Film Review: ‘Reign of the Supermen’

The Man of Steel’s potential successors rise in the latest DC animated feature…

Reign of the Supermen

The ‘Eradicator’ continues the late Superman’s fight against crime in the DC/Warner Bros. Animation release, ‘Reign of the Supermen’ (image credit: DC Entertainment/Warner Bros. – used for illustrative purposes only).

Spoiler-free review

Starring (voices): Jerry O’Connell, Rebecca Romijn, Rainn Wilson, Patrick Fabian, Charles Halford, Cameron Monaghan, Cress Williams

Directed by: Sam Liu / written by: Tim Sheridan and Jim Krieg

What’s it about?

Six months after the death of Superman, Metropolis is stirred by the appearance of four new ‘Supermen’…

In review

Concluding the story which began with last summer’s The Death of Superman, DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation present Reign of the Superman, a fun and enjoyable adaptation of the 1993 comic book arc. Picking up six months after Superman’s death following his defeat of the Doomsday creature, the world continues to mourn the loss of the beloved Man of Steel as the citizens of Metropolis are swept up in a media frenzy when four supposed ‘Supermen’ begin to appear – the wise-cracking, Lex Luthor sponsored clone who hates to be called ‘Superboy’ (Gotham’s Cameron Monaghan), the armoured champion of justice known as ‘Steel’ (aka John Henry Irons – voiced by Cress Williams, star of the CW’s Black Lightning), the mysterious yellow-visor wearing ‘Eradicator’ (Charles Halford) and the part organic, part machine ‘Cyborg Superman’ (Jerry O’Connell/Patrick Fabian). As each of these Supermen make their claim as to who may be the rightful successor to the fallen Last Son of Krypton, a looming threat from the stars places humanity in the path of a danger from which it has little hope of surviving…or do they?

Overall, Reign of the Supermen does a decent job of condensing the narrative of the original comics (which ran over the course of several months and numerous different titles) into its 89 minute running time. It does at times feel a little overstuffed and the various sub-plots and characters are not as fully developed as they could have been, particularly in the case of John Henry Irons/Steel and the Eradicator but it never feels jumbled or incoherent. There may have been a case for a further instalment to fully flesh things out and provide some breathing space but Reign of the Supermen works well enough as is and is still able to deal with the “World Without a Superman” part of the story sufficiently in its opening act, with some heartfelt moments between Lois and Jonathan and Martha Kent and an amusing yet poignant scene with Perry White (Rocky Carroll) in the Daily Planet offices. The Justice League once again play their parts (although it continues to be odd that, as with The Death of Superman, Hawkman is present but with no lines of dialogue) although the script wisely removes them from the action until the final act so that there’s more focus on the main story.

It’s difficult to discuss the plot of Reign of the Supermen in more detail without delving into spoilers but for those familiar with the comics, the film adheres fairly closely to the source material with a few original additions (and an alteration to the central threat) and it all leads to an exciting and action packed climax, a neat homage to Superman’s cinematic past and a tantalising tease of things to come in the DC animated universe.

The voice cast is solid and are served well by Tim Sheridan and Jim Krieg’s screenplay, the particular highlights being Rebecca Romijin who delivers a warm but strong portrayal of Lois Lane (bolstered by her scenes with Rosario Dawson as Lois builds a budding friendship with Diana Prince/Wonder Woman), Cameron Monaghan – bringing the arrogant, care-free and quippy Superboy fittingly to life and Cress Williams, applying the right qualities of inherent goodness and heroism to John Henry Irons/Steel. Rainn Wilson once again infuses Lex Luthor with the appropriate level of menace and deviousness but it’s still hard not to miss Clancy Brown in the role which he defined so definitively in Superman: The Animated Series.

The animation and character designs are good and the action (always a high point with these animated DC films) thrilling, all skilfully guided under the direction of Sam Liu – who also helmed The Death of Superman (with Jake Castorena) and many previous DC animation projects including Batman: Year One and Justice League vs Teen Titans resulting in an entertaining package that, when coupled with The Death of Superman creates a pleasing adaptation of the iconic story.

The bottom line: an enjoyable conclusion to the “Death of Superman” arc, Reign of the Supermen is a successful adaptation of the 1990s comic book story.

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8 thoughts on “Film Review: ‘Reign of the Supermen’

  1. It’s good to hear that this is a decent adaptation of one of Superman’s best arcs. From reading your critiques it seems this would have been better served if it was presented in two or three parts in order to do the story any justice (no pun intended). The new heroes created in this storyline were fast favorites of mine and deserve as much screen time as possible, just as they received in the comic books. Just curious, how would this compare to The Death of Superman animated film?

    • Yeah, if they had made this story into a trilogy with Death, Reign and another film it could’ve been even better but works reasonably well enough overall.

      I was thinking about how I would compare Reign with Death of Superman and I’d say I slightly prefer Death because of the intense prolonged battle with Doomsday, but Reign still has a lot of exciting moments.

  2. Glad to hear you enjoyed this, Chris. Excellent review as always. Saw it when it released, but I have to admit that I was slightly disappointed by some plot holes and the overall feeling of it condensing way too much to cover one of the longest story arcs out there. The whole Justice League angle is one of the elements that bothered me the most too. You couldn’t imagine the incredible facepalm I did when they all gathered together for that giant ring of death to fall upon them and remove them from the story……….. That was lazy writing at best. Even with its flaws, the movie was still excellent. I just wish the “Return of Superman” had a more emotional punch to it. They failed in that regards if you asked me. Death of Superman did his death much better and actually made me want to reach for a box of tissues! Again, great review!

    P.S. Have you seen the trailer for Justice League vs. Fatal Five? 😀

    • Thanks Lashaan and you make some fair points – I do think they could have ultimately split the Reign of the Supermen/Return of Superman arcs into two films (giving us a trilogy) but I was sufficiently entertained and engaged but what we got.

      Overall the Death/Reign two-parter doesn’t hold up to the Dark Knight Returns adaptation which had much more of a cinematic feel to it – but I think that’s down to the source material really.

      I saw the trailer for the Fatal Five and, to be honest, I’m not ‘digging’ it – the animation style is a bit too on the ‘cartoony’ style for me if that makes sense?

      • I agree. A trilogy for this story arc would have been pretty good! And yes. The Dark Knight Returns adaptation is one of DC’s animated movies that should’ve totally had a theatrical release to it — I do hope DC plans on releasing an animated movie to rival Into the Spider-Verse someday.

        I agree about Fatal Five… The style is slightly too cartoony to be taken too seriously by me too. Hopefully it’s… at least decent.

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