Friday, July 3, 2015

SUPERMAN/DOOMSDAY: HUNTER-PREY #3 - June 1994


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

Summary:  Mother Box generates a new costume, equipped with weapons, for Superman to use against Doomsday.  He travels to Calaton with Waverider and soon faces Doomsday.  After Waverider enters Doomsday’s consciousness, Superman realizes that Doomsday was created on Krypton and that he was specifically drawn to Superman while on Earth.  Superman holds his own against the ever-evolving Doomsday until Doomsday hurls him into an energy containment vessel.  The ensuing explosion apparently kills Waverider.  Superman uses Waverider’s time-travel band to send Doomsday out of time.  There, they discover Waverider, who has already pulled together his energy form.  Waverider leads Doomsday to the end of the universe, where the monster is crushed by entropy.  Superman thanks Waverider for his help and returns home to Lois.  Thinking of his mother, he reflects on the love that’s enabled him to overcome his fears.

Continuity Notes:  Superman is shocked to learn Doomsday has very basic speaking skills.  He can garble out “Metropolis,” which is a word we saw him learn on television during the original “Death of Superman” storyline.

Total N00B:  I’m a little confused by the revelation that Doomsday was engineered on Krypton.  The last chapter did have Bertron point out that the baby was not from the same planet as the scientists he was working with, which initially came across as a random bit of info.  I assume this was done to explain why Doomsday doesn’t resemble a Kryptonian, and perhaps more importantly, to allow Superman to remain the “Last Son of Krypton” (back when DC still cared about that).  So, why did Bertron feel the need to use a baby from another planet?  Also, what about Bertron?  Why is he clearly an alien, while all of the scientists who work with him look human?  They’re Kryptonian, yes, but where did Bertron come from?  Has anyone established that there are various bipedal races on Krypton and not all of them resemble attractive humans?

I Love the ‘90s:  That new costume Mother Box designs for Superman…who knew Mother Box did freelance work for Wildstorm?

Review:  Hunter-Prey had a strong opening, and while I had some plotting issues with the second chapter, I hoped the third chapter would give us the proper conclusion that “Return of Superman” didn’t quite deliver.  And while the issue does live up to the promise of a massive Superman vs. Doomsday rematch, I don’t really buy the emotional catharsis, nor did I appreciate the new details regarding Doomsday’s past.  

The fight is the major selling point of the issue, so I’ll begin there.  Jurgens deserves some credit for acknowledging fan complaints and having Superman himself comment that he relied far too heavily on his fists during his previous encounter with Doomsday.  Superman does of course spend numerous pages punching Doomsday (and like everything else in the issue, they’re beautifully rendered by Jurgens/Breeding), but he knows from the beginning that brute force won’t win the fight.  However, while Jurgens does have Superman use his heat vision creatively in a few scenes, for much of the fight he’s relying on the gimmicky weapons generated by Mother Box’s new costume.  That means that not only does he look like a WildC.A.T., he’s using their absurd faux-futuristic weapons as well.  And time certainly has not been kind to that Jim Lee makeover.  (Just as time will not be kind to the actual Jim Lee makeover he received a few years ago.)  In fairness, the headgear we now associate with Gambit actually has its roots in Kirby’s early Fourth World material, so that accessory is defensible within the context of the story.  But when you add the headgear with the pouches, the glowing sword, the shoulder pads, the arbitrary arm-armor, and the million other pointless details (why do his boots need belts?)…it’s a mess.  Having Superman rely on technology that’s been magically gifted to him also cheapens his fight with Doomsday.  I understand the idea that Superman must now use techniques he ordinarily doesn’t employ during this fight, but it would be nice if acquiring these weapons required some effort on his part.  Even better, what if Superman began to use all of his existing powers in unique, cunning ways against Doomsday?  That would be a nice apology for his unimaginative strategy during their original fight.

One advantage Superman has in this rematch is the presence of Waverider, who by this point has totally forgotten his non-interference pledge and is actively working as Superman’s sidekick.  Waverider’s presence in this story is a bit of a mystery to me.  For plot reasons, he clearly has a role.  His power enables Superman (and the reader) to discover Doomsday’s origin, and he provides the means for Doomsday’s ultimate defeat.  Given the way Doomsday’s been set up in his previous appearances, I don’t have a problem with a resolution that involves time-travel.  And I'm not totally opposed to Superman requiring another hero’s aid in defeating Doomsday.  As a character, though, I have no idea what to make of Waverider.  I never bought into his angst regarding his oath, and don’t see any moment in the story that presents a real consequence for his actions.  If anything, he’s a jerk for not doing something about Doomsday earlier.

Waverider enables Superman to learn even more about the origin of Doomsday, a revelation that feels utterly gratuitous.  I was fine with the information we had on Doomsday’s origin last issue; I quite enjoyed it, actually.  But now, we discover that he’s a product of Krypton’s genetic testing, and that his reason for targeting Superman all along was that he sensed the presence of a surviving Krytonian on Earth.  For this to work, the reader has to accept the vast coincidence that Doomsday’s floating hearse would one day land on the only planet in the entire galaxy with a Kryptonian living on it, which is just insane.  I’m sure dozens of Silver Age stories relied on the coincidence of someone or something from Krypton that just so happened to appear on Earth, but I thought this was a concept John Byrne killed off in the modern age.  Another annoyance is the idea that Doomsday hates Superman because he merely senses Superman’s Kryptonian -- Doomsday hates everybody.  Does he really need a specific reason to hate Superman?  Doomsday didn’t treat Superman any differently than he treated anyone else; Superman was simply the only person strong enough to fight back.

So, as a concluding chapter, we have Superman facing his fears but only finding victory after he’s provided with plot device weapons and a poorly developed supporting cast member tags along.  The sentiment in the final pages (with Superman reflecting on his mother and realizing how much Lois means to him today) is nice, but it doesn’t feel as if any real price has been paid during this story.  Whatever consequence Waverider has for breaking his oath remains unrevealed, and Superman doesn’t seem overly concerned about repaying the debt.  Superman himself didn’t have to make any sacrifices during the story, and the only decision that leaves him doubting himself (briefly) is allowing Doomsday to die after stranding him at the end of the universe.  For a story that began with such a conflicted hero, he’s allowed to get off pretty easily by the final chapter.  

1 comment:

Erik said...

Back in 1990-something I bought a Superman/ Doomsday action figure combo pack and I think this issue was the enclosed comic book.
http://www.amazon.com/Superman-Limited-Edition-Action-Figure/dp/B000FXV4TS

He definitely gets the mother box outfit in that issue.