Writers: Gene Luen Yang & Peter J. Tomasi
Artists: Mikel Janin & Others
Collects Superman #45-52, Superman Annual #3, Superman: Rebirth #1, Batman #50
Regardless of how you felt about Superman in The New 52 or the decision to take away (most of) his powers, this is definitely a volume that any fan of Big Blue needs to check out because – SPOILER – this is where he dies. By now it’s certainly no secret that New 52 Superman has perished and has been replaced by the pre-Flashpoint version for the Rebirth era, so I’m comfortable discussing this from the start.
A variety of writers and artists contributed to this entry, which collects three story arcs that gel together seamlessly, creating a fulfilling whole. To see Superman get in touch with his humanity and still find a place in the world made for an addictive reading experience and I readily admit that I enjoyed reading most of this more than I did when it was originally released in individual installments month-to-month.
The first arc sees a depowered Superman, who has also recently had his secret identity as Clark Kent revealed, travel cross country, ultimately settling into a superpowered fight club called Mythbrawl. In the midst of this, he must deal with the threat of the technologically proficient Hordr_Root. Howard Porter’s artwork made for some robust visuals, to say the least.
That all smoothly segued into some key excerpts from the “Savage Dawn” arc, which obviously saw Vandal Savage as the main antagonist. I quite enjoyed these parts as they gave some very insightful looks into the history and motivation of the immortal tyrant. If you liked Casper Crump’s portrayal of him on DC’s Legends of Tomorrow and haven’t been exposed to any comic books featuring him, I recommend picking this up because it not only functions as a good primer, but also displays an eons-long scheme nearly come to fruition.
Ironically, the Man of Steel regains his powers just in time to die. The first and eighth (and final) chapters of the “Final Days of Superman” arc are included, the first of which was a much better read. Sure, you miss quite a bit in between with issues of Action Comics, Batman/Superman, and Superman/Wonder Woman not having been included, but most of that crossover was fluff and non-essential. Although you don’t get the entire experience here (I believe a “Final Days of Superman” collected edition is on the way), the gist is pretty much enough.
On that note, DC has finally done something that’s quite overdue: Putting “previously in” catch-ups in between chapters as to not make for a disjointed reading experience. Including all issues of a single title’s run yet not including other books that were part of crossovers always made for a conundrum, so I’m glad the publisher found a simple solution. With three aforementioned arcs contained, this could have easily made for a mess and, thankfully, it wasn’t.
There’s also some rather generous supplemental material, an aspect that I don’t always mention in reviews. We’re all used to seeing variant cover galleries in trades, but this one was special because it was so massive, no doubt due to the connecting Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice themed variant covers from Batman #50 and Superman #50. Also included is Superman: Rebirth #1, which was a rather smart move to show that the S-shield will still live on and to retain readers.
Although the past few months of Superman and Action Comics that have been a part of the Rebirth era were even more of an actual return to glory, Return to Glory is still an immensely entertaining whopper of a hardcover.