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Funeral for a Friend

September 4, 2008

Two weeks ago we saw how Superman perished at the hands of the incredible Doomsday. The Man of Steel fell for the first time and in the nine issue story arc “Funeral for a Friend”, we learn how the world deals with the loss of its greatest hero and what happens next. The first two issues (Justice League America #70, The Adventures of Superman #498) deal with the reactions of the people close to the hero, first the Justice League and other superheroes, and then Lois Lane, the Kents and the rest of the world. In Action Comics #685 the question of what will be done with the body emerges and director Westfield of Project Cadmus tries to take the remains of both fighters with him to his lab. Superman’s friends however will not stand for that and they recover the body and together with Lex Luthor II an enormous funeral is prepared. The funeral procession to Centennial Park, where Luthor has created a ginormous crypt to house the remains of the beloved hero, seems to be attended by the whole populace of Metropolis and sadly the heroes have to make sure that no riots break out. Both the Kents and Lois miss out on the opportunity to be near their loved one, because of the mass of mourners attending the funeral. It is especially hard for them because nobody knows that Clark Kent and Superman are one and the same and so officially Clark is only “missing” after the events of Doomsday’s attack.

A week has passed and in Superman v2 #76, the members of the JLA read Superman’s fan mail and decide to do some good in honor of his death and the Kents travel to Metropolis to comfort Lois. I must admit that this short story element feels a bit overdramatic, but the cheesy moment passes fairly quickly when the reader learns that Project Cadmus has broken into Superman’s tomb and has stolen the body. Supergirl investigates the break in and discovers that the grave robbers have entered the crypt through the tunnels leading to the Underworld (The Adventures of Superman #499). In the same issue we see that Gangbuster decides to come out of retirement in order to help in the protection of Metropolis. Meanwhile the scientists at Project Cadmus try to identify Superman’s D.N.A. in order to clone his body (Action Comics #686). The Kents have returned to Smallville and we see how Jonathan Kent deals with the loss of his son, through a few flashbacks to Clark’s youth (Superman: The Man of Steel #21). He blames himself for the death of his son, as it was he who originally came up with the idea of the secret identity and the costume to turn Clark into Superman. In the meantime the Underworld in Metropolis has been flooded due to an explosion that was caused by the grave robbers and Lois and a few of the Underworlders break into Cadmus and try to retrieve the body. At the end of this issue, Jonathan Kent collapses in the field where he had found Clark’s ship, so many years ago. In the final issue of “Funeral for a Friend” (Superman v2 #77), Mr. Kent is rushed to the hospital and at the same time Lois makes plans with Luthor II and Supergirl to get Superman’s body back. When they have returned the remains of the superhero to his final resting place, Luthor shares his grudge with the silent coffin and we see that he is still the same tyrant he was, before he cloned himself (For those of you who don’t know, Lex Luthor had radiation poisoning and before he died he made his scientists put his mind into a younger cloned body of himself). At the end of this tragic story arc, Jonathan Kent flatlines as the doctors try to save him.

There are also three one-shot issues that came out following the “Funeral for a Friend” arc. The Legacy of Superman includes a few short stories about other heroes and their attempt to fill in for Superman. Supergirl and Team Luthor shows Lex team up with his Supergirl imitation to form his own superhero team and finally the Newstime issue, a real news magazine, filled with stories about the death of Superman and the repercussions.

I must say that some of the issues where a bit too cheesy for my taste, the emotions didn’t feel right except for those of Lois and the Kents in Superman v2 #76. All the others seemed a bit over the top, making it feel more like a soap opera than a comic book. Still, I think that “Funeral for a Friend” shows that comic book stories are not only about superheroes pummeling the bad guys, but that they too can have deep story arcs and emotional elements. It is interesting to see that the death of a hero like Superman is felt throughout the world. I liked the Death of Superman storyline so far and I’m interested to see if the next arc will be equally interesting. It is called “Reign of the Supermen”, will deal with the emergence of several Supermen, and will be reviewed here as soon as I get around to it.

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