Superman is dead, long live Superman. After being pummelled to death by Doomsday in The Death of Superman, the last son of Krypton is laid to rest. Or is he? His tomb is soon found to be empty and reports flood in of Superman flying about Metropolis, saving citizens like only he can. Except there is something different about these sightings. Some describe Superman as we know him albeit wearing a visor and dispensing justice with a violent hand. Others speak of a cocky younger Superman and also of a literal Man of Steel patrolling the skies. More sinister, is the Cyborg Superman, the only being of the four who claims to be the original, rebuilt using Kryptonian technology. Lois Lane (Rebecca Romijin), is sceptical that the Cyborg is the man she loves, as she investigates further, the truth will prove to be more terrifying than she could imagine.
While Reign of the Supermen is animated in the same style as The Death of Superman, there is a notable improvement in quality that allows the scenes to flow with more satisfaction. Rather than look dated, it invokes nostalgia with more detail given to the frames.
The script is solid as it carries over its strengths from the previous movie, most notably with its tone. The humour hits the mark while the dark themes add an added layer to dissociate itself with a children’s animated series. The Justice League get surprisingly less air time in this post-Superman world, with Cameron Monaghan’s Superboy providing the comic relief. Full of wit and youthful arrogance, Superboy is an instantly likeable character. His relationship with Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson) plays out like a sitcom father and son before wading into ominous territory that enhances Luthor’s evil nature. Tony Todd enters the fray as Darkseid, the veteran actor’s unique voice adds the menace and doom associated with the character.
The final set piece doesn’t carry the inevitable dangers that Superman’s fight with Doomsday generated, however it’s a gripping battle that adds another layer of risk as hero and villain fight for the fate of the world. The subplot with the Justice League adds little other than a convenient excuse to remove them from the story. As they’re transported to another dimension, it gets them out the way for the time being, despite being a lazy way to take them out the game.
The Cyborg Superman is a sinister character voiced primarily by Patrick Fabian who portrays the character with a smug arrogance and psychotic self-assuredness. There is a calm insanity in how Fabian plays the role, evolving from manipulated puppet to a major player.
Reign of Superman is as much a companion piece as a sequel to its predecessor. A more rounded movie, the filmmakers have learned from the previous instalment’s stylistic errors while maintaining the same emotional depth in the writing, most notably with Lois and Clark’s relationship. A fun film with a trim running time, Reign of the Supermen is an exciting instalment in the DC Animated Movie Universe.