*Contains spoilers for The Death of Superman and potential spoilers for Reign of the Superman*
When DC’s most iconic superhero was killed off in Superman #75 in 1992, not only did it sell over six million copies and became the top-selling comic of that year, it received unprecedented coverage from the mainstream media. Obviously, this didn’t mark the end of the Man of Steel as the comics continued by showing us a world without Superman, then the emergence of four Superman imposters, before the original returns. The return didn’t have as much of an impact as the death, but this storyline has been adapted from films to television, including this two-part animated adaptation that has now reached its conclusion.
Six months have passed since the events of The Death of Superman, in which Clark Kent sacrificed himself to defeat Doomsday. Now, in the world without Superman, its people are introduced to four new, different versions of the hero: Superboy, Steel, Cyborg Superman, and the Eradicator. As all of them are different in their personalities and crime-fighting styles compared to the original Man of Steel, Lois Lane (voiced by Rebecca Romijn) — still grieving over Clark’s death — decides to investigate to see if one of them is the genuine article.
With a running time of 87 minutes, this is one of the longer DC Universe Animated Original Movies. This allows it to achieve a number of things, such as continuing the hanging threads that were set up from its predecessor, taking cues from the remaining source material that introduces four distinct supermen, as well as continually establishing this recent animated DC Universe. It may not entirely succeed on all its goals, but this latest instalment is never succumbed by its own ambition.
What worked best about last year’s The Death of Superman is that it was Superman story that delves greatly into the relationship of Lois and Clark, which gives an emotional backbone that plays into the climactic battle with Doomsday and the titular death. With one half of that relationship out of the equation, Reign showcases Lois as a central protagonist who may be grieving over her true love, but sets herself to investigating the truth of the mysterious Supermen, proving that she is a hard-hitting journalist.
She may be often be paired up with other super-powered males, but through Rebecca Romijn’s strong vocal performance, she never comes across as a damsel-in-distress, or babbling wreck when she first encounters Cyborg Superman (voiced by her real-life husband Jerry O’Connell).
(Speaking of the Supermen, who go through a redesign to rid themselves of their 90s iconography, all four get their share of the spotlight in terms of characterization from the scene-stealing Superboy (voiced with such wit by Gotham‘s Cameron Monaghan) to the menacing Cyborg Superman.)
Where the film falters, is when it aims big by tying in with the larger DC Universe as the Justice League are very much sidelined. The exception is Diana Prince who has a brief interaction with Lois, sparking a friendship. As its predecessor teased us the return of Apokolips, this sequel confirms it, but that gets quickly disregarded by basically teasing for some future installment. That said, there is plenty of action to go around as the animation may be loose in places, the fight sequences between the four Supermen are fast-paced and dynamic, with enough of an emotional punch in its climax.
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