After The Death of Superman came out last year, fans have been eagerly awaiting its animated follow-up Reign of the Supermen. This comic book event was massive back in the 90s. The demise of the Man of Steel made waves around the world, and this storyline ushered in a new era for Superman and delivered some memorable new characters into the DC universe, forever changing its landscape.
It’s been a few months since Superman (Jerry O’Connell) died defending Metropolis from the devastating Doomsday. The Justice League has regrouped after losing their leader and the world is slowly coming to terms with their loss. But soon mysterious sightings appear across town. Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s four new Supermen – Steel (Cress Williams), Cyborg Superman (Jerry O’Connell), Superboy (Cameron Monaghan) and The Eradicator (Charles Halford) who all stake a claim to Metropolis.
What strikes you first with this animated movie is that it has amassed a ridiculously good vocal cast. As with The Death of Superman, all of the principals return for this sequel. Jerry O’Connell is fine as Superman/Clark but occasionally I wanted him to impose himself more into the role. The Office’s Rainn Wilson brings a new style to Lex Luthor – one that works in the lighter moments (his banter with Superboy is great, for instance) but for me it doesn’t have the requisite menace to really drive home Lex’s big character. Jason O’Mara is a solid Batman though and gives the film a nice gritty edge whenever he is onscreen.
There’s some nicely placed humour within the film. A meeting between Lois Lane and Wonder Woman is a hilariously awkward encounter, especially when Lois learns that Clark and Diana were once an item. Rosario Dawson’s Diana and Rebecca Romijn’s Lois are a real highlight in this movie, with the two actresses frequently stealing all of their scenes. Cameron Monaghan continues his impressive DC run after his reoccurring role in Gotham, and does a great job with Superboy (who I’d love to see spin-off into his own movie). He brings an energy and humour to the role that works well with the narrative. Cress Williams is the strongest presence of all the new Supermen, and hands in a great performance too.
The animation benchmark rose quite considerably at the end of last year with Marvel/Sony’s masterpiece Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. I found Reign of the Supermen quite dated in its visual style – and that’s not to say that there isn’t a place for traditional cartoon-styled movies, because there most certainly is. I just think that there are creative and stylistic choices that render parts of Reign of the Supermen quite pedestrian. There are so many scenes that could have benefitted from being populated more, especially when you are depicting such a hive of activity as Metropolis. It feels too sparse at times, and as I noted in my review for The Death of Superman, this New 52 styling used for the characters also feels clunky, especially with Superman himself.
The action is well placed in the film and keeps you interested for the most part, but the finale does drag a little. The sight of Clark in the black and silver outfit is still fun though (complete with long 90s hair and beard stubble that makes him look like an ethereal Bee Gee). It’s nice that they kept that look from the comics. Candyman himself Tony Todd is wonderful as Darkseid and his introduction is handled well, with just the right amount of imposing threat.
There are good ideas here coupled up with some cosmetic choices that don’t work quite as well as they should, but for the most part Reign of the Supermen is a fun watch. I preferred The Death of Superman, but this chapter is a welcome one to introduce this iteration of Steel and Superboy into the DC Animated Movie slate. I would have liked it to have taken a few more narrative risks – perhaps in a similar vein to Batman Ninja – but Reign of the Supermen does just enough to warrant a watch. We now wait with bated breath for the next animated movie to take on a monumental DC storyline – Batman: Hush.
Reign of the Supermen is out now on Digital Download and available on Blu-ray™ and DVD January 28th.
Cast: Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rosario Dawson, Rainn Wilson, Cameron Monaghan, Cress Williams, Charles Halford, Jason O’Mara, Nathan Fillion, Christopher Gorham, Nyambi Nyambi Director: Sam Liu Writers: Gerard Jones, James Krieg, Tim Sheridan Certificate: 12A Duration: 87 mins Released by: Warner Bros Release date: 15th January 2019 (VOD)