I should preface this review by saying that I’m not a Superman fan. I never read the comics; I never read more than 20 or so pages of The Death and Return of Superman; in short, I’m neither qualified to make judgments about this book’s accuracy, nor do I have any sort of emotional investment in the canonical character.
With that out of the way, I must say that I had mixed impressions of the book. It’s really only about Superman in a marginal sort of way—that is to say, it’s a violent character drama that happens to include characters from the comic. It begins like Smallville, with Superman as a young Kansan rube, and de Haven juxtaposes that with parallel narratives of Lois Lane (a loose-legged urbanite) and Lex Luthor (a cold-blooded Alderman) and occasionally a disposable villain, though for the life of me I can’t figure out reason for the latter. It’s possible that de Haven simply likes superfluous narration, like Stephen King.
So, a bit like a morning soap opera, de Haven’s noir retelling of the origins of Superman (without even touching the sci-fi aspects of it) makes Clark Kent a whiny kid, introduces quite a bit more graphic violence that I would expect, and in my mind excises the bits that make Superman really fun. Sure, I understand that it’s supposed to be a character drama and not another Superman pulp, but honestly? I don’t even think de Haven’s a very good writer. He wanders, engages in masturbatory tangents for short-lived characters, makes stereotypes out of everybody, and is more or less a bore.
Perhaps others may see the book differently: I’m open to the possibility that de Haven is the sort of genius I can’t possibily understand; that there might be nuance I’m missing; that perhaps being a Superman fan would make me like the book even more. All of these things are possible, but not likely. Skip this one.