dudes until he gets to a boss; repeat as necessary. It has some of the usual flaws with this sort of game.  The levels aren’t particularly interesting and there simply aren’t enough enemy types.  It eventually gets old traveling through similar looking enemies punching the same 5 guys in the face.  Still, there is something satisfying about it as well. The best sorts of beat-em-ups don’t overstay their welcome, being both fairly brief and fast paced.  The Death and Return of Superman’s levels tend to go on a little too long, but the game itself is about the right length.


In some ways it feels designed with home consoles in mind, in some ways it feels like the worst sort of quarter munching arcade game. One point against it is that it is single player only.   Likely a concession to making it play well on the SNES.  There isn’t much slowdown and the sprites look good. As I said earlier, the game could do with more enemy types, but the ones here look pretty nice.  The game also has five different playable characters, giving some variety to the game.  Unfortunately, the different characters all play just about the same.  They have the same basic set of moves and there doesn’t appear to be any difference in their strength or speed.  It mostly just ends up being different sprites.  Another problem is just how repetitive the bosses can be.  They can level the player in a few hits and don’t really do anything interesting.


Still, it is an enjoyable experience if a flawed on.  I really liked how the game actually tried to tell a story.  In fact, I prefer this telling to the comics.  While the comic story this is based on is a famous one, it is not a very good one.  It is a better idea for a story than an actual story.  That is why the player changes character so frequently.  You start as Superman, who runs through a couple of levels before fighting Doomsday and dying.  Then four replacement Supermen show up to try to take his place: Cyborg Superman, Superboy, The Eradicator and Steel.  The comic played it as a mystery of just who was the real Superman, only for none of them to turn out to be.  The game runs through the plot in a handful of levels, with the player taking the role over whatever Superman is necessary at the time.  It works, and makes for an interesting set up.  It also helps that Superman feels like Superman. He may go down like a chump to the bosses, but he flies and punches with power and has his heat vision.

It is a good game.  A run through of takes no more than an hour and a half to two hours and it is decently entertaining the whole time.  It could really do with a two player mode, but I don’t have a second player to play with anyway.  It might be the best Superman game, but that says more about the other games to bear his name than anything about this one.  The Death and Return of Superman is a serviceable beat-em-up that at least appears to be trying to do something interesting even if it doesn’t completely succeed.

Man of Steel


This was probably the movie I was most excited for this summer. It was also the movie I was most worried about. I really wanted it to be good. The people behind it were usually good film makers, but a lot of their work didn’t necessarily feel like it would translate into a good Superman movie. I’ve now seen it twice. It didn’t quite live up to my expectations, but it also didn’t fall as far as I feared. Man of Steel isn’t a very good Superman movie. It’s also not much of a superhero movie. But it was a really good Sci-Fi movie. It isn’t the movie I necessarily wanted, but I found it to be wholly worthwhile.

Man of Steel chooses to almost ignore the superhero side of Superman, focusing instead on his science fiction origins. It is not a bad track to take with what is essentially Superman Begins. It is about the failure of Krypton, and the efforts of its last sons to try to help the doomed planed live on. It is about the always alienated Clark trying to find out where he comes from. It is not about Superman being Superman. This is a big sticking point, that and some moments that many Superman fans would consider out of character. While I definitely had some problems, I really liked MoS’s portrayal of Krypton. The opening scene reminded me of the Animated Series’ scenes on Krypton. Zod is usually a boring villain (how many times have we seen space Hitler?) but he has just enough of a good cause here to be interesting. Superman always feeling like an alien messes with the central premise of Clark adopting Earth as his home, but it is, for better or worse, a more realistic take on what his early life would have been like.

It is not a movie without fun or without hope like many reviews have said, but it is an all too cynical take on the greatest superhero. This movie’s Superman is told by Jor-El, a recurring problem, that he is to embody hope, but for the bulk of the movie he seems to have none himself. I think he learns to be the Superman we all know and love by the end, but the journey is a little sloppy. The writers seemed to have some notes that they absolutely wanted to hit, but maybe cut some corners to hit them. SPOILERS. I am speaking specifically of Jonathon Kent’s death and Clark killing Zod. While the central point of these scenes are both solid, Clark showing his father he trusts him by letting him die and Clark being forced to kill Zod, I don’t think they were very well executed. The tornado scene had many odd things, like having everyone hide under an overpass, which is a terrible idea. And Clark could have likely saved his dad with no more explanation needed than they were both lucky to survive being caught in a tornado. They also did not establish that he had no other option than to kill Zod. Other than Zod saying it there was no reason to believe that it was the inevitable outcome. A situation could have been set where it was inevitable, but Snyder and Goyer did not do so.

