Unshelved: Superman Doomsday: Hunter/Prey

With Unshelved, I pull comics from my collection and give them another read, sometimes for the first time in 30 years! These days I’m going through all of the Superman and Superman-related books from the end of Return of Superman through 1999!

What’s this? An extra Superman Unshelved post this week? That’s right! Even though last time I promised that the next post would be about the 1994 Superman Elseworlds Annuals. Well, that’s because I forgot about the three-issue Superman Doomsday: Hunter/Prey prestige format series written and drawn by Dan Jurgens which maybe kicked off with an April 1994 cover date. I was pretty excited about reading this story because I didn’t do it back in the day and always wanted to. I even have the 90s Superman action figure 2-pack based on the series! Sure, I could have checked out the issues on DC Universe Infinite, but I figured this would be a great opportunity to get myself the Superman: Doomsday trade which also includes the Doomsday Annual from 1995’s Year One theme and the sequel Superman: The Doomsday Wars which we’ll get to in 1998.

Before diving in, it’s time for some background because I haven’t covered this yet. As you probably know, Doomsday is a bony monster who appeared out of nowhere and tore a swath of destruction as he stomped towards Metropolis. He came closer than anyone else to fully destroying the Justice League and only fell when he and Superman appeared to fully exhaust their reserves, seemingly dying on the street in front of the Daily Planet. In Superman #78 by Dan Jurgens, the all-new Cyborg Superman broke into Cadmus, demanding Doomsday’s body. He lashed the killer to an asteroid, added a monitoring system and launched the creature into space, plotting a course that would avoid all planets. Of course, as we know, Cyborg turned out to be a villain, so his true motives in this regard will be revealed soon. Unshelved readers will also remember that Superman actually flew by Doomsday’s asteroid not long ago.

Okay, that gets you caught up for the beginning of Hunter/Prey. As a hear’s up, I go DEEP into the details on this one. If you haven’t read it and want to, go do that because I cover a lot of the story points! We start off with a very interesting scene in which Clark mixes his childhood fear of a monster in the basement with Doomsday in a dream. He’s been so busy since he returned from the dead, that very little time has been spent on the trauma Clark must have been going through after being literally beaten to death by a monster in front of the entire world, including the person he loves most, Lois Lane. From there we cut to space where a ship comes across the Doomsday asteroid and takes it aboard, the classic outer space horror trope that always ends in disaster. And it does for them as DD wakes up and kills the crew before the ship takes him to its pre-set destination: Apokolips, home of Darkseid. There, we learn that the monitoring system Cyborg added to the hunk of rock also doubled as a back-up for Hank Henshaw’s consciousness. Upon arriving on Apokolips, Doomsday stats killing people and Cyborg uses the fallen’s armor to create a new orange body for himself that will be his look going forward for quite a while.

Meanwhile, Superman can’t shake the idea that his Doomsday dreams are trying to tell him something so he tries getting help from Matthew Ryder and Waverider of the Linear Men who deny him. He then asks the Justice League for an assist and, thanks to a message from Darkseid’s lackey Desaad, learns of the trouble on Apokolips. Shortly, Superman gets a Mother Box from Mr. Miracle and takes a Boom Tube to the planet. See, Doomsday wasn’t just able to kill Darkseid’s elite guards, he even managed to survive Darkseid’s Omega Beams AND knock the ruler unconscious. With that, Cyborg planned on turning the planet into his new War World before teleporting Doomsday away to ravage other worlds. Superman arrives too late to stop the latter.

Storywise, that ends up being great because it allows Waverider to have a change of heart and travel to Apokolips where Superman is saving Darkseid’s life. The Linear Man then shows the Man of Steel how an uncaring scientist named Bertron created the being known as Doomsday. For decades, he and his underlings sent a baby out into an inhospitable and horribly dangerous world. Each time, the child died, they collected what was left and used the raw material to create the next victim of experimentation. After close to a half century of this forced version of natural selection and evolution, Bertron’s experiments resulted in Doomsday, a creature who didn’t need to eat or breathe, whose body was almost entirely solid and who would come back stronger after any defeat, even deathh. As you might expect, the creature wound up destroying his creators and used their nearby ship to get offworld, spreading his destruction amongst the stars. The greatest hero of another world managed to subdue him and send him out into space from which he eventually fell deep into the Earth’s crust. Over a great deal of time, his body regenerated, coming back more powerful than ever, leading to his attack on Superman and Metropolis. Yeah, it’s a pretty gnarly origin, putting an even more horrible spin on the Frankensteinian convention of scientist eschewing their humanity for the sake of their experiments.

After the history lesson, Superman helps fight Cyborg, though Darkseid uses his own vast powers to encapsulate the rejuvenated villain’s mind/programming in a small metal ball. From there, the Man of Steel gets an arsenal of weapons and a new costume with lots of straps and pouches (as if you couldn’t tell this book came out in the 90s) and flies off to stop Doomsday once more. Even with all the extra goodies, it comes down to the last minute and Waverider, seeing that Doomsday is too dangerous to live, whisks the monster away to the end of time, a punishment even he can’t come back from…at least for a while.

I don’t usually go into this much summary for these posts, but I was really taken by this story and got excited about how many holes it fills in. Back when Doomsday debuted, he literally smashed his way out of the ground and made his way towards Metropolis. We didn’t know ANYTHING about him, just that he was super tough and scary. Hunter/Prey also does a nice job of Rogue One-ing some of the details, including an explanation for why he seemed so focused on Superman on a world jam packed with other super folks. I kind of expected all of that, or some version of it, but I was blown away to discover that this series also brought Cyborg back into the fold. In my memory, he doesn’t appear until further down the road, but that’s because I never read this story! Also, it goes a long way to show just how powerful these villains are when they can both go toe-to-toe against Darkseid and live to tell the tale.

As you can tell, I really enjoyed this reading experience. It’s been so great going back and re-reading the main books while integrating all of the spinoffs and guest appearances, but this was like finding a missing piece of the puzzle.

I wish I could give you a little more context for when this story takes place in regards to the monthlies. We know it’s gotta be after Action #696 because we saw Doomsday still trussed up in that one. It also comes after the brief appearance in Justice League America #86 where he declines membership in the team because Maxima directly cites that moment in SDH/P #1. However, there’s no mention of Superman’s power fluctuations or the bubbling clone wars. And without ruining anything, let’s just say that events shortly after that will leave a mark on Metropolis that I didn’t see in Hunter/Prey. Now, none of this is a knock against the series as a whole, just putting it out there for my fellow continuity-heads.

If you’re looking to add this story to your own collection and wouldn’t mind helping me out by following an Amazon Associates link, you can check out the original Superman Doomsday: Hunter/Prey trade as well as the aforementioned Superman: Doomsday!

Okay, for real this time, I’m going to cover the Superman Elseworlds Annuals next time. I swear!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.