[This story contains spoilers for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.]
when superman died at the end of 2016’s batman v superman: dawn of justice, it’s a world-redefining event in which movies take place, which means when he returns to justice league, It will be an even bigger moment. As Zack Snyder’s Justice League expands on that moment to fulfill the director’s original vision, it’s worth asking what the new version of the film means for the Superman story as a whole.
when superman died in 1992, at the end of “doomsday!”, it was a big deal; Superman No. 75 was the best-selling comic book of the year, selling more than six million copies, many of them a deluxe edition that came sealed in a plastic bag and accompanied by a special poster and a commemorative bracelet with a version “of good taste” of the superman. s” logo made of dripping blood. it was the 90s; things were different then.
It was also only the beginning of the story: “Doomsday!” It was the opening salvo in a trilogy of stories that continued with “Funeral for a Friend” and ended in the epic six-month-long “Reign of the Supermen” saga, in which Superman returned from the dead…eventually. . it didn’t happen right away, which was part of the point; “reign” toyed with expectations before finally delivering, challenging fans to find their own interpretation of superman along the way through four title contenders.
While Justice League is far from a “reign of the supermen” adaptation in any of its incarnations, sadly, audiences will have to wait an unspecified amount of time for their chance to see either the Eradicator or the Cyborg Superman on screen: The Snyder Cut has some interesting echoes of the comic book hero’s resurrection that speak to the curious fidelity Zack Snyder’s DC projects have to their source material.
for example, the justice league makes sure superman comes back…wrong. this plays out differently than the comic book story, but it feels like it’s merging two different elements from the source: that the cinematic superman is a bigger threat than expected in the immediate wake of his rebirth perhaps he owes something to the bait and it changes at the heart of “reign”, where the most likely candidate of the four claimants to the superthrone turns out to be the villain, all the time. When he does come back from the dead, Superman is weaker than ever, and far from the Man of Steel that fans were hoping for.
the snyder cut superman at least looks like he did in the comics in terms of costumes at least there is no super-mullet for us unfortunately which again feels completely in line with what the public waiting for snyder. DC movies. they fixate on specific surface details and play on thematic elements of the material they’re based on, but in other respects, they vastly deviate from (and sometimes outright contradict) the comics they’re based on; think of the focus on the man of steel’s father, which paralleled the influence on dc character cco geoff johns, but also the climactic killing of zod, which felt so at odds with most interpretations of superman that many fans are still upset about eight years later.
Even those breaks with tradition prove to be important in the larger scheme of things; even upset fans matter, because the talks further define the shape of the superman mythos outside of the strict story as it is presented in the comic book canon of the moment. is superman a killer? (of course not, but maybe there’s a story as to why it doesn’t include the killing of zod – after all, that was comic canon for a while, too).
however, surely snyder’s version of fidelity is preferable to what happened in the theatrical version of the movie, in which superman’s resurrection is essentially reduced to a macguffin that feels like it’s a video game level which must be unlocked before you can play. continue; superman flies off to another part of the movie after the cutscene, allowing the main narrative to continue without him and leaving the viewer wondering what the point was for the next half hour or so.
by creating a narrative of death and resurrection in batman v superman and its version of justice league, snyder has arguably grounded the comic history of the 1990s as an integral part of the superman mythos, ensuring that the character dying at the hands of a wordless monster called doomsday and coming back a changed man, and one more appreciated by the world at large, for that matter, is as much a part of the superman story as being kicked out of the planet krypton as a baby, or wearing a big red cape and coming from kansas.