Still, there is much to like. Amy Adams is pretty great as Lois, and while her romance with Clark is rushed, it works. All of Clark’s parent’s do a really good job. While I wasn’t happy with a lot of his advice, you could really feel Costner’s Kent’s love for his son. Henry Cavill does good work with little material. And Zod is suitable villainous and tortured.

Man of Steel is a flawed take on Superman, a flawed movie in general, but in the end it is still a really good movie. Hopefully, it is used as the foundation for some great ones.

Comic Reviews from late March

These comic reviews are about a week later than I wanted, but my comics came about a week late. Still, there was plenty of good stuff in this half of last months releases.

  • All-Star Western 7: Palmiotti and Gray get Hex out of Gotham for a while, and it mostly works. Nighthawk and Cinnamon are fun characters and the new villains, the August 7, have potential. The only problem is that the back-up story is nowhere near as good as the previous one. A-
  • Aquaman 7: This books is back on track after a somewhat too heavy handed previous issue. Reis’ art is some of the best superhero work around, and Johns is on his game with his Other League he is starting. Its too bad he has to fall back on having his villain kill one just to prove how dangerous he is. Still, a solid issue. B+
  • Batman 7: This is something of a comedown from the rest of rest of this series so far. Not that this is a bad issue, but it is certainly lower key than most that have come before it. There are finally some explanations, but at the expense of not having that much actually occur in this issue. B+
  • Captain Atom 7: This continues to be one of the most underrated books DC is putting out. This take on Cap. Atom has drawn comparisons to Dr Manhattan, which is accurate, but Nate Adam is neither as intelligent as he was nor as distant. Here we get his origin, as well as a little more inside Nate’s head. Another solid issue in what has been a solid series. B
  • Flash 7: This continues to be one of the best looking books out of DC, and is also one of the least dark. While Captain Cold’s powers have changed, his character really hasn’t. There is also an effective superhero love triangle, or maybe more of a pentagon, at work here. This is just a really good traditional superhero book. A
  • Flash Gordon Zeitgeist 4: Maybe it is just because I am still new to being a Flash Gordon fan, but this series has been really entertaining so far. While it is using all the same parts as the classic 1980 film, the only version I am familiar with, it still feels remarkable fresh. I would be outright gushing about it, except that near the end there is a page with the wrong speech bubbles on it. It really breaks the reading experience. C
  • Green Lantern Corps 7: While I have largely been a fan of Tomasi on this title, even since the relaunch, but this is an issue that didn’t need to happen. It is almost entirely John Stewart returning the body of the lantern he killed to save to corps home, and being really heavy handed laying on the guilt. Plus, the art is nowhere near as good as it usually is. C-
  • John Carter: The Gods of Mars 1: The previous Marvel Barsoom mini was very good, and this one starts out on the same level. This biggest change is in the art. Perez’s art is a big change from Andrade’s and while they are both excellent, I thing Perez is a better fit. This is just an all around great issue. B+
  • Justice League 7: I have to say that I like Gene Ha’s work much more than Jim Lee’s. Otherwise, this is more of a slice of life issue than the rushed adventure of the first six issues. Johns is building tensions between the League, the government and the populace, as well as doing more interesting with Steve Trevor than anyone in at least 25 years. The best issue yet. B
  • My Greatest Adventure 6 of 6: This anthology title sadly comes to its end. I think I am only of the only people reading this, but it is really good. The Robotman story is poignant, and Garbage Man is a not quite as good take on the same story. Tanga’s story is completely different, but not especially original. Still, there were some good weird stories with really good art. B
  • Supergirl 7: This is one of the best issues that is mostly a fight scene I’ve seen in a while. Kara is out numbered and trapped, but she fights smart. Asrar’s art is still really good. The world killers are some interesting new villains, they feel like a match for someone of Supergirl’s power and are connect to her, not Superman. B+
  • Superman 7: Giffen and Jurgens get Superman. There is plenty in this issue about boring Wildstorm villain Helspont, but the parts about Clark and Superman are really good. If The writing team can maintain that tone when they get to tell their stories, then this title should move up to be among DC’s best. B-
  • Wonder Woman 7: This has been one of my favorite titles since DC relaunch, but this issue is just a miss. It is a well written, well drawn miss, but a miss nonetheless. This issue answers a question that no one ever asked because it doesn’t make any sense to ask. Where do immortal warrior women get their children? It has been long established that they don’t have children, so there was no question to ask. I hope they quickly put this frankly stupid misstep behind them and get back to the great story they were telling. C-













