Wednesday, July 1, 2015

SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY: HUNTER-PREY #2 - May 1994


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

Summary:  Superman reluctantly allows his Mother Box to save Darkseid’s life, while the Cyborg continues his assault on Apokolips.  Suddenly, Waverider of the Linear Men appears.  He’s rethought his conversation with Superman and agrees to give him information that can be used to defeat Doomsday.  Superman learns that Doomsday is an ever-evolving creation of a scientist named Bertron.  Before landing on Earth, Doomsday was defeated not through physical force, but by an energy being on the planet Calaton.  Darkseid awakens, and during Superman’s fight with the Cyborg, uses his omega beams to eradicate the Cyborg.  Desaad reveals to Superman that he sent Doomsday to Calaton, hoping that the planet’s inhabitants could defeat him again.  Despite Darkseid’s taunts that he can’t survive another encounter with Doomsday, Superman remains determined to stop him.

Continuity Notes:  Doomsday’s origin, as revealed by Waverider, establishes that he was an infant cast out into the wilderness to be killed by savage beasts.  The scientist Bertron and his team cloned a new baby from the remains each day, allowed him to be killed again, and over the course of decades, the baby evolved into Doomsday.  Doomsday escaped the planet on a supply ship and eventually landed on Calaton.  The royal family of Calaton sacrificed their bodies to form an energy being called the Radiant.  After the Radiant defeated Doomsday, he was “suited and chained” and sent into space.  When his “astral hearse” was hit by an asteroid, Doomsday landed on Earth.

I Love the ‘90s:  In some panels Superman’s mullet is very visible, while in others his hair appears to be standard length.  You might argue that this is just an inherent aspect of the mullet, but I think his hair is being drawn inconsistently.  Maybe Jurgens/Breeding weren’t used to the mullet yet and the “party in the back” just slipped their notice occasionally.

Review:  More inner conflicts that would make Jim Shooter proud -- now Waverider enters the fray, debating whether or not to violate his Linear Men oath and aid Superman.  I realize that a time-traveler’s dilemma regarding changing fate is a classic genre trope, but it’s hard for me to invest in the conflict if I don’t know the specific rules governing time travel in this universe.  If time is fluid in the DC Universe and Superman’s actions are only going to create a new reality, then Waverider doesn’t have much of a conflict to begin with (unless there’s a specific reason why new realities shouldn’t be created).  If there’s only one timeline that must not be altered, then Waverider is just flagrantly breaking his oath and potentially destroying all existence.  In that case, Waverider’s an idiot who didn’t even understand the most basic responsibility of the job he’s taken.

Superman has a new conflict, whether or not to allow Darkseid to die after his battle with Doomsday.  Superman compares this to saving Atilla the Hun, but he does it anyway.  I wasn’t bothered by this scene while reading the issue, it’s exactly what I would expect Superman to do of course, but it’s hard to justify Superman’s decision in hindsight.  He’s not responsible for Darkseid’s injuries, so it’s not as if Superman would be directly accountable for his death, a death that would free the millions of inhabitants of Apokolips from a life of endless oppression.  Superman allows Darkseid to live because that’s what Superman does, but the story isn’t willing to dramatize the consequences of Superman’s actions.  Heck, even a copout resolution would’ve been better than what Superman does here.  He could’ve used the Mother Box to transport Darkseid back to Earth, where he could receive medical care and then be incarcerated by the Justice League or whatever the DC equivalent of SHIELD is meant to be.

Obviously, the real draw of the issue is the revelation of Doomsday’s origin.  I think Jurgens might be in the same corner the ‘90s X-writers were often in -- is the official resolution going to live up to the various theories already created by the readers?  Doomsday could’ve been anything in his early appearances; all we knew was that he was a horrific monster wearing a green jumpsuit and a stylish pair of shades.  Jurgens goes the “accident of science” route, which might initially seem a little clich√©, but the execution is eerie enough to stand on its own.  The parallel of Superman and Doomsday both being “sent out” as infants by scientist “fathers” is honestly clever, and I have to admit that I was surprised by the sheer gruesomeness of the premise.  Doomsday is the millionth clone of a baby sent out to die every single day until he evolved into the perfect killing machine.  His hatred for his creator is bred into his DNA, and his instinct to lash out at any potential threats leads him to kill everything, because all he’s ever known is abuse.  I don’t know if this lives up to a thousand opposing fan theories, but it suits the character and, to Jurgens’ credit, the story doesn’t come across as a last minute retcon.  I can believe that this is the origin of the mystery character we met during “Death of Superman.”  And I’m sure there’s a joke to be made at Onslaught’s expense in here, but I’m going to let it go…

No comments: