Reign of the Supermen is the action-packed sequel to last year's Clark Kent focused, The Death of Superman. Both films are adaptations of the 1992, classic DC comics crossover storyline. Helmed by Warner Bros. Animation veteran Sam Liu, Reign of the Supermen is a real crowd pleaser with a popcorn cinema delivery. Recent films in the DC Animated Movie Universe have skewed darker for a more adult audience. Reign of the Superman plays it straightforward for wide appeal. It's a superhero bonanza that would have kicked major ass as a live action film.
The story picks up six months after Superman (Jerry O'Connell) was killed fighting the monstrous Doomsday. Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijn) struggles with the loss of her beloved. The Justice League is stretched thin without their heavy hitter. Metropolis is surprised when four different "supermen" appear out of the blue; each claiming to carry the mantle of the last son of Krypton. First their is the cocky, Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson) sponsored teenager, Superboy (Cameron Monaghan). Then a bizarre, half-human, half-robot, called Cyborg Superman (Patrick Fabian). Third we have Steel, a hammer-swinging, armored man (Cress Williams). Lastly, and the most lethal, a take no prisoners, visor-wearing bad-ass called Eradicator (Charles Halford).
Lois Lane decides to figure out the identities of the different supermen. Meanwhile, the Justice League is preoccupied with the launch of their new space station headquarters, The Watchtower. Their casual indifference to these bevy of supermen allows a dangerous enemy to infiltrate Earth. The fate of the planet is soon at stake. Will the real Superman rise to the occasion? Or is Kal-El truly gone...
The script by Tim Sheridan and Jim Krieg deftly plays out the mystery elements. Both writers, much like Sam Liu, have been working on the Justice League characters for years. They understand the best virtues of the original comics and bring them expertly to the screen. Lois Lane as the film's centerpiece provides a different insight. In this plot, Clark had just revealed his true identity before his death. Lane is not only suffering a tragedy, but genuinely curious about Clark/Superman's life. A great scene has Lois meeting Wonder Woman (Rosario Dawson) for the first time. Imagine if your fiance just found out you had an ex flame as statuesque and beautiful as an Amazon warrior. These discoveries are just as entertaining as revealing the supermen.
The animation and stylistic choices are safe, but exhilarating nonetheless. It's not the hard-R rating of Gotham by Gaslight, but an enjoyable, not as bloody superhero brawl The battles between the supermen take center stage throughout. Each one has their own unique fighting style. Eradicator Superman is my personal favorite. He represents a Superman that is judge, jury, and executioner. Superboy is portrayed as a horny, "handsy" teenager. Sheridan, Krieg, and Liu may have infused too much testosterone shenanigans here. His behavior in the film is blatantly sexist and insulting to women. These films are meant for predominantly male audiences, but I think we're at a point where chauvinist characters are really out of place.
Reign of the Supermen is a fantastic sequel and must-see for DC comics fans. It doesn't stand out or above the more nuanced DCAMU films, but has high entertainment value. It has a popcorn appeal and repeat viewing sensibility. The Death of Superman and Reign of the Supermen plot should be seriously considered as live action films. They would be expensive, but capture the essence of Superman and the Justice League. Reign of the Supermen is a production of Warner Bros. Animation and DC Films. It's available for download now with a DVD/Blu-Ray release on January 29th. Stick around after the credits.