Biweekly Quick Comic Review 2

  • Action Comics 903. Written by Paul Cornell, art by Axel Gimenez.   I missed Paul Cornell’s work with Lex on this title, having started with 900, but unlike most people, I am thoroughly enjoying this Doomsday story. It is goofy, but in a fun way. Sure, there are plot holes you could drive a truck through, but Superman fires himself out of a cannon at the Doomsday fortress. This is merely an excuse for Superman and his allies to fight the biggest, most ridiculous threat imaginable and triumph. ***1/2
  • Daredevil 1. Written by Mark Waid, art by Paulo Rivera and Marcos Martin. Mark Waid does something not seen with Daredevil for the last quarter century: something new. He seems to be significantly brightening up the blind hero’s world. Waid is one of the best at pure superhero stories and the art in this book is fantastic. It is a new take on Daredevil that is simultaneously fresh and true to the character. This is a great comic. *****
  • Flashpoint: Project Superman 2. Written by Scott Snyder and Lowell Francis, art by Gene Ha. This is easily one of the best Flashpoint tie-ins, up there with Frankenstein. It is often gruesome, but with reason. The world of Flashpoint is a terrible place for everybody. Project Superman actually has an interesting “What if?” scenario for its main character. What if his rocket had been found but the government and not a kindly couple? I do like the reversal of his relationship with Gen. Lane, who here treats him as much like a son as possible. It also fixes a quibble I had with Flashpoint 3, that Superman would always be good. I don’t know if he will show back up in the main series, but his interactions with Gen, Lane give him reason to be a hero. ****
  • Green Lantern Emerald Warriors 12. Written by Peter Tomasi, art by Chris Batista. This title is plainly and obviously treading water until the big September reboot, but the last 2 issues have been the best of the series. A giant, green energy eating space spider is causing trouble for the corps, so Guy must form a team, without regulars like Arisia and Kilowog, to take care of it. So he gathers some red shirts and gets the job done. The only other survivor, the walrus-like Theodoric, is a character I hope to see more of. It is a good, not great, one off story. ***
  • Power Girl 26. Written by Matthew Sturges, art by Hendry Prasetya. Matt Sturges comes on to finish out this book with a pair of one shot issues. This one is pretty damn good. Power Girl is signing autographs at a Power Girl convention, which I have no problem believing exist in the DC Universe. One fan turns out to be an alien who wants to steal PG’s powers. With the help of some young fans, PG stops the alien. It isn’t complex, but it is fun and well executed. ***1/2

Even Quicker Reviews:

  • Batman: Gates of Gotham 3. Strong character work. ***½
  • Detective Comics 880. Not surprising, but still really good. ****
  • Flashpoint Wonder Woman and the Furies 2. A disjointed, sloppy mess. **
  • Flashpoint Kid Flash Lost 2. Lost is an accurate description, but it is still fun. ***
  • Flashpoint Lois Lane and the Resistance 2. Surprisingly strong, both in art and concept. ***
  • Green Lantern Corps 62. Kind of dumb. **
  • Supergirl 66. Fun, snappy superheroics. ***½
  • War of the Green Lanterns Aftermath 1. Turgid and dull. **

Why Superman is the best.

It’s been a while since I’ve done so, but I’m getting a hankering to write about superheroes.  At first I was going to write a defense of that most unlovable of heroes, Marvel’s Ant-Man, but if I’m going to write about superheroes, I should write about the best superhero.  Since I can do that and write about the best comic at the same time, I decided to write about Grant Morrison and Frank Quitely’s All-Star Superman.  Specifically All-Star Superman #5, my personal favorite comic book ever.

As everyone should know, the only superheroes that actually matter are Superman, Batman and Spider-Man.  Sure, lots of the others are great–I like Guy Gardner and Thor– but the three I mentioned are the ones that set the standards for the rest.  Spider-Man is the perfect teenage superhero, with a simple reading being the spider powers stand in for puberty.  Batman is the man who makes himself a myth, with one of the greatest fictional locales to run around.  But Superman is the original and best superhero.  He represents the best that humanity–and in some ways America– can hope to be, an ideal to strive to.  No story better illustrates this than All-Star Superman.

All-Star Superman #5 is a story titled “The Gospel According to Lex Luthor.”  On the surface, it is a simple comic; Lex Luthor, condemned to death, allows Clark Kent to interview him in prison, to give the world his side of the story of his war on Superman.  The irony immediately obvious to every reader is that Clark Kent is Superman, which despite being the smartest man on Earth Luthor has not figured out.  However, there is much more going on here than that.  While this comic is about Luthor’s side of the story, is as perfectly contrasts the values and principles of Superman and his greatest enemy.

