Monday, June 29, 2015

SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY: HUNTER-PREY #1 - April 1994


Credits:  Dan Jurgens (story & layouts), Brett Breeding (finishes), Bill Oakley (letterer), Greg Wright w/Android Images (colors)

Summary:  Superman is haunted by nightmares of Doomsday.  He visits Lois’ apartment to tell her that he has to find Doomsday for his own peace of mind.  Elsewhere, a space freighter comes across Doomsday’s cocoon.  They unwittingly release Doomsday, who immediately returns to life and kills the merchants.  The freighter rides on autopilot to its destination, Apokolips.  Doomsday causes havoc on the planet, as a small device on his back becomes active.  The device adopts the circuitry of one of Darkseid’s soldiers and immediately regenerates Hank Henshaw, the Cyborg Superman.  Darkseid attempts to defeat Doomsday but loses the battle.  While on Earth, Superman contacts the Linear Men for help locating Doomsday, but they refuse.  Later, at the Justice League’s headquarters, he overheads the distress call Desaad sends to Oberon.  With the aid of Oberon’s Mother Box, Superman teleports to Apokolips.  He’s immediately attacked by the Cyborg.  While they’re distracted, Desaad opens a teleportation portal that sends Doomsday to an unknown location.

Continuity Notes:  This story was published a year after Superman’s return from the dead.  This era is famously associated with Superman’s mullet, even though Jurgens keeps his hair at fairly standard Superman length.  In fact, it’s longer during the flashback to Superman #75 than in the present day scenes.

Not Approved By The Comics Code Authority:  Doomsday has quite a few on-panel dismemberments this issue.

Production Note:  This is a prestige format miniseries, forty-eight pages with glossy paper and square binding.  The cover price is $4.95.

Review:  One of the common complaints during “Death of Superman” was that Doomsday appeared suddenly, with no origin or motivation.  He existed merely as an instrument of destruction, or more accurately, a plot device specifically conceived as Superman’s murderer.  Any comics fan had to know that an origin would be coming sooner or later, and that Superman would also have his rematch against the monster.  That brings us to the Hunter-Prey miniseries, the big return of Doomsday, presented in the prestige format.  The average Superman comic at the time costs $1.50, while Hunter-Prey is five dollars an issue.  Like I said, the ‘90s aren’t over yet, folks.

Is the comic only a cash grab, though?  I have to say that the first issue is honestly enjoyable.  Jurgens opens with the emotional hook of the series, as Superman flashes back to his childhood memory of a “monster” in the basement, before the literal monster responsible for his death overtakes his dream.  Everyone must face his fears, even Superman.  The premise turns Superman into a very Marvel hero, questioning himself and fighting against his own insecurities throughout the story.  This type of self-doubt is tricky to pull off in a Superman story, but Jurgens handles the material very well.  Yes, the death of Superman was a marketing gimmick, but within the context of the character’s history, it’s a legitimately traumatic moment that can’t be easily forgotten in time for the next story.  Superman’s such a Marvel hero this issue, he even questions if he subconsciously allowed Doomsday to escape at the end in order to avoid facing the villain again.  That’s a beat straight out of Spider-Man, but Jurgens makes it work within the context of this story.

Jurgens is also able to efficiently assemble the pieces of the story in the first issue, while not losing sight of the fact that much of the appeal of the series is watching Doomsday just destroy things.  At the start of the story, Superman’s on Earth, he has no idea how to locate Doomsday, Cyborg Superman is dead, and Doomsday’s floating within a rock in space.  At the end of the issue, Doomsday’s revived himself and landed on Apokolips, the Cyborg has also been revived via a backup plan, and Superman lands where he needs to be for his big fight scene.  Along the way, Jurgens gets to pencil numerous double-page spreads of Doomsday wrecking things and killing people in a way you’re not likely to see in a DCU comic pre-Geoff Johns.  While it’s still hard to argue that Doomsday isn’t a walking plot device, it’s also hard to deny that watching him fistfight Darkseid isn’t inherently entertaining.  The opening, which has two space merchants collectively wetting themselves when they realize what is actually inside the cocoon they’ve discovered, is the best introduction to the character yet.  Dan Jurgens and Brett Breeding find a nice blend between polish and grit, and deliver some highly enjoyable horror/action scenes throughout the course of the issue.  For fans of the mindless violence of the original Doomsday appearances, it’s a worthy sequel.  If you grew bored of the violence, and I’m admittedly in that camp, it’s much easier to forgive this time.  Hopefully the rest of the miniseries won’t grow as tedious as the original Doomsday story, because the first chapter shows a lot of promise.

8 comments:

j said...

I didn't like Doomsday beating Darkseid here. It reeks of "hey guys check out how awesome this character I created is".

He makes up for it in the next issue though because the way Darkseid wastes the Cyborg is an all time great Darkseid moment.

Anonymous said...

I don't know, considering his first story had him KILL SUPERMAN I'd say defeating Darkseid is entirely within the realm of possibility.

j said...

Darkseid is supposed to be more powerful than Superman though. It's pretty inconsistent considering in the next issue he vaporizes The Cyborg, who's a clone of Superman augmented with cybernetic parts, with one omega blast and doesn't break a sweat.

Steven said...

Is the Cyborg's new body actually a clone of Superman though? I know he had his DNA on file to fool people, but I always assumed his body was made from an Apokalips soldier and the soldier's armour. Even his Cyborg Superman body couldn't have been a full clone of Superman as it was basically vibrated apart at Super Speed. And you could say it's because it was near kryptonite or whatever, but then wouldn't Superman's arm, vibrating at the same speed, also fly apart? This is officially the nerdiest thing I have ever typed by the way.

j said...

It's ok to be nerdy on the website discussing 90s comic books :).

I was re-reading "The Trial of Superman" not too long ago which I believe is the next time you see the Cyborg and in that he taunts Superman by saying something along the lines of "There's no way you can beat me because I'm a clone of you and I am augmented with technology" so yeah I think the idea is that he's roughly as powerful as supes.

Steven said...

I think it was pretty inconsistent. When he split electric Superman into Red and Blue, he was made from Toyman's toys. No organic parts yet he was still The Cyborg. Was he just living tissue over metal like a T-800, or did he have organs and human limbs like Vic Stone, or was he just part of a human head like Robocop? Maybe he was part cat like Verminator X? (Btw, will we get more Archie TMNT reviews in the future? )

G. Kendall said...

Specifically Archie, no. More TMNT, yes.

David page said...

First ever superman comic i ever read...not even kidding