Superman was dead: to begin with.
However, instead of three Dickensian supernatural apparitions, Metropolis is visited by four, very different, possible replacements for the deceased Man of Steel in Reign Of The Supermen, DC's animated sequel to last year's superb The Death Of Superman film.
In the six months since Superman's demise, four figures have stepped up to claim his mantle and the iconic 'S' for themselves:
- Lexcorps' youthful clone, Superboy (voiced by Gotham's Cameron Monaghan)[
- Steel (voiced by Black Lightning's Cress Williams), the armour-wearing, hammer-wielding scientist John Henry Irons;
- The brutal, goggles-wearing Eradicator (voiced by Charles Halford); and
- The half-human, half-machine Cyborg-Superman (voiced by Better Call Saul's Patrick Fabian).
A catastrophe at the launch event for the Justice League's new satellite base leaves the world even more defenceless, until the Cyborg-Superman begins creating his own cybernetic replacement for the League, using alien tech to convert volunteer civilians into superpowered crimefighters.
While this is all unfolding, Lois Lane (voiced by Rebecca Romijn) continues her investigations into the new arrivals as well as the death of her beloved Superman (voiced by Jerry O'Connell), unsure, since the disappearance of his body, that he is even truly dead.
Along the way, she is helped and hindered by Lex Luthor (voiced by Rainn Wilson), who, slowly, comes round to the realisation that the world actually does need Superman.
Reign Of The Supermen is a fantastic follow-up, keeping the pacing and drama of the first film, while laying the groundwork both for the return of Superman (come on, that's not a spoiler, you knew he'd be back... he's Superman!) and the next chapter in this animated franchise (hang around for a tantalising post-credit scene).
The Death Of Superman was so good it almost made me get over the awful collared costume he was stuck with in the New 52 era of comics and cartoons, but, if nothing else, Reign Of The Supermen allowed the reborn Kal-El to subtly shift into a more respectable costume... so all is right in the world again!
If only Warner Bros and DC would look at these great cartoons and realise that's how they should be presenting Superman in live-action.
I could quite happily watch this cracking duology of movies multiple times (Nehru collar and all) before I'd even entertain the need to see Zack Snyder's Man Of Steel or even Batman v Superman again.
But then again, perhaps with the success of the bright and upbeat Aquaman (DC's most successful movie to date), the lesson has finally got through.
Superhero films can be brutal and violent (Reign Of The Supermen certainly is in places), but ultimately they need to be positive, optimistic, and inspirational.
As all the different branches of the DC Universe slowly seem to be moving into lockstep, perhaps the DC Cinematic Universe (whether its films are ultimately unified or remain stand-alone) will be able to rival the cultural behemoth that the Marvel Cinematic Universe has become.