First, a brief explanation of Lex Luthor.  Whether in his original identity of a standard mad scientist or his revised (Post Crisis on Infinite Earths) power-mad CEO, Luthor has generally been Superman’s foremost adversary.  He has appeared in every modern Superman movie.  Luthor is, simply, Superman’s opposite in most ways.  Luthor is smart, rich and powerful as well as completely self-centered.  While his is undeniably intelligent, Luthor’s real defining trait is his narcissism.   If not for Superman, Luthor would be the most powerful person on Earth.  Superman’s superiority, instead of being an example to follow, makes Luthor insanely jealous.  While he is smart enough to gain any accolade he desires, he cannot accept Superman’s supreme physical advantage over him.   Luthor is easily one of, if not the, best comic book villains.

The Gospel According to Lex Luthor starts with Lex being sentenced to death for his recent (Issue 1) attack on the first manned mission to the Sun.  His defense?

He is so blinded by his personal war with Superman that he believes he needs no defense for his actions.  Before his execution, he allows one reporter to interview him: Clark Kent.

The Clark Kent of All-Star Superman is not the competent figure that he has been since John Byrne’s reboot in the 80’s. Morrison’s Kent takes the mild mannered reporter shtick much further than just mild-mannered he is a complete pantywaist.  While I prefer the version of Superman where Clark Kent is who he is and Superman is the disguise, in order to really believe no one suspects he is Superman the other way actually works a little better.  I can see why no one suspects, or even believes when confronted with it point blank, that Clark Kent is Superman.  But one of the most amazing things about All-Star Superman is how Kent’s clumsiness is just another tool in his crime-fighting arsenal.  Case and point page 4:

This also illustrates one of the fundamental differences between Superman and Lex Luthor:  Luthor spends all of his time trying to destroy his enemy; Superman goes out of his way to save him.

The next few pages really show how Luthor thinks, both about himself and about Superman.  He calls his guards “fat girls” and asks Clark if he feels “diminished by [Superman’s] very presence.”  While in the midst of a strenuous work our routine, Luthor focuses on questioning Clark’s masculinity.  He displays his own insecurities about Superman’s physical prowess, with the focus on Clark’s masculinity and his own hard exercise regimen.  There is some validity to Luthor’s anger here; there is no way that any person could match Superman’s strength.  But he is so focused on it that he can’t even begin to fathom that Superman could be posing as a man that appears as feeble as Clark Kent does.

We then move on to the communal area of the prison, where Lex outlines his utopian vision of society, which he calls “survival of the smartest”, while being completely oblivious to the angry stares he is getting from every other inmate. He has no fear; even of the occasionally super powered Parasite (he sucks the power out of other people, including Superman).  “Brain beats Brawn every time,” Luthor says, which he believes makes his victory inevitable, though it proves to be the opposite.

Parasite starts to absorb Superman’s powers and breaks free from his restraints, which starts a riot.  While pretending to blunder into the fray, Clark manages not only to save Lex’s life again; he also saves all the guards caught up in the riot.  All while not breaking his cover as Clark Kent.  While Lex and Clark make their escape to Luthor’s cell, they are pursued by the increasingly immense Parasite.  Superman causes a convenient earthquake, and Lex:

Note how quickly Luthor abandons brains for brawn.  He doesn’t even question the earthquake, he doesn’t try to think of an escape from the Parasite, he hopes for a miracle.  Then as soon as his enemy is down, he starts kicking him. Once they get to Lex’s cell, he simple continues on his tirade against Superman.  His petty grudge has completely consumed him.  He gloats about how he’s turned the newspaper and the prison against Superman, and then shows Clark his escape route.  Lex has no intention of escaping; he merely wants to show how little power the law has over him.  Here Clark almost loses it.  He does not understand how Luthor can focus only on his personal war with Superman, when together they could do so much to help the world.  But Luthor is determined to throw his life away in his maniacal quest to destroy Superman.

He also drops his final bomb:  Superman is dying.  The readers already know this, but they did not know that it was an intended part of Luthor’s plan.

While this comic defines Lex Luthor, it also defines Superman.  While incredibly intelligent, Luthor thinks only of his own quest for power.  Superman on the other hand, despite having no reason to feel anything but hate for a man who has spent his life trying to kill him, does everything he can to save Luthor from himself.  Superman’s faith in humanity is such that he thinks even the worst of us are worth saving.