Things are looking bad for the Man of Steel these days. Over the past month, after violently defeating the monstrous machine of destruction known as Doomsday, Superman’s been forced to sit on the sidelines as everything he holds dear comes crashing in around him. He’s been helpless to save his hometown of Smallville and its residents as they’ve slipped into mysterious, unexplained comas. He’s born witness as his friend John Irons was gravely injured by Doomsday prior to the monster’s defeat. He’s stood by, unable to assist, as Batman and Wonder Woman braved the Phantom Zone. And most seriously of all, he’s struggled nonstop against an aggressive and seemingly undefeatable foe—the infection that’s spread within his bloodstream that now threatens to turn him into an even more powerful version of Doomsday.
There’s no sugar coating it. By all accounts and on all levels, Superman is doomed. It’s surprising. It’s frightening. It’s tragic.
But it’s also compelling.
Hear us out now. No one wants to see Superman brought down permanently. But as far as human drama goes, you can’t ask for a more powerful one. Here’s why.
Action That’s Anything but Mindless
Doomsday is engineered to be the perfect hunter. A machine for annihilation. Every time he appears in Metropolis or anywhere in the world, he brings widespread destruction, death and terror.
But you know what else he brings for our heroes? Contemplation. Characterization. Commitment. Revelation. Awareness. Defeating Doomsday never comes without some sort of sacrifice, and this time is certainly no exception. To bring the villain down and save billions of people required Superman to question and break his steadfast rule against taking lives, something he certainly wrestled with beforehand. However, going that far—taking the creature’s life—came with a cost. Was it worth it?
Superman doesn’t seem to think so. As he said to Lois Lane recently, “I… messed up. I made a mistake. I thought I could take out Doomsday, once and for all, but I realize now… I was wrong. For reasons I don’t understand—yet—I’m… I’m becoming Doomsday. I didn’t solve the problem. I only changed it.”
There’s truth there, but is it so black and white? Superman did create a new problem, a potentially devastating one. But he did save the planet. Had he not killed Doomsday, it’s entirely possible this story would be over. Permanently. Was the sacrifice worth it? We’ll have to wait to see how things ultimately play out, but unless they end with our planetary demise, we’re not so quick to agree with the Man of Steel.
Hard Hitting Super Hero Fights
However, if you think it’s been a month of quiet contemplation in Metropolis, you’ve clearly been out of town (and away from any form of media). Bringing down Doomsday in the first place took everything the Man of Steel had in him. He was bruised, beaten down, body slammed and burned. He was forced to patrol the entire Earth, uncertain where Doomsday would next appear. He took the devastating battle to the hostile surface of Venus and back. Heck, he was barely recognizable when the fight was over (perhaps because it wasn’t really over—not by a long shot).
Every day we watch our heroes push themselves to the limits, surviving ordeals that would undoubtedly prove fatal to mortals like ourselves. But never have we seen anything like what we witnessed the day Superman took down Doomsday.
And that’s just the beginning! We can’t forget Superman’s battle and ultimate surrender at the hands of his beloved Wonder Woman in the midst of the Metropolis streets. Or Wonder Woman and Batman’s triumphant fight in the Phantom Zone. Or most recently, the escaped and infected Man of Steel’s “rescue” of the Teen Titans from the sentient body armor known as Detritus. And with Superman once again on the loose, the high-powered conflict is unlikely to cease any time soon.
Not Just One Cryptic Conspiracy…But Two?
Details are still emerging about how Doomsday escaped the Phantom Zone and arrived on Earth in the first place, but what we do know so far is intriguing. The monster didn’t escape of his own accord, but was set free deliberately to bring down the Man of Steel by Xa-Du, the Phantom King.
But why did Xa-Du do it? Well, it turns out that it was Superman’s father who imprisoned him in the Phantom Zone. However, the roots of this conspiracy run far, far deeper. Xa-Du was used by a strange organization known as the Tower. We know little about this bizarre group, but it’s clear that they view Superman as a threat and will stop at nothing to see him put down—even if it means destroying the entire world in the process. But why do they feel this way? Who’s a part of the Tower? What assets are at their disposal and how far does their influence extend? Right now, we can only speculate.
Even more astonishing is that this would appear to be one of two conspiracies facing the nation right now. While information regarding the appearance of Doomsday has begun to emerge, the second big puzzle—that of what’s going on in Smallville—is still a complete mystery. What we do know is that it seems to have affected the entire town. While the cause doesn’t appear to be viral or bacterial in nature, the town has been quarantined and experts are working feverishly to figure it out. So far there’s been little progress and even less information released. What aren’t the authorities telling us here? And why does Lois Lane seem to wield such influence over them? Think it has to do with those strange new contact lenses she seems to be wearing? Those are contacts, right?
A Chance for New Heroes to Emerge
With Superman out of commission (and possibly out of control), it’s been up to other heroes to step up and take a stand against the threat the world is facing, first by Doomsday and now at the hands of a transforming Man of Steel. Unsurprisingly, Batman and the rest of the Justice League have been at the ready. But it’s undoubtedly Wonder Woman who has given us the most to marvel at. Don’t forget, it was the Queen of the Amazons who actually defeated and turned away Doomsday when he attacked Zambia. She also subdued Superman when the Doomsday virus first took control over him and was largely responsible for bringing Xa-Du back from the Phantom Zone. If you’ve ever needed proof that she’s worthy of standing side by side with Superman, the events of this past month should more than do the trick.
But it’s not all been Wonder Woman. John Irons—Steel—was an unfortunate casualty in an earlier Doomsday attack. But rather than spending the subsequent days on painkillers and bed rest, he’s sealed himself within an experimental organic steel suit and has joined the frontline in the battle to save Superman, and protect the vulnerable from the threat he presents in the meantime. Could we be witnessing the rise of a new star super hero?
It certainly seems possible, especially when you consider some of the other unlikely individuals who have heeded the call. Lex Luthor’s seeming transformation from enemy of Superman to ally has been heavily discussed since he helped defeat the Crime Syndicate, and for good reason—it’s hard not to question whether he truly has the Man of Steel’s best interests at heart. And what of Ghost Soldier, the mysterious incorporeal warrior from the Phantom Zone who fought against Superman not too long ago and now seems to fight alongside his allies? It just goes to show that when the chips are down and the outlook seems grim, you never know who you might find in your corner.
Look, we realize that there’s a lot more to this story to play out, and far be it from us to predict how it’ll end. But if there’s one thing we do know at this point, it’s that recent events have shown us just how much Superman means to the people of the world, and perhaps how much we the people needed to be reminded of what that means.
As a superhuman, we sometimes focus far too much on the super rather than the human when talking about the Man of Steel. But it’s the human side of Superman that’s really at stake here, and it’s a stake that couldn’t be any higher. It’s Superman’s humanity that allows the people of Earth to feel comfortable with such a powerful being in their midst, and surely if there’s a way to defeat Superman, it’s by attacking and destroying that humanity. Superman’s struggle to remain the hero that we know and love represents his single most defining battle, against the person who’s easily his most formidable foe—himself.