The Death and Life of Superman, by Roger Stern

Review by Mike Chinn

Once there were novels, and there were comic-books. Then comics started to reprint old superhero strips in paperback form, and in black and white.

Cover of Death and Life of SupermanThen they began to come up with the visually more complex and adult-orientated full-colour graphic novels. Here is the novel’s revenge: a novelisation of a collection of stories originally published in Man of Steel, Action Comics and Justice League of America.

The much-publicised ‘death’ of Superman at the hands of Doomsday is the basis of the book – and the subsequent appearance of no less than four claimants to the old crown after the funeral.

A hefty tome – sadly it’s much bigger than the plot. Whenever Stern has Superman on the scene, he becomes stilted and trite – almost as if he’s overawed by his subject.

The fight scenes – no doubt wonderful in graphic form – are repetitive and overlong in print. (If nothing else, that demonstrates the average comic-book’s over-reliance on super-being punch-ups).

Only after Superman is dead and entombed does Stern seem to relax, allowing the remaining characters some degree of natural behaviour and speech-patterns (including the odd cuss-word. – no-one dared do that whilst the Presence was about! I mean, give me a break!). Overall, I can’t help feeling the whole thing was better in pictures.

And does Superman come back to life in the end? You mean you need to ask..?

Bantam £4.99