Hey Super-fans, it’s been quite a month, hasn’t it? So much has happened in Kal-El’s world that narrowing down the topic of this column seemed like a superhuman feat in and of itself. Heck, there were at least four things worth talking about—each of which I’m 100% super here for—in the pages of Superman #15 alone. (I came SO close to just calling this column “Super Here For…Every Page and Panel in Superman #15,” but that seemed like a cheat.) Ultimately, though, it’s the end of the issue and Brian Michael Bendis’ year-plus debut storyline that resonated the most with me.
Personally, I’ve always felt that General Zod and his family work best when there’s a compelling, well-reasoned motive beneath their warmongering. When under a yellow sun, Kryptonians can be frighteningly destructive and even a small family of them can be much for a planet to reckon with. But they’re not an insurmountable force and Dru-Zod knows this, which means there has to be more to his hatred of humanity than a simple desire to conquer Earth because as powerful as they are, they’re not going to succeed at that. Not with Superman, Supergirl, Superboy and all of their powerful allies defending it.
Bendis clearly realizes this and presented Dru-Zod as a man ruled by his anger, which is little more than his way of dealing with his grief over Krypton’s destruction. As anyone who has lost something or someone dear to them can tell you, that’s a believable response. It’s true, most of us eventually move beyond anger, but Zod has the added challenge of being continually aware that Earth—a planet whose inhabitants look just like Kryptonians—is doing pretty darn well in comparison to his home world. It’s understandable why he’d have a hard time letting it go.
However, for Bendis’ Superman to be a story with stakes that truly move its characters forward, Zod can’t just remain angry forever, which is where Rogol Zaar fits in. The interesting thing about Rogol Zaar here is that he finally provides Zod with a target for his rage. Rather than being fiery over an act of nature or something else that’s non-physical, Zod has found a person who’s single-handedly responsible for destroying his home planet. That he didn’t kill Zaar is a testament to Superman (and in fairness, to Zod and Rogol Zaar, who’s a fierce enemy). But once Zaar’s actions are brought to light and he’s been placed into stasis as a punishment for his crimes, the situation involving Krypton’s destruction fundamentally changes. It turns a corner, and General Dru-Zod turns one with it.
With Zaar punished and the people of Krypton getting as much justice as they can, there’s no more reason for Zod’s anger, and he realizes that he can much better serve Krypton by furthering justice in an entirely different way—by overseeing the funding and formation of a new Kryptonian outpost and eventually a new Krypton.
True, it’s still not entirely clear who will populate this new Krypton, but even if it never grows beyond a small outpost, it’s still a well-intentioned form of reparation. Zod, who seems downright humbled when sharing this with Kal-El, appears to realize the seriousness of the responsibility he’s taking on, something that’s made clear by his willingness to learn from Krypton’s past mistakes.
It’s a moving, personal moment between two former enemies who could accomplish so much more if they weren’t enemies. And it’s a perfect illustration of just what the newly formed United Planets aims to accomplish—to get the myriad of interstellar races to see each other not as enemies, but as equals.
I’d been wondering why Brian Michael Bendis chose to name his first Superman storyline “The Unity Saga” for a while now. Considering the story started with the Earth getting yanked into the Phantom Zone and Jon Kent going on a literally life-changing vacation with his grandfather, it seemed like a pretty odd and disconnected name. But now suddenly it’s all clear. Suddenly it all seems brilliant…and badly needed.
No matter how you see things, I think we can all agree that we live in a pretty divided nation and world. Without drawing direct parallels, Bendis has written a story about the universe coming together—one that at its core seems to be about forgiveness and letting go of the past. That’s a pretty necessary message right now, and by having the Legion of Super-Heroes show up and tell everyone that this is the moment that everything changes… Well, it’s pretty clear how dedicated Bendis is to the ideal of working together for the betterment of all.
Superman’s last words to Zod kind of says everything you really need to know about what this story represents: “Let’s both do better than our fathers.”
This doesn’t necessarily need to be seen as a criticism. Jor-El made some real mistakes, but it’s also clear that he meant well in his own way and his final scene manages to somehow be both heartwarming and heartbreaking (seriously, how is that even possible?). What Superman is acknowledging is that we have to do better. We should always strive to do better. And we do our best work when we come together.
Tim Beedle covers movies, TV and comics for DCComics.com and is a regular contributor to the Couch Club, our weekly television column. Look for him on Twitter at @Tim_Beedle.