Six months after it happened, the world is still in shock about the death of Superman, that protector of Earth who had done so much to help humanity. Among his former friends and allies in the Justice League, his absence is felt all the stronger, so imagine how Lois Lane (voiced by Rebecca Romijn) is suffering, having been told just before the Man of Steel died that he loved her, and all along he had been Clark Kent, her colleague at newspaper The Daily Planet. However, something strange is happening in Metropolis, as there is more than one individual seeking to step into the superhero's shoes - and each of them claim to be the man himself.
There have been an awful lot of DC Animated Movies, so many that it is difficult for all but the most dedicated fan to keep up with them, and they did not receive the same mass media attention that the live action DC Universe efforts did, though that may have been a blessing considering the criticism that series regularly landed from fans and critics alike. As with those, the cartoons were drawn from existing comic book narratives, though these were allowed to hew closer to their source since realising them in two-dimensional animation was cheaper to produce, and therefore easier to recreate the splashiest of panels from the original pages.
Here we were in part two of an ongoing saga within an ongoing saga, the Death of Superman storyline which was a groundbreaker for the comics industry back in the nineties, selling umpteen copies and even making the news across the world. For better or worse, it set the tone for comics and their adaptations to come, DC, Marvel or any other superhero efforts, as the idea that every hero needed a massive upheaval to keep the fans keen became a yearly occurrence: Batman, for example, was offered his Knightfall arc to complement the Superman one of a short time before, seeing the Caped Crusader foiled by his own worst enemy, Bane.
If you thought Batman's worst enemy was The Joker, and indeed Superman's worst enemy was Lex Luthor, or at a push Brainiac, then think again, for these grand events needed a real bully boy to physically destroy the protagonist, which was why Supes had suffered at the hands of Doomsday. In a way Reign of the Supermen was potentially more interesting than that previous entry since it was replicating uncharted territory for the character, basically a Superman comic without Superman, but it was also doing what one of the first DC animated items had done, from that series of feature length toons that mostly went straight to DVD or streaming, though this was given a theatrical release to publicise it.
Arriving hot on the heels of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, it was tempting to look down the nose at this rather lower budget work, even though it was comparable in ambition if not imagination. But with its four superbeings ranging from Steel (Cress Williams delivering another black superhero to go with Black Lightning on television) to the Eradicator (a yellow-goggled and violent crusader), not forgetting Superboy (Gotham's Joker-in-waiting, Cameron Monaghan), there was plenty to be getting on with, and Lois had more to do than simply be rescued, putting her journalistic investigative skills to good use. The most Superman-y candidate was a cyborg, supposedly constructed from bits of the missing hero's corpse (!), but Lois is not so sure, meaning it was no great shock when Jerry O'Connell returned in the second half to voice Superman who would not merely lay down and die. With enough action to please the most jaded fan of Saturday morning toons, this didn't quite have the emotion of the first instalment but entertained a little more. Music by Frederik Wiedmann.
[REIGN OF THE SUPERMEN is out now on Digital Download and available on Blu-ray and DVD January 28th.
Warner's Blu-ray has a Lex Luthor featurette, a sneak peak at the next instalment, and two vintage cartoon episodes as extras.]