Adventures of Superman #498 and Justice League America #70 give readers two sides of the same coin, in showing how different communities mourn the death of a man who meant the world to all of them.
Justice League America #70
Writer and Penciler: Dan Jurgens
Inker: Rick Burchett
Colorist: Gene D’Angelo
Letterer: Willie Schubert
Once again, we have an issue of Dan Jurgens’ Justice League America tying into the event, but not getting that all-important Triangle Number. This one vexed me as a kid because on the first page of Adventures #498 was an editorial box telling the reader not to turn the page before they read this issue. I didn’t have this issue, so I couldn’t do that. When the trade paperback of this arc came out later that year, I thought for sure it would be included like Justice League America #69 was in the “Death of Superman” trade paperback. Alas, that was not the case. Instead, the same editorial box on that page in the trade told you to be sure to read the “Death of Superman” trade first. In 2007, the first omnibus came out, and I still had not read that issue, fifteen years later. Surely, I thought, that issue has to be collected in the omnibus. Well as we’ve already learned, that omnibus was woefully incomplete in regards to the “Funeral For A Friend” issues, and indeed there was no mention of Justice League America #70.
Now I don’t remember how I read it first — I know that in 2016 it was finally included in a collected edition that I owned, the new printing of “Funeral For A Friend,” but around that same time I did a massive dollar bin search for every issue of the entire Death and Return of Superman saga, and did finally wind up with a physical copy of the issue. When I did finally read the issue, I was both relieved and let down at the same time. On the one hand, this issue was not nearly as important to the overall story as that editorial box made it out to be, so I didn’t miss much. But the fact that I wondered for decades exactly what happened in this issue still aggravates me.
This issue continues the trend of striking covers that started with Superman #75. A mostly black cover, the rest of the Justice League are battle-worn and somber. Booster is holding the broken body of his best friend, Ice is cradling the tattered cape of Superman. Even Guy’s face covered in shadow looks more somber than usual.
This is very much a companion piece to Adventures #498, in that while that one took a look at the reactions of the Metropolis supporting characters to the death of their hero, this one focuses on the reactions of heroes to the loss of one of their own. This is different from the loss of an idol, it’s the loss of a colleague, someone who you not only respected, but also respected you.
The issue opens in the moments immediately after Superman #75, but editorial waits until the second page to place the “Don’t read this until you have read Superman #75” box. This is ill-placement for lots of reasons, but mostly because the second page is a two-page splash that fully reveals Superman’s dead body and has caption boxes opening to proclaim it. If you didn’t already know what had happened, you sure did now. That said, the caption boxes are fantastic.
People who were alive in 1963 can tell you exactly where they were and what they were doing the day John Kennedy was shot. And even though it was much longer ago, the same can be said of the day F.D.R. died. Today is one of those days. For this is the day — that a Superman has died.
This is the point of overlap between Adventures and this issue, as this is the moment that Bloodwynd whisks Ice away to get her medical treatment. The scene shifts to a different hospital, where Booster Gold (in what remains of his costume) and Maxima watch the news broadcast announcing Superman’s death and lamenting that they could not help to prevent it. Guy Gardner however, continues to be a raging jerk, in that his immediate reaction to the news is to hit on Maxima, who immediately and violently (good for her) rebuffs him.
Checking in on the battered Blue Beetle, and things look really grim for Ted Kord. His brain is swelling, he’s in a coma, one of his kidneys is shut down, and his liver is damaged. But Booster still begs the doctor to tell him that Ted will be fine. This is absolutely gutting, a man just wishing that his best friend will get better despite all evidence.
The bulk of the rest of the issue is other heroes coming to the JLA compound to pay their respects. Leaguers past and present gather along with many heroes who have never been part of the League, like Nightwing and Starfire. The one big thing that is introduced here that didn’t get explained elsewhere during the story is the black Superman armbands that Oberon gives to the heroes to honor their fallen comrade.
These armbands give the reader the saddest moment of the issue though, in that Booster is still at Ted’s bedside, and though his friend can’t respond, Booster finds solace in talking to him:
I couldn’t take it anymore Ted. No matter what anyone says I still feel like a failure, and not just because of what happened to Superman — but because of what happened to you, too. We spent all this time joking our way through life and when the chips were down… look what happened.
The “Funeral for a Friend” portion of the saga is some of the saddest comics in history, and it’s nice to see that even in the segment that I never had the chance to read as a kid, that holds true.